Driving Marketing with the Power that Moves Hearts and Minds:Experiential Marketing Division

17 April 2023

Driving Marketing with the Power that Moves Hearts and Minds:Experiential Marketing Division

STORIES spotlights a team within TBWA\HAKUHODO that brings changes to the world through their unique expertise. In this episode, we are introducing the Experiential Marketing Division (EMD), a team of experts specializing in experiential marketing. The team designs and produces the optimal live experience for the overall creative campaign, to deliver a consistent and integrated brand experience.
Last year, EMD won the Silver in the Brand Experience Agency of the Year category of Campaign Asia-Pacific’s “Agency of the Year 2022 (Japan/Korea)”. We talked to two of EMD members – Ikuo Tsukada and Sophie Luo about what makes experiential marketing so fascinating.

Q. Please give us a brief introduction of yourself!

Ikuo Tsukada (Left) / Sophie Luo (Right)

Ikuo Tsukada (Left) / Sophie Luo (Right)

Ikuo Tsukada (Director of Project Management Dept.): I joined the Hakuhodo Group which was one of the clients of my previous job, from their offer. After joining TBWA\HAKUHODO, I have been taking the lead in various events including brand presentations and motor shows in emerging countries. During the busiest days, I would spend more than a quarter of a year living overseas. Currently, I manage a team of about 20 people as a director of the Project Management dept.

Sophie Luo (Account Executive): I was first working for TBWA\HAKUHODO China for projects taking place in China related to our main client Nissan. Since then I was able to work together with TBWA\HAKUHODO’s EMD team and later joined here in Japan as a support for global supplier selection. Soon after joining TBWA\HAKUHODO, I supported operations at Nissan’s Yokohama headquarters on a full-time basis. Until now I am working mainly with Nissan.

Driving marketing with the power to create the best real-life experiences that move hearts and minds
Q. Please tell us what “EMD” is and what the team does.

Tsukada: EMD stands for Experiential Marketing Division, a team with the vision of “creating the best live experience and driving marketing with the power to move hearts and minds”. We work to bring brands and customers closer together by delivering unforgettable experiences that move people’s hearts and minds.

We believe that it is the “live experience” above all else that excites people the most – people remember the experiences, not the information. For example, in the case of cars, we don’t just deliver car specs and benefits in text and visuals; we also add value through experience, which increases the customer’s familiarity and acceptance of the brand, which in turn becomes a major driving force in the customer journey.

We meticulously plan the pre- and post-experience journeys to maximize the customer’s emotional journey through the experience, providing moments of excitement at the point of experience. Furthermore, we bring the customers to the next marketing process with increased engagement with the brand and product through the experience. EMD implements this kind of “marketing with live experience as the engine” for a variety of global client projects.

Q. Can you tell us how you feel about the power of “real-life experience”?

Scenes from events that EMD produced based on the concept of

Scenes from events that EMD produced based on the concept of “Phygital (Physical + Digital)” during COVID-19

Sophie: From the end of 2019, many events were canceled due to the outbreak of COVID-19, and we had to swiftly switch real-life experiences to online events. In response to this situation, our team quickly adopted the concept of “Phygital (Physical + Digital).” The online experiences we tried to create are not merely live streaming that had previously been physical events, but we took on the challenge of providing an inclusive and new experience while utilizing the latest technology and were able to receive a very positive response from both clients and customers.

However, now that the pandemic situation has settled down globally and we are back with offering real-life experiences (for example driving test in terms of cars), we are re-realizing how actually seeing, feeling, and experiencing the product makes it easier for customers to make a purchase or take other actions. I realized that no matter how much progress is made in digital measures, the importance and intensity of real experiences will never change.

Tsukada: With social media or technologies such as VR and metaverse, it is so easy to show and somehow convey the look and feel of products without having people visit the physical venue. So a real experience may be the exact opposite of “convenience”. However, I think that is exactly why the value of making efforts to actually come to a place and experience for themselves through all five senses is becoming more and more valuable. The power of immersive and intimate brand experience in all sectors is getting more attention than before COVID-19.

Q. What value does EMD create being under the umbrella of TBWA\HAKUHODO?

Tsukada: It is quite rare for a creative agency to have such a team expressly dedicated to designing and implementing experiential marketing. Operating under the umbrella of a creative agency makes it possible for EMD to deliver a consistent and integrated brand experience. By designing and producing the optimal live experience for the overall creative campaign, we can establish close communication and collaborations with both account executives and creative teams. The precious data obtained from the target customer experience for each project is immediately reflected in the next phase of the marketing strategy. This structure enables TBWA\HAKUHODO to support our clients with disruptive and wide-ranging initiatives that simply cannot be replicated by traditional advertising or brand experience agencies.

Using imagination and working together to create the best experience –
Never goes as planned, but that’s what makes it exciting!
Q. What is the fun and challenging part of your work?

