Clarifying the True Objective
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 “Clarifying the True Objective.” In it, Nate Dy-Liacco, the Group Marketing and Communications Head at Villar Group of Companies, is interviewed about how the organization executes its strategy in objectives and execution.
Nate Dy-Liacco certainly knows how important it is that companies identify their objectives first before diving into their marketing projects. With 15 years of experience working for some of the top advertising agencies in the Philippines and now as the Group Marketing and Communications Head at Villar Group of Companies, one of the things he holds to be true is the need to settle a brand’s intentions before heading straight to making campaigns and projects.
“One of the recurring barriers in marketing and communications is the mismatch of objective and execution,” he said. “Sometimes, the whole campaign is nice, complete, coherent, and logical as a whole, but at the very start of the strategy process is problem identification.”
Dy-Liacco explained that sometimes this mismatch of objectives happens internally. He was able to experience this when he was still working in an agency. Take the case of a brand planning to launch a campaign to raise awareness for a particular product. The problem arises when certain clients, such as those in the upper management or even those in the support teams of the company, might not understand what the campaign is for and instead would ask and focus on how much sales the project would bring to the company.
Of course, more often than not, campaigns do create sales even if their purpose was not to do so. Sales would always be welcome, according to Dy-Liacco, but brands should not always judge a campaign as a failure if it did not create a sale.
Now working within a brand rather than an agency, he understood better why some brands considered the sales component of campaigns. The return of investment was often the top priority of some brands. Despite this issue, Dy-Liacco still believed that brands should not lose sight of the purpose of their campaigns.
“The best thing really was to make sure that we don’t start out with the wrong objective or we do start out with the right objective but end up strategizing, conceptualizing a solution that is a misfit for that,” he said.
He further justified his belief by saying that some campaigns would not create a lot of sales but leave a lasting impact on consumers in a sense that they would remember a particular line or element from those projects. This happens when brands properly use single-minded messaging and strategic communication principles. By communicating and sticking to one objective, companies are able to successfully widen their reach to more consumers.
One great example of this was when Dy-Liacco led a campaign for pharmaceutical company Unilab for Biogesic when he still worked for McCann. The medicine is known for its tagline “Ingat!” (take care), which was immortalized by one of the Philippines’ most famous actors, further boosting the brand’s image. For the longest time, Unilab stuck with that tagline but decided to tap Dy-Liacco’s agency to help make it even more relevant and relatable. In order to achieve this, Dy-Liacco and his team had to make the concept of ingat (care) more felt. Hence, the Ingat na Damang-Dama (care that can be felt) campaign, which portrayed Filipinos giving Biogesic to one another to show how they should all take real, active steps in caring for their health. The campaign was executed across different advertising mediums such as TV commercials, transit ads, billboards, and more.
According to Dy-Liacco, the campaign was one of the projects he was most proud of. And his pride was most certainly valid given that the campaign won the Best National Campaign Award at the 2014 Unilab Consumer Health Rave Awards. Unilab recognized Dy-Liacco’s work for being able to demonstrate and highlight the value of unconditional care that Filipinos had for each other.
“If you know your consumer and brand well, all the sales and awards will follow. And even without any award, when you do know how to get all of the elements right, everything will fall into place. That’s how marketing communication must be done,” he said.
Dy-Liacco firmly believes that being familiar with the customer and the brand is definitely central in making effective and impactful marketing campaigns.
“When you do your work, a lot can change—the way you communicate the brand’s product, the promises that you’ll make, the things you’re gonna shine a light on—as far as the campaign and communications will go. But if you initially don’t have a good grasp of who your consumer is, you already set off on the wrong foot,” he said.
Dy-Liacco recalled that when he joined Vista Land and Lifescapes, which is part of the Villar Group of Companies, in 2019 to handle marketing communications responsibilities for Camella Homes, his first challenge was to identify the changes with the company’s target consumer. For the longest time, he felt that Camella was perceived to be a mass housing brand, but this changed when he discovered that Camella Homes actually sold their entry level houses at nearly PHP4 million, which was not the kind of money that the Filipino masses have.
With this information, Camella had to change how they marketed their houses by identifying the new breed of consumers that fit their lifestyle: the emerging middle class who had a little bit more money to spend.
“We found out that our target consumers have actually elevated their lives. They have a little bit more money to spend and can therefore afford our products. It’s about time we also caught up with them because their aspirations have changed,” Dy-Liacco said.
He added that Camella also changed the way they designed their houses after the changes in the lifestyle of their target audience. Consumers today can now reserve a Camella’s house unit with a garage, which was not as prevalent in the past, because most middle class families now had their own cars.
“If you do not have that good and accurate knowledge of your consumers, the opportunity will pass you by; that potential customer of yours would very well go to a competitor’s brand, sayang,” Dy-Liacco said. “But if you are aware of that, and you are able to relate to them and capture in communications the things that matter to them, then there’s a chance for consumers to give your brand a thought, proceed further with maybe inquiring and perhaps even buying from you.”
He applied the same mindset now as he handles the utilities brands of Villar Group of Companies, which includes Prime Water Infrastructure Corporation, Streamtech Internet, Planet Cable, Kratos Retail Electricity Supply, and Siquijor Island (S.I.) Power Corp.
They also make sure that their campaigns are not only relevant to the times, but very sensitive to changing contexts. For example, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, he and his team intentionally did not create any materials for April Fool’s Day—something that other brands have consistently done in years past—because they knew it would come out insensitive to their consumers, especially as their brands were utilities upon which the public depended on greatly while on lockdown.
“If the material is not relevant and it’s not compelling, it would be a waste. That’s why the question really is not how often you create a campaign, but whether you release something that is relevant to your audience,” he said.
To get more insights from other marketing leaders like Nate Dy-Liacco, please check out the full book, available for purchase here.
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