Authenticity at the Core
Introduction to Brand AuthenticationThe following is an excerpt from The Evangelists: Insights from Leaders of the Nation’s Most Beloved Brands. Written by Pancho Dizon, this chapter is titled “Authenticity at the Core.” In it, Christian Pacquing Nacorda, the Head of Marketing of Tonik, is interviewed about how the organization executes its strategy in showing and embodying brand authenticity.
A valuable brand can exist without the fluff
In marketing, one doesn’t simply accumulate experience without eventually forming a personal marketing philosophy. In the case of Christian Pacquing Nacordá, Head of Marketing at the first Filipino digital-only bank Tonik, he always made sure to stand by authenticity.
“I don’t believe in using flowery words, loud colors, and the like to sell something that’s ultimately just fluff,” said Nacordá. “This was the reason why I have been careful with selecting the brands I work for. I have to believe in the brand for me to effectively market it.” The proof is in Nacordá’s career, over the years he has worked for retail giants such as Uniqlo and at the fintech startup First Circle.
“Over the years, consumers have steadily grown wiser. It is no longer enough to pay a big celebrity to endorse a product,” Nacordá explained. “Running authentic marketing campaigns lead to a significantly longer life-time value for each converted customer.”
This belief manifested itself in the way he sells Tonik’s innovations to the average consumer.
As a digital-only bank, Nacordá made sure that their marketing messages translated to something the average consumer can easily understand. After all, the concept of a bank that only operates digitally and doesn’t have a brick-and-mortar branch is definitely new to the Filipino people.
As a solution, Nacordá made sure that the marketing of the brand focused on tangible, practical benefits. For example, he decided to focus on the practical convenience that Tonik can offer. Doing so meant the company could immediately ask the customer’s question of how and why Tonik would improve their lives. For one, the fact that the bank’s operations were entirely digital meant that all transactions could take place from the comfort of one’s home, an especially crucial feature when the COVID-19 pandemic forced the Philippines to go into lockdown.
“A lot of banks today of course have digital operations, but it’s not to the extent that Tonik has,” Nacordá said. “When we say ‘digital-only,’ we really mean it. We mean that we’ve poured all of our resources into an infrastructure that will support quick, easy transactions in real-time. So Tonik is very much poised to be resilient in the event of a lockdown.” Thus, in a world where transactions become increasingly and almost exclusively digital, customers can rest assured that Tonik has spared no expense in the company’s infrastructure.
This emphasis on practicality and usefulness for the consumer was also practiced during his time with First Circle, the company he was with prior to moving to Tonik. In his time there, one thing that he promoted was the company’s flexible payment policies, which was especially important considering providing SMEs with business loans was a huge part of First Circle’s business.
“We offered more payment options compared to banks and we were open to coming up with tailor-made payment solutions depending on capacity at the moment to pay,” he said.
First Circle was completely transparent with its transactions. They went out of their way to assure the customer that there were no invisible fees or surprise interest; all the loan details were written in the contracts that they signed. Companies could even get paid back in interest if they paid before the maturity of their loans.
“This transparency and flexibility is a great deal of the value proposition we chose to market,” Nacordá said.
According to Nacordá, the principles of transparency and flexibility also helped him weather the toughest marketing challenges that came his way. For instance, he said that the biggest recurring challenge he’s encountered in his marketing career would be rolling out multiple marketing campaigns at the same time. He explained that due to each marketing campaign consisting of expansive ecosystems of touchpoints that depended on multiple timelines, it was crucial to be transparent to relevant stakeholders about all aspects of the campaigns. It was also important to equally be flexible with regard to rolling out set marketing efforts to ensure that execution was timely, efficient, and effective.
Though such initiatives needed a great deal of effort and coordination, it was certainly not impossible to accomplish. It required a balancing act that Nacordá compared to accomplishing chemistry in a lab, where the key communication touch points of a campaign must be covered, properly mixed together, and then rolled out as best as possible.
“The end goal is to have something that doesn’t explode in your face—just like in chemistry,” Nacordá quipped.
Of course, sticking by authenticity goes a long way in determining which communication touch points should be emphasized. This was something that was clearly demonstrated in Nacordá’s work throughout his entire career, but he also knew it wouldn’t have been possible without a solid team behind him.
“Every single time I am able to roll out each and every one of my marketing campaigns—at that particular point, I become very proud of not just my work, but also of the work of the members of my team,” he said.
Nacordá and his philosophy of sticking with authenticity is a case in point that marketing works best when diving straight into the company’s value proposition—everything else is really just a bonus. When you show a customer how the product will definitely benefit their life, half the battle is won.
Together, Nacordá and his team are more than capable of delivering innovative, cutting edge products to ordinary consumers in any market thanks to a strict adherence to simply staying authentic. In a field where it’s easy to overpromise and get caught up in flashy buzzwords, Nacordá’s approach represents a welcome breath of fresh air.
To get more insights from other marketing leaders like Christian Pacquing Nacordá, please check out the full book, available for purchase here.
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