PANA Brand Academy 2018: Brands, Consumers, and Relationships

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Highlights and insights from this year’s sessions

By Paul Catiang


Storytelling in the Age of Distraction

How can brand builders navigate the attention economy?


Easily, it is the new frontier of marketing, discussed in its many forms over the four Fridays that comprised PANA Brand Academy 2018. More than one speaker mentioned the challenge of storytelling in the age of distraction. Where before there were only three traditional media platforms—print, radio, and television—today the digital sphere has opened a dizzying array of platforms that clamor for its audiences’ attention.


This means that brand builders now find themselves facing a plethora of marketing options—and possibly the same kind of distractions their consumers encounter. Online alone has a lot to offer: short-form video as short as 15 seconds to relatively longer ones at 120 seconds; social media; online stores and shopping apps; and augmented reality, among several others.

There are also campaigns executed on traditional media and on the ground: brand activation events, sampling, consumer promotions, shopper marketing displays—it might get tempting to use them all.


This year’s Brand Academy covered most, if not all, these options and offered guidelines on how to narrow the choices to the one that matter most to the individual brand and its consumers.


Begin with Brand Identity


“If you were a brand, what would you be and why?” Rudy Villar asked this on Day One, and the question can be explored in several ways: What does the brand stand for? What is its category?


Identify the Best Problem to Solve


It helps to give these questions time to simmer. As Joy Santos advised, “Think of the best problem to solve.” The advice works in its original context—writing creative briefs—and in the bigger picture of looking for insight on the relationship between a brand and its target market.


Know the Market and the Category


What is its target market? What are the needs, the habits, the values of their consumers? What motivates them?


These questions apply to various branding activities. They can lead to insights on how to display products on the shelf. They can inspire branding events, sampling, and promotions. Most importantly, they can help marketers define which branding activities will enrich the relationship between consumers and brands.


Know the Target Market


To promote Bear Brand in schools, Yvette Papasin sat in on elementary classrooms, absorbing the routines, habits, and relationships between students, parents, and teachers. Clarence Lim puts herself in consumers’ shoes, finding out their buying habits throughout the year, when they are most receptive to product suggestions, and how to make their shopping experience easier for them. On a cultural level, J. Walter Thompson identifies the top 100 trends for each year, and Golda Roldan taps into this when planning integrated marketing campaigns.


For a more precise picture of the target market, there’s always market research. Market research helped position C-2 as a health drink for a Philippine market unfamiliar with bottled tea drinks at the time. It gave Honda the insight to rebrand the Honda Fit as the Honda Jazz for European markets, and eventually for the Philippines. It also led to Zalora’s innovative pop-up shop, which let buyers try clothes on while retaining the online shopping experience.


Ask the Right Questions

Market research can offer a fairly comprehensive picture of a brand’s target market, identity, competitors, and category—provided, of course, that the right questions are asked.


Over the course of Brand Academy 2018, the New Coke was brought up twice as a lesson for marketers and advertisers to learn from. At the time, Coca-Cola’s research focused on creating a better-tasting drink, so taste tests took up most of their market research.


When the company introduced the New Coke, consumers were outraged. In focusing on the product and how it tasted, the research did not account for the brand and how consumers related to it.


In his presentation, Rudy Villar compared products and brands. Products serve a function, and are therefore rational. Brands connote a relationship, and are therefore emotional in nature. Where products expand choices, brands simplify them. In doing market research, it is therefore important to ask the right questions—to think of the best problem to solve.


Reach Out in Many Ways


“Why do we need to communicate to our audiences?” Liam Capati asked during his session on media fundamentals.


With the wide range of media solutions available, how does a brand choose from among them? Each platform has its own set of metrics and formulas for calculating and determining factors like reach, frequency, and media consumption habits across market demographics. But does a brand need to be on all platforms?


There’s no one-size-fits-all answer to this, and as with other aspects of marketing, it all begins with the brand. What are a brand’s business, communication, and media objectives? Why communicate? Who are the brand’s audiences? What media do they consume? Where and when?


Golda Roldan, speaking on integrated marketing campaigns, advised that there’s no need to be on all platforms—just the ones that matter to the brand, the category, and the target market. It helps to know the available options and from there, narrow the field to the most viable choices.


Content Is King


The options for content have likewise expanded beyond the traditional ads and the usual formula: the brand, the hook, and the sell. “People don’t care about ads,” Paolo Mercado said in his presentation. “People care about content—people care about amazing content.”


Brands reach their audiences through several forms. Procter & Gamble’s soap brands have sponsored daytime dramas for so long that it created its own TV genre: the soap opera. For branded content, there’s BMW’s groundbreaking short film series, The Hire, for which the Cannes Lions created a new category, the Titanium Lion. Brands can also do content marketing, where the content itself is valuable, like the prestigious Michelin Guide, which has grown beyond its parent tire company.


These just cover traditional forms of media. With the establishment of the Internet and the spread of social media comes social content, a category that creates and engages its consumers and aids in getting direct feedback from them.  


As with platforms, so with content: there’s no one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to brand content. It all goes back to the 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.


Strategy and Tactics


Brand intent and objectives are a part of a bigger picture: business strategy. In her session, Christine Lao said that the marketing direction must come from the corporate level; this sets the objectives, metrics, budget, and timetable.


By keeping this in mind, a brand can devise strategies—annual strategies, most commonly—and if needed, improvise with tactics within preset limits and parameters. Lao did emphasize that strategy is about tradeoffs and choices, and deploying limited resources. With a solid strategy in place, a brand will not need to jump on every bandwagon to stay relevant to its consumers. Lastly, a sound corporate strategy also helps a brand measure the success of its marketing efforts.


Brand Insistence and Brand Love


A marketing strategy can have brand insistence baked into its activities, if channeled efficiently. Grace Magno spoke on brand insistence as SM Malls does it, with its five drivers: awareness, relevant differentiation, value, accessibility, and emotional connection.


For awareness and accessibility, few malls beat SM, with its malls in many cities and towns in the Philippines, not to mention a few abroad. It means that many know the brand, and more often than not, there’s an SM mall or department store that’s just one ride away. SM began relevant differentiation in its early days, by staying open during lunch and Sundays, and by installing air conditioners in its first store. Its three-day sales offer much value for shoppers, and its in-cinema ads and corporate social responsibility (CSR) activities strengthen the chain’s emotional connection to its customers.


There are times when brand insistence can lead to brand love. In Adi Hernandez’s presentation, she said it takes customer obsession, conversations, courage, consistency, and community. McDonald’s executed all this through the McDelivery Pin, by creating a convenient delivery pickup point and wifi hotspot near cemeteries during All Souls Day. This was the fast food chain’s way of serving its customers, respecting a Filipino tradition, and increasing sales while delivering its unique brand experience.


Responsible Brand Building

“All marketing and advertising professionals have a responsibility to the public, to the consumers, and to one another,” said Robbie Aligada in his session on the Ad Standards Council.


The relationships that brands forge with their consumers is founded on this shared responsibility in ensuring truth in advertising—the principle that underlies four decades of self-regulation in the Philippines.


Underneath all the strategies and campaigns, the platforms and types of content, the ads and activations is this responsibility for shaping public conversations and guiding consumers.


To quote PANA President Anna Legarda-Locsin in her Day One speech, “For PANA, this means being responsible for shaping the audiences and consumers advertisers serve. Brands need to show insight into consumers and responsibly communicate a reflection of the times. This calls for truth and courage to speak up amidst fear and hesitation. This also means building brands with a purpose—a purpose bigger than itself such that it contributes to society and the country.”