Sophie: The tough part of the event industry is that there is ALWAYS a clear D-Day and everything has to be done by that deadline – but there is a great sense of relief once you get past D-Day. The fact that there is a clear goal that cannot be negotiated is both challenging and rewarding at the same time with a sense of accomplishment.
Also, since events are held in various locations in Japan and abroad, we get to constantly be involved with people we would not be involved with otherwise, and things that we would not normally think of happen behind the scenes of an event. The fact that “something” that is not as scripted or planned, or something that would not happen in daily life always happens at the event is perhaps one of the most difficult but exciting aspects of experiential marketing.

Another fun part is that even when working for the same client, the approach varies depending on the content of the project and the purpose of the event. On the other hand, the fact that we have to proceed with several projects and tasks in parallel may be the difficult part. I believe that the EMD team’s strength is to motivate the partners toward the production of the event and to achieve high output toward the same goal.

Utilizing 3D software to visualize the invisible

Utilizing 3D software to visualize the invisible

Tsukada: The “experience” we provide is something that is elusive until it is actually created or implemented, so I think the key for EMD is how to become the experiencer of the future and think it through.
The ability to look ahead is also important in project progression. One of the most exciting aspects of the project is reading ahead and leading the project. In order to see and proceed with things from the same perspective as our client and other partners involved, it is both difficult and interesting to build a consensus based on an understanding of “what is the difference between this person’s brain and my own brain?

If it is for consensus building on future experiences, we use not only presentation materials but also hand-drawn illustrations or any other means to match perceptions, such as 3D software to visualize the invisible. I feel that the cornerstone of our work is to visualize and craft what is in our minds in any way we can to ensure that all parties involved are in sync and that the project proceeds as planned.

Q. What was the most memorable project that you have been involved in so far?

Sophie: For me, it would be the Nissan Energy Home project, as it was a project in which we built a real house in the Nissan Gallery to demonstrate the concrete benefits of EVs. I think it was a project in which we could embody the benefits of the product in a live experience by making visitors experience the Energy Home run by EVs. I remember how happy I was to see the excitement on the faces of the customers.

Tsukada: I learned a lot from all the stimulating experiences I had at overseas events. One of EMD’s unique characteristics is that we lead projects from the so-called “1.5th row,” which is a position that is both sales (1st row) and production (2nd). As a result, there were many opportunities for us to involve in overseas projects with limited budgets, where we could play multiple roles on our own.

One of the most memorable overseas events was the one where we created module kits and held rotating events in more than 10 countries in the Asia-Oceania region and South Africa. Since this was a cross-continental project, I learned a wide range of things through the project, from arranging customs bond and ATA carnet, to building consensus with on-site staff via e-mail and conference calls, to the hustle and bustle from boarding to the actual event, and to assets and depreciation.

Group photo at the Motor Show in India, created with members from diverse backgrounds (left) / A scene at the event site where the unexpected happens (right)

Group photo at the Motor Show in India, created with members from diverse backgrounds (left) / A scene at the event site where the unexpected happens (right)

Among them, the thing that was particularly interesting to me was seeing how everyone prayed to their own gods in different ways before the event in Indonesia. It was a moment when I was convinced that that small idea that was born in the conference room could bring together many people from different cultures and backgrounds and start working toward the same goal of success and that this desire would surely be conveyed to the customers.

The more personal and individual it is, the longer the experience lingers in the memory
Q. Tell us what you would like to challenge in the future.

Tsukada: I have been paying attention to the Web3 trend and personally believe that the world is changing so rapidly that it reminds me of the early days of the Internet. The underlying principle that Web3 is engendering is that the world is becoming a flatter place. In such an environment, what new relationship between brands and consumers will be born, and what kind of brand experience can make a difference to consumers? It may be a repetitive process of trial and error, but I believe it is necessary to understand and examine this issue thoroughly.

In brand marketing activities, we believe that similar to the media shift from mass to individual, there should be a shift from general experiences to individual experiences. I imagine that there will be a shift to one-of-a-kind, generative experiences that are created together with each person who experiences them which will move people’s hearts more intensively.

Sophie: The world is in the fast-paced digital age, and I believe it is the place where EMD needs to do its best to extend the design and value of the special customer journey as well as the real experience.

I also want to emphasize how we can get back to real life after COVID-19. There is often a contradiction between business needs and the fun of the event, but we want to include more realistic aspects at the same time provide dynamic value, not just as scripted.

Driving Marketing with the Power that Moves Hearts and Minds:Experiential Marketing Division

With the digital evolution and COVID-19, the world is exploring various possibilities for what “space” and “experience” can be. What remains the same, however, is that “brand experience” is what moves customers and deepens their understanding and love for the brand. With the concept of “Phygital,” EMD continues to evolve today to provide unforgettable experiences and share the values and worldview that the brand aims for with customers while actively incorporating digital technology.

We will continuously introduce our proud teams and members at STORIES! Please stay tuned!

Communication team (koho@tbwahakuhodo.co.jp)