Behind the brand: Mazda shares its experiential strategy

Event takes an in-depth look at Mazda - a car brand that likes to confound expectations with its experiential work.

Mazda looks to deliver events that operate in line with its 'defy convention' mentality
Mazda looks to deliver events that operate in line with its 'defy convention' mentality

The brand

Japanese-born automotive brand Mazda prides itself on producing cars that defy convention, and not in the traditional sense, notes Claire Andrews, marketing director at Mazda UK.

"Defying convention is about more than standing out from the crowd," she says. "It's about being creative, brave enough to go against the mainstream and do things that others wouldn't dream of doing."

Andrews says the car manufacturer's decision to release its Mazda MX-5 model in 1989 is testament to this approach. "When everyone thought there was no desire for such a vehicle because similar cars had launched and failed, Mazda successfully launched the Mazda MX-5, which went on to become the world's best-selling two-seater sports car.

"We were also the first Japanese car manufacturer to win the Le Mans 24-hour race in 1991 with the 787B rotary-engined race car," she adds.

The brand has developed a reputation for its unique design focus, an approach that shows no signs of slowing down. "At Mazda we are very clear on one thing: if it's not worth driving then it's not worth building," says Andrews.

The brand is similarly proactive when it comes to pertinent issues such as the environment. "Today, our solution to the environmental challenge is our Skyactiv engines, which are fuel-efficient and emit less carbon dioxide, but which don't compromise the performance that makes every Mazda vehicle fun to drive," Andrews explains.

Departing from the norm

Mazda aims to deliver events that operate in line with its 'defy convention' mentality, which tends to be achieved by executing memorable and unexpected experiences.

"True to our brand positioning, we always seek different ways of delivering events to our customers, prospective customers, retailer partners and media," says Andrews.

She cites Mazda's activity at Rockingham race circuit and Goodwood Festival of Speed as prime examples. "Recently we transformed Rockingham into a Shoreditch bistro to combine the thrill of driving the all-new Mazda CX-3 on the track with a cool dining experience," Andrews recalls. The 325 dealers who attended the event were able to test-drive the new vehicle. The bistro, meanwhile, sought to immerse them in the world of the CX-3's target market.

"As a central feature marquee at this year's Goodwood Festival of Speed, we stood out from the automotive crowd through an outdoor music festival called 'Raise the Roof', which featured emerging artistes who share an unconventional back story," adds Andrews.

Alongside the musical offering, the brand offered people opportunities to interact with its new MX-5 model via 'Play' and 'Drive' experiences.

"Raise the Roof was designed to communicate the euphoria you feel while driving the new Mazda MX-5 - roof down, foot down and music up. One third of Goodwood's visitors engaged with us during the event and enjoyed up-and-coming performers hosted by radio DJ Tom Ravenscroft," says Andrews.

"We encouraged audience participation through fun and interactive experiences that put the MX-5 at the heart of the activity. The social reach we obtained was vast, which enabled us to extend our activity beyond Goodwood," she adds.

According to Andrews, the activation was the most-visited manufacturer experience in the entire 22-year history of Goodwood Festival of Speed.

The brand extended its music-focused activity in July when it partnered with Tomorrowland, one of the world's largest dance music festivals. The annual event spans 12 stages and attracts 180,000 party-goers from across the globe.

A select group of UK-based media journeyed to the festival site in Boom, Belgium, in a convoy of new Mazda 2 vehicles, where they were able to experience the brand's Journey Island stage, which hosted acts throughout the three-day festival.

Driving the future

When it comes to promoting the launch of models, experiential activity that sees consumers drive the cars is key, according to Andrews. The brand has three new offerings this year, including the Mazda Koeru, which was unveiled at the Frankfurt Motor Show last month. 

"Every event is tailored to fit the passion points of the target audience, for each car line to maximise engagement with our brand," Andrews explains. "For example, the joy of the open road combined with seeking out new and unique gourmet dining experiences for the launch of the latest Mazda MX-5.

"The launch campaign for the MX-5 will be backed up by a unique drive experience to really bring the campaign, called 'Wherever it takes you', to life."

In those instances where it is not possible for people to physically drive the cars, the brand will employ virtual reality technology to deliver a simulated experience.

"Ninety-five per cent of pre-orders for the Mazda 2 were secured through a virtual reality tour that was hosted by our retailer partners," says Andrews.

Three key stats:

  • 1m - Mazda will sell its millionth MX-5 in 2015
  • 120 - tonnes of steel used to produce Mazda's central feature at Goodwood
  • 1920 - The year that Mazda was founded

Five fast facts - Claire Andrews, Marketing director, Mazda UK:

  • 1. Heads a team of 20 marketing professionals.
  • 2. Joined Mazda in 2002 as events manager.
  • 3. Andrews has launched ten vehicles during her time at Mazda.
  • 4. She is the first, and remains the only, female director at Mazda UK.
  • 5. Andrews worked at Lotus Cars prior to taking up her events role at Mazda.

More: Event TV: Mazda discusses activations at Goodwood

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