Storytelling, Campaigns, and Visual Hammers

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Brand Academy Day Three goes deeper into the creative aspects of marketing

By Paul Catiang

September 21, 2018 found Brand Academy at its third location: the Globe Tower in Bonifacio Global City. Where the previous week had them learning about insight and writing creative briefs, Day Three had them looking into the nuts and bolts behind the creative process and how better to connect with their markets.

Brand Entertainment, Storytelling and Content Marketing

Paolo Mercado, Nestlé Philippines

“People don’t care about ads,” Paolo Mercado said, opening his session on brand content. “People care about content.” More to the point, people care about amazing content.

Old school advertising, according to Mercado, had three main elements: the brand, the hook, and the sell. But in 2018, there is a hypercompetition for share of market and for share of mind.

The result of this hypercompetition is that people don’t care about ads, because they feel sold to. People care about content and about stories. The current challenge is therefore to develop stories people can engage with.

Furthermore, content needs a strategy behind it for it to be effective. Mercado went through several types of content and the strategy that comes with each of them.

Sponsored Content

To illustrate how sponsored content works, Mercado played a theme song from a TV show. It was the theme from The Young & the Restless, the soap opera that first aired in 1973 and is still currently running. And the show was initially sponsored by Procter & Gamble.

As Rudy Villar pointed out in his Day One presentation, soap opera comes from a time when soap brands sponsored drama shows, beginning with Painted Dreams, the radio drama which Ivory Soap had sponsored. The name has stuck ever since.

Sponsored content means just that: a brand sponsors a show, a publication—any kind of content in the long term, with the brand acting as a publisher. Content is independently produced, which builds brand equity and affinity.

This can also cover events, which Nestlé usually does. There’s Perrier’s official partnership of the Roland-Garros tennis tournament since 1978, the decade-long Vittel sponsorship of the Tour de France, and in the Philippines, the Milo Marathon.

Branded Content

When the brand itself creates its own content to build its own equity and benefit story, it’s considered branded content.

Examples of this include the Kuwentong Jollibee commercial series, the McDonald’s Perfect Pair commercial with Sharon Cuneta and Gabby Concepcion, and Nido’s babysitting grandmother commercial.

Internationally, there’s content like Friskies’ Dear Kitten series, the story of a cat welcoming a kitten to the household and laying down the ground rules. At one point, the discussion turns to food, which compares dry cat food to wet cat food. This encouraged consumers to make the switch from dry to wet.

Perhaps the most innovative example of branded content for its time is BMW’s The Hire series of short films. Mercado explained that while a brand like Mercedes Benz emphasizes the passenger experience, BMW offers the ultimate driving experience. It demonstrated this with short films featuring actor Clive Owen, directed by Ang Lee, Guy Ritchie, John Woo, and six other reknowned directors. It also featured different BMW models.

This was produced in the days before YouTube, so the film was shown in 15-second clips on the BMW website, and visitors to BMW showrooms were given copies of the films on DVD. The Hire was such a successful campaign that the Cannes Lions didn’t know what to do with it. For this reason, they created the Titanium Lion for the category.

Social Content

With the Internet and social media come social content, where brands can tailor their content to fit the online platforms where they have a presence. More importantly, it lets them respond more quickly to consumers. Brands create social content when they listen to social media conversations and let the conversation drivers guide how they respond.

Nestlé’s Kit Kat has a fairly robust social media presence, having moved away from TV to focus mostly online. Its YouTube channel hosts all their video content and increases the visibility of their video assets. Twitter amplifies campaigns and allows them to conduct moment marketing. Facebook is their main social engagement hub, while Google search optimization keeps their content at the top of search results. Pinterest, Instagram, and Tumblr all help to source and curate Kit Kat-related content.

Many online campaigns play off the “Have a break” tagline. When Felix Baumgartner took a skydive from the Earth’s outer atmosphere, it became part of a Kit Kat campaign with J. Walter Thompson, with Baumgartner tweeting a photo of a Kit Kat before jumping. The tagline? “A break from gravity.”

