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Interview: Chubby Hearts HK’s curator Sam Lam on how to bring content to life through events

Interview: Chubby Hearts HK’s curator Sam Lam on how to bring content to life through events

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MARKETING-INTERACTIVE is proud to present Content 360 – Hong Kong: Content that captivates, a conference about content marketing, content trends and storytelling in a year amidst the return of live events, cookie deprecation, the integration of AI in marketing, new devices, global sporting events and weekend shopping trips to mainland China.

Taking place on 26 June at Hong Kong Ocean Park Marriott Hotel, our 28 speakers will share with us their insights and experiences on content strategy for topics such as integration of content with commerce, cross-border marketing and the use of AI in content creation.

Joining us on the panel on how to bring content to life through owned events and festivals is Sam Lam (pictured), director of business development and projects, Hong Kong Design Centre (HKDC). Lam is also the curator and project director of “Chubby Hearts”, an art installation project conceived by British designer Anya Hindmarch and curated and presented by HKDC.

Spanning from Western Valentine's Day to the Chinese Lantern Festival, a gigantic 12-meter diameter floating red heart was displayed at the Central Queen's Statue Square Garden. 

In a conversation with MARKETING-INTERACTIVE, Lam said her team encountered various challenges while implementing this ambitious event marketing campaign. These challenges included managing the scale of the project, obtaining government approval, ensuring safety, dealing with weather conditions, and addressing transportation logistics. 

To stand out in a crowded landscape when organising events, Lam said it is important for brands to design a unique and memorable experience for their target audience. She also emphasised that brands should actively engage the people involved in the implementation process. This involves dedicating significant effort to incorporate diverse ideas and opinions from all team members into the project.

MARKETING-INTERACTIVE: The “Chubby Hearts” campaign was phenomenally successful – was it just the right event at the right time (coming as it did between Valentine’s Day and Chinese Valentine’s Day)?

We are thrilled to witness the success of the Chubby Hearts Hong Kong project. A thoughtful curation process ensured that numerous factors were taken into account to create a project that could be enjoyed by all. 

This project went beyond being just a public art project that created surprises and joy; it served as a city branding and placemaking initiative aimed at enhancing societal well-being and a creative tourism campaign to rebrand Hong Kong. 

As the inaugural mega event of 2024, our aspiration was to establish a model for cross-sectoral partnerships and inspire the city's cultural landscape through innovative design.

Timing and locations were chosen carefully. Spanning from Western Valentine's Day to the Chinese Lantern Festival, the project immersed both locals and tourists in unexpected moments of love and joy and extended the festive celebration from one day to 11 days. The chosen timeframe also symbolised the unique blend of Eastern and Western arts and cultures that define our city. 

We further conveyed this message through a specially curated selection of locations, ranging from heritage sites and harbours to bustling streets and outlying villages. We aimed to showcase the magnificence and diversity of Hong Kong’s cityscape, attracting tourists while fostering a sense of belonging and pride among the residents. 

Over the 11 days, we launched 30 showcases at 20 locations throughout the city, attracting over 730,000 residents and visitors, while tourists accounted for 28%.

Cross-sectoral partnerships played a vital role in the project's success. Through the support of different governmental departments, businesses and NGOs, we activated more than 100 screens to display the digital artwork created by local composer Leon Ko and new media designer Nelson Ng. This initiative turned the city into an open-air gallery, offering a fresh and immersive experience for the audience. 

To encourage community engagement and inclusivity, we organised a series of educational guided tours in collaboration with various community units, which benefited nearly 250 underprivileged children and youths.

Besides, we are grateful for the generous support we received from a diverse range of individuals and groups. Celebrities and KOLs such as Carina Lau, Tony Leung, Michele Reis and Joey Yung, promoted our project on their social media platforms without any cost. Local creators, including Ko, Nelson Ng, award-winning photographer Dr. Victor Wong, travel photographer Derek Tang, and artist Tommy Fung of SurrealHK, contributed their exceptional talents to create original works for the project. 

In addition, there were also self-initiated creative activities, including sketching activities by Urban Sketchers, cultural guided tours by Walk in HK, and dancing performances at various pop-up locations.

