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Inside Nissan’s experiential car showroom of the future

The significant impact of the Covid-19 pandemic has seen many brands accelerating their digitalisation plans as the economy reboots and enters a new normal post-Covid-19. This is no different for automotive industry, as their showrooms stand empty globally as people go into lockdown. The Drum speaks to Nissan to find out how selling cars has become digitalised.

Imagine a car showroom with no cars.

Nissan is hoping its new interactive entertainment facility, named the Nissan Pavilion, in Yokohama, will allow customers to experience how the company envisions the future of mobility.

The 10,000 square-meter space, created by TBWA\Hakuhodo, offers a variety of experiential content showcasing Nissan’s technology and features using a 4K projection screen, and a vibrating floor with Sony haptics technology.

It will act as a platform for the first exhibition of Nissan’s newest electric vehicle model Ariya, which is presented with calligraphy art and uses an experiential video to allow visitors to feel what it is like to drive a Nissan Ariya through the city.

There is also an interactive cafe in the facility that has tables displaying nutritional information of any dish placed on the table, ProPILOT robot waiters, and wireless charging tables for smartphones.

“Nissan continues to challenge itself to make everyday life and experiences exciting for all people and it applies to people who are not passionate about cars or Nissan as well,” Misako Eno, the project leader in the global brand experience department at Nissan, tells The Drum.

“Despite the fact that this project was a completely different kind of work from their usual work with Nissan to sell cars, TBWA\Hakuhodo members were coming up with out-of-box, unconventional ideas.”

She adds: “With their creativity, we were able to create this entertainment facility that everyone can come and enjoy. This Nissan Pavilion embodies the spirit of Nissan - a brand that never stops challenging.”

Mineo Mori, the head of experiential marketing division at TBWA\Hakuhodo, tells The Drum the initial brief from Nissan was to create a pavilion to promote the Nissan brand to the world, given an expected surge of Tokyo Olympics-related tourism.

With the request, what the agency wanted to create was not an ordinary motor show showcasing the latest technology for people who are passionate about cars, which is common for other car companies' events.

“What we wanted to create was a completely new concept: an "entertainment" facility that would be enjoyable to a wide range of people – in fact, targeting people who are not interested in cars. This challenge was also in line with the words of Nissan's founder - "Do what others don't dare to do,” she explains.

To kickstart the project, TBWA\Hakuhodo formed a team of around 30 people from various fields in the agency and held a workshop to decide the concept and settled on “energizing human potential".

The agency then designed a customer journey of how to convey the message to visitors, in what order and manner. After zoning the facility according to the customer journey, the TBWA\Hakuhodo team continued discussing how to maximize the entertainment elements in each zone.

There was an unexpected but a major challenge from the sudden emergence of the Covid-19 pandemic during the planning. At one point, the agency even considered downsizing the pavilion and focusing on creating a digital experience instead after Japan went into lockdown.

However, the state of emergency in Japan was lifted and to allow people to come to the pavilion to witness and experience the future of life to the fullest, Nissan and TBWA\Hakuhodo benchmarked infection control measurements of various facilities and devised an operational plan with thorough infection prevention measures.

“Due to the nature of being an entertainment facility that emphasizes the importance of "experiences", one of the most difficult challenges of this project was that it was very hard for clients’ executives to imagine and understand the excellence of the output without actually seeing and feeling it,” says Mori.

“As it is difficult to judge only with proposal decks, we strived to create 3D animations and prototypes that would allow clients to have a similar experience as possible to ensure that everyone was satisfied and convinced with the making process.”

Since the pavilion was opened to the public, Mori claims it has seen a number of families, young couples and people who don't seem to have a deep interest in cars coming in and enjoying the facility.

She says both the agency and the client have been receiving comments such as "I could really experience the future", "I enjoyed even though I have little interest in cars," and "It's a shame that this wonderful place is open only for a limited period" from visitors.

“The response on social media has been great as well. We are truly delighted to see posts and comments from customers who have experienced the facility having high expectation and hope for the future created by Nissan's technology innovation, including the ProPILOT waiter robot, as well as its automotive technology,” she explains.

The experiential vision survived being made during a challenging year to offer a view to the future, debuting technology and experiences that could make its way into more car showrooms.

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