The brand also released special packaging in time for the launch of Android KitKat and jumped on the iPhone 6 bendgate by saying “We don’t bend, we break.”

Social content also relates to Nido. The ad series featuring separated parents generated the most conversation on the brand in five years, according to Mercado. By the second ad’s release, consumers were engaging with the actors online. This conversation eventually led to an unintended third ad in the series—the result of listening to online conversations.

Content Marketing

In some cases, the brand creates content which in itself is valuable. The best example is also the oldest: the Michelin Guide.

It was first published in 1900 by French tire company Michelin. With fewer than 3,000 cars nationwide, it was the brand’s objective to encourage driving as a leisure activity.

The three-star rating was simple: one star meant it was worth a stop; two meant worth a detour; three was worth planning a vacation around. This, coupled with how seriously the French take their cuisine, uplifted Michelin’s image by associating it with the culinary world. The Michelin Guide exemplifies how a brand can publish content that eventually grows beyond the function of the original product.

Nido, on the other hand, was a learning experience for Nestlé. The babysitting grandmother ads told a compelling story but did not drive sales, according to Mercado. When they rolled out the separated parents ad, their intention was to tell a story and demonstrate the product through an experience of maternal protection.

This, coupled with the online engagement the new campaign generated, led to two more ads in the series. The third ad was not even planned for at the start. Mercado said, “[For t]his one, we were just going for the ride.”

Mercado concluded with a reminder that there’s no one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to brand content. It depends on a brand’s category and the brand intent. The content needs to communicate consistency and clarity of the brand value and the connection with the target market. What’s in will not always work. What will work is crafting a consumer journey that will lead to purchase.

Integrated Marketing Campaigns

Golda Roldan, J. Walter Thompson Manila

What does my brand stand for?

What do I offer that no one else does?

What can I pioneer in my category?

These are some questions that help inform an integrated marketing campaign, according to Golda Roldan. As the first agency and the first multinational in the Philippines, J. Walter Thompson offers a wealth of local and global experience as well as a finger on the pulse of global trends. The agency also invented strategic planning as advertising and brand building grew in sophistication over the years.

With the abundance of channels to choose from, integrated marketing campaigns need to go back to core principles and objectives: the brand identity, its target market, and category. Roldan cited David Picton and Amanda Broderick’s 4Cs for IMC as guidelines: complementary, continuity, consistency, and coherence.

When well executed, IMCs deliver several benefits, as demonstrated by JWT’s campaigns with insurance company Manulife. One ad featured a Manulife employee who sidelined as a standup comedian as a hobby. He joked about his parents lofty dreams for him and how he turned out differently. The job at Manulife changed all of that, giving him an opportunity to make his parents proud.

“We’re geeks about consumers,” Roldan said. “We go back to understanding the consumer.” The Manulife IMC is the result of the agency’s close study of the BPO industry and its concerns. By painting a picture of financial stability and career growth—involving family life, at that—JWT demonstrated an understanding of the millennials employed at the BPO industry. Thus the IMC builds trust—Roldan called this the holy grail of marketing strategies—and improves the morale of the company.

JWT employed a similar approach for the Johnson & Johnson IMC for their entire over-the-counter line, which also targeted the BPO industry. It addressed concerns about missing work days—specifically for those in voice operations—and proposed solutions in the form of their products.

The campaign also included the participation of the Department of Health, merging the brand’s objectives with that of the government through a memorandum of agreement. The IMC wrapped it all up with the tagline, “No call left unanswered.”

For advertisers embarking on an IMC, Roldan suggests the following steps:


Identify campaign goals. It all goes back to what the brand’s intentions and objectives are: what the brand stands for, and the concrete goals it wants to achieve.

Define target market. Coming from JWT’s self-confessed obsession with consumers, Roldan underscores the importance of knowing who to sell to, which in turn defines how to sell to them.

Gain insight from customers. Defining a brand’s target market naturally leads to identifying their needs and their motives.

Understand your competition and your competitive edge. Differentiation further establishes the relationship between the brand and the consumer and allows for deeper and more meaningful engagement.