Last but not least, the visitors themselves played an essential role in the project's success, as they shared their memorable experiences on social media using the hashtag #CHUBBYheartsHK. This collective effort effectively showcased the charm of Hong Kong to the world, leaving a lasting impact.

MARKETING-INTERACTIVE: When was the idea conceptualised and what were the main challenges that came in executing such an ambitious event marketing campaign?  

We first met Anya Hindmarch, the designer of Chubby Hearts, in 2019. At that time, we were already impressed by her creative concept and were eager to bring this project to Hong Kong.

We believed that the timing was perfect to launch the Hong Kong edition in 2024, considering that the city had recently reopened after the COVID-19 pandemic. We saw this as an opportunity to reintroduce Hong Kong to the world.

Being a non-profit organisation with limited resources, HKDC faced significant challenges in launching a large-scale creative tourism project such as Chubby Hearts Hong Kong. The scale of the project, coupled with the complexities of arranging pop-up installations, prolonged the government approval process beyond our initial expectations. The funding from the government was only secured near the end, leaving us with just a month including the Chinese New Year public holiday to successfully complete the project.

The first challenge is to localise the Chubby Hearts project and create new surprises. We have made the decision to present it in a new format and expand it to a larger scale within the city.

After conducting comprehensive assessments of factors such as safety, weather conditions, transportation, and in-depth consultations with relevant government departments, particularly the Civil Aviation Department, we have planned around 20 locations that showcase the diverse facets of Hong Kong. 

The Chubby Hearts series' largest and most recent installation has made its debut in Statue Square Gardens in Central, with a diameter of 12 meters, which is four times larger than its London version. It appears that there were new technical issues to address in the process.

Weather conditions posed another challenge, as the flying installation is sensitive to wind and rain. We took measures to communicate efficiently in case of changes to the installation due to weather. Briefings, clear guidelines, and text and visual materials were provided to staff and location partners. WhatsApp groups were created for immediate action. The possibility of weather-related changes was mentioned on the website, and weather disclaimers were shared on social media.

We also had a contingency plan to manage public expectations. Proper application procedures involving government departments were followed, and we applied for both ideal and backup locations. We have produced two 12-meter hearts and five three-meter hearts to prepare all scenarios including damage and weather plan for changing the centre piece from one 12-meter heart to two three-meter hearts. All scenarios were considered, and some visitors even found the two-heart arrangement more fascinating.

MARKETING-INTERACTIVE: What would be your advice for brands seeking to organise festivals, events or physical activations if they want to stand out in a crowded landscape?

Designing a unique and memorable experience for your target audience is crucial, sometimes, we believe less is more. Take Chubby Hearts Hong Kong as an example; it was designed for everyone. By emphasising simplicity, we have eliminated unnecessary elements and barriers of showing the installations, making the project inclusive and enabling people with different abilities and all to enjoy. The project's inclusivity and accessibility successfully engaged local residents and visitors from around the world, fostering an interactive and communal atmosphere in Hong Kong.

Let's not forget about the people involved in the implementation process. We dedicated considerable effort to incorporate different ideas and opinions from all team members in the project.

We trained our staff to become KOEs (key opinion employees) and project ambassadors as they were at the forefront, ensuring a seamless experience for visitors.

Through comprehensive training and daily briefings, our on-site staff, wearing branded jackets featuring HKDC and Chubby Hearts elements, were well-prepared to share the story behind Chubby Hearts Hong Kong. They also assisted visitors in capturing the best photographs, creating memorable experiences that attract and retain audiences.

Join us this coming 26 June for Content360 Hong Kong, a one-day-two-streams extravaganza under the theme of "Content that captivates". Get together with our fellow marketers to learn about AI in content creation, integration of content with commerce and cross-border targeting, and find the recipe for success within the content marketing world!

Related articles:

Interview: Marketer Charlotte Ho on why event marketing matters for branding
Interview: Marketer Lisa Leung on how to drive customer conversion in the modern era

Love is in the air: Marketing tactics to better promote Chubby Hearts HK

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