No Hard Sell Marketing Through The PR Lens

The Evangelists’ Chapter 16, entitled: “No Hard Sell: Marketing Through the PR Lens'' featuring Anvey Factora, the Head of Marketing Communications at Canon Philippines.

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The following is an excerpt from The Evangelists: Insights from Leaders of the Nation’s Most Beloved Brands. Written by Micah Avery Guiao, this chapter is titled “No Hard Sell Marketing Through The PR Lens.” In it, Anvey Factora, Head of Marketing Communications at Canon Philippines, is interviewed about how the organization executes its strategy in marketing through PR.   

The Role of Public Relations in a Company’s Strategy

According to Anvey Factora, Head of Marketing Communications at Canon Philippines,  his years of marketing industry experience has allowed him to master a solid formula for  integrated marketing that works for him no matter what industry he finds himself in. At the  backbone of every project he’s ever worked on was the practice of public relations, where  the product is able to speak for itself.  

Although he attributed this approach to an accumulation of his extensive background  in integrated communications (having worked in companies such as EON Group, Lazada  Philippines, Huawei, and more), he stated that the case with Canon was no different: “We  always make sure that we invest in the right platform for all our digital media buys As  much as possible, we try to be very strategic and specific on how we spend our marketing  budget to achieve maximum results aligned with our business objectives.” To consumers,  PR might appear as a superficial scheme meant to mislead and oversell, but Factora saw  it as a mechanism to bring out the best in every product through candid and very focused  highlights of distinctive product or service features.  

“What I love about a marketing approach aligned with PR is that you don’t need to hard  sell to effectively communicate your product’s key messages,” he said. “Make sure the  product’s reputation is a priority and well-communicated to various stakeholders and your  bullseye target audience. A PR strategy approach is a low investment, big impact marketing  execution. It is a slow burn but the business impact is long-term and very sustainable. I’ve  proven this formula ever since.” 

Factora broke the process down into three principles. Before anything else, find the  authenticity of the product and learn to communicate it properly to your advantage. To  win potential buyers over, don’t emphasize on how much of a steal the product is given  its price. Using product benefits to complement the emotional benefits would work better  than naming a price.  

A perfect example of this was when Canon launched one of its flagship cameras priced at  almost half a million pesos in February 2020. The target market of the product is a very  niche target market and simple digital media buys and social media boostings would not  convince their potential buyers, so they relied on using Factora’s integrated marketing  communication approach to navigate marketing efforts that will potentially impact the  overall business performance of the company.  

To exemplify the camera’s function, Anvey and his team worked with Canon and took one  step further. They had a professional sports photographer do a live shoot with a Filipina  Southeast Asian gold medalist in Wushu. In doing so, the camera’s best functions are  showcased and portrayed, aligned with the product benefits and key marketing messages.  The idea was to hook those who would be genuinely interested in the product—not the  general public—since they were the most likely to purchase. “Wushu is a very fast sport  so it becomes easier for us to communicate how this camera works perfectly in a specific real-life sports shooting scenario,” he said. 

With PR, there is a conscious practice of keeping the reputation consistent. For instance,  Factora saw to it that whatever is launched in Canon’s Facebook page would also be  reflected on their website and other relevant communication touchpoints. It’s a simple  consistency effort that made all the difference with how customers perceive the company.  With so many aspects of marketing to focus on, updating the website information can  easily be overlooked, yet many do not realize that potential buyers often decide to settle  for another brand because of inconsistencies that could have been avoided in the first place.  

Once the product’s authenticity is identified and communicated well, they have to find the  right media mix that gives maximum business impact with minimal marketing investment.  Factora has named social media and enthusiast groups already inclined identified known  social media platforms or an internal database of relevant communities inclined to purchase  the product as some of the best and genuine touchpoints to look into.  

“Streamline your communication to three to five important touchpoints like media,  important opinion leaders, relevant online communities and third-party groups, together  with internal and external workforce, then amplify the message with offline and online  events, ” he said. “That should be a good formula to start.” 

Even if the company’s marketing initiatives were anchored in seamless text, it is still essential  that the key message being seeded out was aligned to the target audience’s needs and  somehow wants. Since public perception does not necessarily equate to positive success,  one way to measure the impact of a company’s integrated marketing communications  approach came in forms of published write-ups by traditional and non-traditional media  partners and key online publications. If the key message can easily be distinguished from  the published materials, then Factora claimed it is already “a good indicator” of successful  marketing using a PR approach.  

Similarly, Factora was quick to adapt when the pandemic struck during the first few months  into his transition to Canon. With limited resources online, he shifted his integrated  marketing focus to online workshops in order to stay relevant as a brand to its core market— photographers, filmmakers, and content creators. Instead of creating noise to every online  user, he has identified his target audience composed of professional photographers,  videographers, and filmmakers. Some might call this the influencer approach of the 21st  century—and in a way, it is. 

If traditional and non-traditional media was there to amplify key messages and contribute  to brand credibility, power users were there to help communicate the product in a more  amplified and targeted manner. The likelihood to purchase a product was greater when  endorsed by a close friend instead of advertisement exposure on social and digital platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, and Google. This is simply because of the additional  trust and attachment that comes with the recommendation of a friend. This is due to the  cultivated relationships in place that harks on personal and emotional attachments. In the  launch of an online campaign called Canon Digital Masterclass, photography professionals  and serious enthusiasts were invited to share how particular cameras would differ from  other models in the market: “All technical product discussions were focused with the  power users, and all real-life camera discussions were focused with serious photography,  videography enthusiasts, and content creators.”  

When the point of each endorsement was clear, the last step in amplifying the brand’s  message was to find the right balance between the relevant communication vehicles.  Given the expansive range of free platforms online, the temptation to launch or promote a  product in all places simultaneously was higher than ever before. Don’t be mistaken—just  because something is plastered all over the internet does not necessarily mean there is a  relevant audience that listens. According to Factora, there were three phases for properly  launching a great product: teaser, launch, and sustain. He indicated that each phase needed  a suitable platform that works best for its intention: “You don’t need to be present in all  touchpoints, especially if you have a limited budget. Prioritize which to use and figure out  which would work best.” 

Likening the process to a volcano, Factora said that it should “erupt when launched and  continue its trigger points when it sustains.” With all these in mind, selling the most difficult  product—one that costs almost half a million at that—becomes an achievable feat.  

For Factora, public relations or PR is a term that has become synonymous with  meticulousness. With every step he takes, additional effort is put to attain cost efficiency  with just three steps. As he would put it: “You could never go wrong with PR.”

To get more insights from other marketing leaders like Anvey Factora, please check out the full book, available for purchase here


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