At the start, do not limit yourself, then trim it down as you proceed. It helps to consider all possibilities at the start to make options available and then choose the ones that will help achieve the brand’s objectives.

Identify your proper channels. Roldan herself says that IMCs don’t always need to use a lot of channels. It’s more important to know which channels are the right ones for the brand. All the previous steps lead to her final piece of advice: “Know what and how to communicate.”

Hammers, Nails, and Building Brands

Tonypet Sarmiento, Havas Creative

Take a yellow rectangle and say it represents a multi-channel publisher that reports on history, culture, biology, and geography to take people further, and only one answer comes to mind: National Geographic.

This is the essence of a visual hammer. Laura Ries coined the term in the title of her book, defining it as any visible image, graphic, or characteristic that can illustrate, represent, and give meaning to a brand, product, or service.

Tonypet Sarmiento gave several other examples: the golden arches of McDonald’s, silhouettes of the Volkswagen and the Mini Cooper, the Coca-Cola bottle.

A visual hammer usually comes with a verbal nail: a brand’s strategy, positioning, mission, and vision encapsulated in as few words as possible.

Beyond Logos

A visual hammer is not always a logo. Cigarettes used to be unisex until Marlboro introduced its visual hammer: the cowboy. The Marlboro Man showed a picture of the last frontier of American masculinity and added a verbal nail: “Come to where the flavor is.”

Sometimes it’s a silhouette, like the Volkswagen and the Mini Cooper, or the Coca-Cola bottle—incidentally, it’s the oldest trademark in the world.

Other times, it’s just the packaging, like the iconic Tiffany Box. Made with heat-pressed, textured paper in forget-me-not blue and tied with a ribbon, the box is unmistakably Tiffany such that it does not come with a verbal nail.

Visual hammers can even involve actions. Johnnie Walker’s “Keep on walking” tagline with its logo suggests this. Guinness takes this further with the experience of properly pouring the stout into a glass with just the right amount of head.

Colors can serve as visual hammers, like the ones on a 7-11. McDonald’s played with their own colors in a billboard campaign that displayed only parts of the golden arches against the red background, attesting to the strong recall many people have for the brand.

A logo expresses identity—it tells consumers who a brand is. A visual hammer is more about relatability, affinity, or loyalty—it reinforces to consumers what a brand stands for. That said, Sarmiento gave one more distinction: not all logos are visual hammers, but a visual hammer can be a logo.

Driving the Point Home

Effectively employing visual hammers and verbal nails requires short, easily understandable messages. Sarmiento asked, “If I throw 15 balls in the air, what are the chances you can catch all of them? What if I just throw two or three?” By his example, it’s easier to catch all three balls than 15 thrown at the same time. Visual hammers and verbal nails have to deliver concise messages for greater impact.

Baking it in

Sarmiento also observed that marketing comes in only after the products have been manufactured, leaving creative agencies to make do with finished products. Often, some marketing efforts come across as forced simply because the product design does not match the brand identity.

Sarmiento proposed a change to this process: create the story first, then design the product. By employing design thinking from the product creation stage bakes the visual hammer into the product, giving consumers a seamless experience of both product and brand.

Ad Standards Council: For Responsible Advertising

Robbie Aligada

Day Three’s final presentation was by Robbie Aligada of the Ad Standards Council. In the Philippines, advertising has a proud history of self-regulation for the past 44 years. This dates back to 1974, when PANA, ad agencies, the media, and outdoor display agencies banded together to regulate themselves using a Code of Ethics and Rules of Regulation.

In his presentation, Aligada emphasized that all marketing and advertising professionals have a responsibility to the public, to the consumers, and to one another. As the self-regulatory body of the advertising industry, ASC is a non-stock, non-profit organization composed of three sectors: advertisers, ad and media agencies, and media entities. It is also the globally recognized model of best practices in self-regulation.

These best practices are indicated in ASC’s Manual of Procedures, which can be downloaded here.

Aligada encouraged all participants to familiarize themselves with the manual while walking them through the standard application and approval procedures with the Council.