#LEAwards 2020 highlight: How POKKA brought Houjicha alive through experiential storytelling

Bagging awards across multiple categories at MARKETING-INTERACTIVE's Loyalty and Engagement Awards 2020 is POKKA with its campaign "A Toast to the Small Things". Launching its POKKA Houjicha brand, the beverage company won the gold award for Best use of integrated media, silver award for Best online experience, and bronze awards for Best loyalty programme - Launch/Re-launch and Best use of influencers.

As consumers are empowered to discover more health related information through various sources with digital as the main driving force, they are increasingly becoming more health conscious.

Coupled with the nation’s campaign on healthy lifestyle and fight against diabetes, consumers are relooking at their beverage choices. With this changing consumer landscape, POKKA, a ready-to-drink (RTD) tea brand in Singapore, launched a new no-sugar Japanese Roasted Tea, Houjicha, adding on to its no-sugar tea product portfolio.

As Houjicha is lower in caffeine in comparison to coffee and other teas, it is a beverage that can be enjoyed by all ages throughout the day, even in the evening. The agency, Mashwire, was tasked to develop an integrated launch campaign for POKKA Houjicha.


A rising health trend that slows down the intake of sugar and Singaporeans’ ever increasing interest in the Japanese craftmanship, sets the backdrop for the launch.

However, there are two main gaps that the brand needs to close:

1) A general consumer perception that RTD beverage category is not “authentic” and unhealthy, hence limited healthier options available

2) Consumers cannot resonate with Houjicha, hence a challenge to articulate both its name and taste profile characteristic


The main business objectives were to:

  • Drive awareness and consumption of POKKA Green Tea no Sugar – Houjicha
  • Increase market share for POKKA No Sugar Tea Communication
  • To communicate that POKKA is a truly Japanese no sugar tea beverage brand choice for everyone
  • POKKA is a contemporary Japanese Brand, not traditional
  • POKKA offers the authentic Japanese no sugar tea range that is brewed with premium tea leaves for a higher quality, easy-to drink tea – suitable for nonsugar drinkers

The primary target audience set was for 25 to 35 year olds and the secondary was 35 to 55 year olds, as well as 20 to 25 year olds.

The team realised that to revolutionise consumers’ perception and for a successful launch campaign, the first step was to jolt consumers’ memories of the RTD category. Mashwire analysed the RTD beverages using sugar levels, to identify the areas where POKKA can differentiate.

Next, the Mashwire team connected the dots between POKKA Houjicha's unique selling points and the target audience. It unearthed the insight that consumers perceived a product to be authentic because of the details of the story behind and the brand experience. Consumers prioritised the multi-sensorial experience and the creation of social currency above self preference on taste or other functional benefits.

The perception of “crafted” and “paying attention to details” resonates well with the target audience, but this kind of brand storytelling is perceived to be lacking in the RTD category.

Given Houjicha is distinctive from other Japanese green teas because it is roasted at a high temperature in a porcelain pot over charcoal, the team decided to amplify its story.

The campaign "A toast to the small things" was created to bring to light the intricate process of creating Houjicha through experiential storytelling. Through a single story of the Houjicha brewing process integrated into the consumer journey and their different media channels, audiences will be able to experience the authentic craft of the Japanese and be introduced to this bold but yet gentle green tea.


With the objective to increase the visibility of the new launch, Mashwire prioritised the wide outreach and lasting impression the brand's need to make with the consumers. OOH and social media were the two chosen media channels to support the outreach based on its ability to reach out to consumers. The key visual was given a new lease of life with animation and sound effects to provide a multi-sensorial and immersive brand experience to make that lasting impression.

The key visual also carried a simple message: Houjicha – Roasted Japanese Green Tea in both English and Japanese. The animation and sound effects also exaggerate the charcoal sparks to amplify the differentiating point of the product, roasted green tea.

After creating the awareness, the team also needed to work on increasing consumers’ consideration, and banked on word-of-mouth to do the trick. A media event, key opinion leaders (KOLs) engagement and media kits led the brand into the consideration phase with curated earned media. At the media event, the media people, editors, celebrities and KOLs were given a multi-sensorial and immersive brand experience, starting from the drink itself.

The story behind the intricate process of creating Houjicha was then gamified with an on-ground Kinect installation, where participants will need to wave their hands at the fastest speed to become the next Houjicha Roast Master. The game puts the participant in a first-person perspective, accompanied with sound effects and an aroma diffuser, appealing to all five senses to create that lasting impression. Finally, a media kit that consists of a travel tea set, the products and a note to remind them about the story, wrapped in a Furoshiki (traditional Japanese wrapping), is passed to them to complete the brand experience.

Riding on the momentum of the earned media from editorial reviews and KOLs’ social media sharing, the team went onto its next media channel: the age old radio. Focusing on the sense of hearing, audio ads and open talks were chosen with a designated role to help consumer to pronounce Houjicha. The audio ads re-hashed the Houjicha creation process and focused on the pronunciation of the product name in a relaxing pace, differentiating it from the others where they are mostly fast and packed with a lot of information.

Meanwhile the DJs were also given an immersive brand experience to ensure they had pointers for open talks.

After reinforcing awareness with consideration, the next step was purchase intent. Activating all five senses with an integrated online-to-offline activation, the team created the “I want to buy” moment with digital as the initial touch point and on-ground rounding up the purchase experience.

An online version of the Houjicha Roast Master game was launched online to target both desktop and mobile users. The players needed to tap left and right on the mobile screen or on the left and right key on a desktop. Pushing out the game using social media ads extended its reach, while a grand prize of a round trip flight voucher and weekly prizes served as the baits to lure players in.

While the players are trying to beat the leaderboard, they subconsciously immersed themselves in the story of creating Houjicha repeatedly, creating top of mind awareness via mere exposure effect in a non-intrusive manner.

A sharing option was also embedded within the game where players were encouraged to share to earn additional chances to win the grand prize. While they earned a chance, POKKA earned a user-generated content.

Video was chosen as the content format for the final phase of the launch campaign. Looking at trending videos in the digital space, the brand aligned itself with the ever popular recipe video to give the traditional art a modern outlook and further added on a twist. With a tea master as the consultant, the team presented the art of brewing Houjicha with precision and added on multi-dimensions with multi-sensory appeal. The videos were also used on out-of-home (OOH) channels to turn spaces into immersive brand experiences, and on social media platform such as Instagram stories as attention baits luring consumers to find out more or just simply as a reminder.

An integrated campaign strategy had enabled the team to reverse the usual sequence of launching brand video first for campaigns, and developed new roles for the video and its media channels, lending its efficiency in building awareness, connection and advocacy to the final leg of the campaign.


In the span of three months since its launch, the eight-week campaign successfully landed POKKA Houjicha in the Top 10 Green Tea consumed within four weeks, reducing competitors’ share of throat significantly. What was amazing was the ability to meet the business objectives of achieving close to 25% volume sales growth for POKKA’s No Sugar Green Tea Portfolio.

The integrated campaign created more than 200 million impressions via earned, paid and owned platforms, and an all-time high engagement rate of 70% for the digital video.