Q&A: Juliana Mattar on Crafting Sensory Experiences for Emotional Impact

Juliana is the Founder & CEO of Singapore-based Motion: For Impact, which recently celebrated its 20th year.

When visiting the Motion: For Impact website, you’re greeted with “Sensorial experiences that move the human spirit.”

That is quite a mission, regardless of what business you’re in.

For Motion, however, it appears to be sensorial smooth sailing, so to speak, as the Singapore-based boutique agency recently celebrated an impressive 20th anniversary. The two decades also include recent growth that saw it doubling its headcount from 10 to 25.


 

To learn more about sensorial experiences and how the agency evolved from what was initially an events and video production company into one that developed “a sensorial methodology that ignites the human senses,” we recently spoke with Juliana Mattar, Founder & CEO of Motion: For Impact.

Over the course of our conversation, she shares with us more about her work, how the agency has evolved over two decades, overcoming challenges, some of her favorite projects, and more.


Motion applies “sensory intelligence to design experiences that powerfully move people to action.” Can you elaborate on this and provide some examples of your work?

For every project we work on, we explore what sensory touch points we can seamlessly design into an experience to achieve a feeling that leads to emotional impact.

In the same way that the taste of our mother’s cooking from childhood remains with us for life, or a song plays, and we know precisely where we were and with whom when we first heard it when we were 15, the senses provide a compelling connection to our memories and thus make us feel.


 

For years, we’ve written brand anthems with companies and produced and choreographed them into performances to bring about the feeling of one vision and one team, one company for Teams. When the song comes to form, and we experience hundreds or even thousands of people moving and singing to the song they created with their belief in themselves for the company they work with and for, it is hair-raising and often touching/moving.

Music and rhythm move people into action, and we can raise the emotion of an entire hall with a palpable rhythm and beat. And the united feeling of the crowd moved by the moment of emotion we experience is extraordinary every time.

“In the same way that the taste of our mother’s cooking from childhood remains with us for life, or a song plays, and we know precisely where we were and with whom when we first heard it when we were 15, the senses provide a compelling connection to our memories and thus make us feel.”

We have also designed and experienced the draw of a space with the right colours, scents, textures, and shapes to evoke a sense of belonging and recognition of oneself within the space, hence, the allure of a retail brand to its loyal customers. These days, brands are more aware of the impact of sensory experiences and intentionally consider how their audiences feel about the brand as they think about designing and planning their activations, events, and touchpoints.

How has Motion’s sensorial approach evolved over the past 20 years? What key industry changes have you seen over the past two decades?

We launched and deepened our practice into the arts and science of moving people and businesses into action with sensorial experiences during the pandemic of COVID in 2020. Then, when businesses, families and the world had to convince ourselves within our walls and social contact halted, being sensorially starved, we spent the quiet to strengthen the design of our practice of sensorial experiences for our clients and business. We knew that in the life cycle, as with business, the crisis chapter would go away, and when it did, we wanted to be ready to serve and inspire our clients and the business world in the way humans connect with our senses.

We were never in denial of technology, and as technology advanced rapidly, we dived deeper into what moves people to action and what makes us human.

We work with the acute awareness of moving in complement with technology rather than ignoring it. This also keeps us well on our feet to keep up with the advancements in how we as humans rely on and live with technology.

“We were never in denial of technology, and as technology advanced rapidly, we dived deeper into what moves people to action and what makes us human.”

So, while our industry’s eternal challenge remains up to date with the latest tools, trends, and technologies, we always put humans first through the arts and science of behavioural psychology and human emotion. Each day, we strive hard to practice what we believe in and practice first at Motion. Messaging for a company to its stakeholders comes in many forms, and our experience has shown that very often, the less conscious elements that impact us as people are the ones that make a message more memorable—the ones that make them feel. And I would say that this is a crucial way that we have evolved over the years.

As a female-led independent agency, what challenges have you faced, and how have you overcome them?

The challenges are similar to those faced by any independent agency in Singapore, but I’ve found three specific ways that I approach and then overcome what has appeared as a seeming obstacle in the road.

The first tip is to start with yourself, as this is the biggest and best investment you can make in your life. I used to struggle with this concept. It even felt selfish. I am now beginning to understand that you can’t pour from an empty cup. We need to nourish and fill ourselves first before we can do the same for others. I’m learning this not just in my capacity as a leader of people and a business, but as a mother, friend, daughter, sister and woman.

The second is to be a lifelong learner and the last is to listen. There is a lot to learn and gain from listening to people, specifically those who matter to you. There will be a point in your career journey as an entrepreneur where you would feel the need to prove your point all the time. But there is elemental power in the quiet and presence of listening. Knowledge is gained from the experience of another.

“We need to nourish and fill ourselves first before we can do the same for others. I’m learning this not just in my capacity as a leader of people and a business, but as a mother, friend, daughter, sister and woman.”

So, we have to be grateful when one decides to share with. I feel that women are truly unique beings, as we play multiple roles daily and are natural-born providers to our community, family and this earth. What’s empowering is that we can choose to be in these roles with grace and compassion, yet also with presence and decisiveness.

What is some campaign work you’ve done over the years that you are most proud of?

I am proud of all the projects we commit ourselves to working on. But if I had to single out some, it would be the partnerships with Aesop and Hilton. Three pieces of work that particularly stand out are the following –

  • Othertopias: Motion partnered Aesop to pair their distinctive fragrances with short films by Davide Quayola in an immersive exhibition.
  • Episteme: Motion worked with Aesop to create a sensorial art installation that confronted visitors with a representation of the skin up close. The spatial zone featured visual, audio, olfactory and tactile touchpoints and saw 1500 visitors over 12 days.
  • Brighter Together: Motion united the leadership of Hilton to reignite the passion for hospitality in APAC, with an energetic production across a live TV show style plenary, trade show booths, team building, an event app and gala dinner.

They impacted me because of our committed partnership with our clients to curate and produce many moments for their people and communities. Our experiences raised people’s spirits, made them feel, moving them into action, which then impacted their business objectives well. It’s gratifying when this is felt after many, many months of planning.

What is your future growth strategy for Motion?

Our growth strategy has two directions. The first is to provide a warm, hospitable, and reliable service partnership experience to our client partners and everybody we work with. We put ourselves in their shoes and think, feel, and do as one team, with our client’s growth being our single focus in the outcome. To do this, the right culture fit with our clients is important. And so, the people who give themselves each day to Motion. We invite and attract talents into our business with this strongly in audit and mind.

Hospitality and sensory experience delivered by each team member in the correct dose of fulfilment, talent, and drive for themselves in our business are paramount to our growth strategy. Aligning our daily goals as one Team is constant work—a flywheel that cannot stop in the running of this business.

I want to prove that people who find true meaning in what they do and give to the company they work for will make the company a true profit.


Quick Hits

Book everyone in the industry should read:  The power of Now by Eckhart Tolle

Favorite show you’ve been watching lately: I am currently enjoying the series on creation and impact of pharma’s Oxycontin, Painkiller on Netflix

One album you would take to a deserted island:  I’ll welcome the soundscape and nature to accompany me. And will belt out my favourite tunes when I need to soothe myself depending on the emotions that the moment calls for.

Something you want to learn or wish you were better at: Two things, telling better stories and playing the piano well

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