An Introduction to Brand Affinity
The following is an excerpt from The Evangelists: Insights from Leaders of the Nation’s Most Beloved Brands. Written by Monica Padillo, this chapter is titled “Establishing An Emotional Connection Through Marketing and Communications.” In it, Mike Villa-Real, the Vice President of Philippine Veterans Bank, is interviewed about how the organization executes its strategy in communications.
Creating a Connection with Your Market
It goes without saying that people gravitate towards nostalgia. In fact, this attraction to the past is what marketing professionals bank on when creating campaigns for their brands, focusing on certain generations of customers they want to tap into. It’s this personal connection that Mike Villa-Real believes makes a marketing campaign successful.
Some of Villa-Real’s responsibilities as the Philippine Veterans Bank’s Vice President are overseeing product marketing support, facilitating media relations, and managing advertising and corporate reputation. In his 22 years of experience in the banking sector, spending much of it in PVB, one of the significant things he picked up on is the importance of establishing a deep connection between the brand and its target market. For him, it isn’t enough to just promote a product or service.
“For a communication campaign to be successful, it has to connect to the heart more than just selling the idea or convincing a person to buy your product,” he said.
One of the ways the Villa-Real is able to establish this connection between the bank and its target market—which mainly include Filipino war veterans, Armed Forces of the Philippines members, local government unit officials, and other government and military retirees—is through travelling exhibits. A few years back, he noticed that there’s very little known about Filipino war veterans and what they did to defend the Philippines during the Second World War. History books already supply the necessary information that people need to learn about the war, but these existing materials still didn’t suffice as they still seemed a bit two-dimensional.
To resolve this matter, Villa-Real and his team gathered photos taken in the Philippines during the war and strategically exhibited them on every PVB branch’s history wall, which is intended to be a tribute to all Filipino veterans. The photos were localized in all of the PVB branches as well. For example, in Cebu, PVB exhibited photos taken in the island, featuring actual Cebuanos who participated in the war with brave faces on.
PVB also exhibited the pictures and other memorabilia in different malls around the country.
Additionally, the bank initiated programs such as the Mariveles-San Fernando-Capas Freedom Trail and the Bataan Freedom Run, both of which are done annually to commemorate the infamous Bataan Death March. By doing so, Villa-Real believes they can help the younger generation pay respect to the elderly who fought during the war, as well as highlight PVB as a bank that not only attends to money and business, but cares for veterans on a deeper level as well.
It’s actually through those initiatives where Villa-Real met individuals, government officials, and even CEOs who are direct descendants of World War II veterans. When he first joined PVB, he discovered that his grandfather was a war veteran as well. It’s this kind of personal connection that Villa-Real found and wanted to share with others.
“I’m proud of our campaigns that remember our veterans because it’s in our constitution that the state should always remember the acts of our war heroes,” Villa-Real said. “They were ordinary people—teachers, construction workers, fishermen—but when the time came, they decided to fight for their country. I just wanted to bring those stories out there because they’re something that people today can be proud of.”
Aside from these programs, Villa-Real also takes advantage of both traditional and digital mediums of marketing and communications. Times have changed and more and more businesses are boosting their marketing efforts online rather than through traditional channels such as billboards, radios, commercials, and more. However, Villa-Real believes that all marketing and advertising channels should still be utilized as much as possible, considering that PVB aims to reach a wider audience.
“I’ve been here before social media became a significant part of communication and I think that it has become a dominant channel now. However, I think it should be combined with something else—it can’t stand alone,” Villa-Real said. “For example, people can know your brand through Instagram or Facebook. When they’re stuck in traffic, they’ll hear your ad on the radio and see you on billboards. Those mediums can help reinforce your brand.”
This combination of marketing initiatives is also part of PVB’s consistent embodiment of its tagline, “A Bank With a Heart for Every Filipino.” At the end of every day, PVB makes sure that they establish an emotional connection with their customer base regardless of the marketing initiatives that they employ.
“The interest in World War II has grown significantly in the past two years and I think because many people are becoming self-aware about it,” Villa-Real said. “On a branding point of view, there has to be an emotional connection. It doesn’t have to be deep or profound—it just needs to be there.”
To get more insights from other marketing leaders like Mike Villa-Real, please check out the full book, available for purchase here.
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