On Communicating as Human Beings and Getting to Know Your Audience
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 “On Communicating as Human Beings and Getting to Know Your Audience.” In it, Reyner Villasenor, the VP for Corporate Communications at GCash, is interviewed about how the organization executes its strategy in market penetration.
In the last few years, GCash has taken the Philippines by storm, changing how businesses are carried out as they usher in a digital age of banking. The Philippines is primarily a cash heavy country, with studies showing that less than 10% of the population own a credit card. GCash strived to change that, promoting the advantages of a cashless lifestyle and how it is relevant to the world today.
“What we are selling is not just the product or service, but the lifestyle,” shared Reyner VIllasenor, VP for Corporate Communications at GCash.
GCash is the first fintech company in the country, and the first mobile wallet open to all networks. As a Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas-regulated entity, they are partnered with the Philippine government in their advocacy to digitize 20% of all retail transactions.
However, before they can properly encourage the public to use their system, Villasenor believes they should let their employers use their system first. He believes it is part of company culture to promote love for the brand they endorse. His team works with the human resources department to promote trust and love in their product among their employees, introducing them to not only GCash but other Globe products as well from the moment people join the company. Employees are given Globe postpaid numbers, and those who work outside the office also get Globe postpaid pocket Wi-Fi units. They are additionally given GCash Mastercards where their allowances and other bonuses are credited to.
Building company love for the brand doesn’t stop at getting the employees to use their products. Villasenor came up with “GCash Talks,” which are essentially engagement activities between employees and leaders where they converse about what works and what else can be improved with GCash. From these discussions, Villasenor and the other leaders can learn directly from consumers on how they can further improve their product and communication strategies.
If the company’s employees themselves have faith in what they try to put out in the market, it would be easier to communicate their brand to others. “The best way for you to understand the products is for your employees to be the very first ambassadors to the outside world,” Villasenor said.
Part of understanding and building trust in their product is also knowing its history. “The company’s focus then was talking about how users could actually load their phones using GCash at a discounted grade,” Villasenor explained. “And then we saw that there’s a big pain-point in terms of bills payment, so we tried to look into it and how we’re going to explain it to the public that they could actually do bills payment.”
From addressing the issue of bills payment, they realized that they can also improve the overseas Filipino workers’ experience of sending and remitting money. Thus, they introduced the “send money” option, allowing users to send money from one GCash to another GCash account, as well as transfer money to other kinds of digital wallets and bank accounts.
With their three primary transactions, GCash aims to appeal to a broad and diverse audience. Villasenor thus makes it a point to understand his audiences; for example, he cited that those who typically avail of the bills payment option are the breadwinning young professionals, as well as taxi and Grab drivers who use their daily salaries to support their families.
Their target audience is also a mix of baby boomers, millennials, and those from generation Z. The diversity of their audience greatly affects how GCash does their marketing and communications. “First, we identify who we are talking to, then we identify what our key messages are,” Villasenor shared. “Because regardless of who we are talking to, the key messages are actually consistent. What varies is our medium by which we communicate those key messages.”
The “key messages” Villasenor aims to promote centers around the convenience of GCash. GCash intends to address the different “pain points” of consumers and business owners, and most of those center around convenience. GCash wants to make life easier for all Filipinos, starting with giving them a better option for their money-related needs, such as banking, conducting business, and paying bills.
When appealing to millennials and gen Z youths, Villasenor said they often use the internet, specifically social media. “With the advent of internet and social media-based communications, the one thing that they want is information at their fingertips,” he said. When communicating to them, Villasenor does away with lengthy articles. Instead, he focuses on using bullet points and bite-sized tidbits of information so they’ll be easier and faster to understand.
For the older generation, such as the baby boomers, Villasenor observed they are still more likely to stick to traditional media, such as radio and print. “They tend to like instructional videos so there’s still a continuous drive of how-to’s,” he explained. “We do a literal hand-holding kind of communication where we try to draw them to a certain aspect of a behavior.”
Villasenor added that they also research on how to communicate effectively with the different social classes. When they use Facebook to promote their ads, he targets specific ads to certain demographics and locations. Meanwhile, when using the radio, they take care to speak Taglish (a mix of English and Tagalog) and as their target audience for radio tends to be vehicle drivers, it’s important to make their content brief so it will be more sustainable and easier to understand.
“Our approach is tailored to fit our modes of communication in such a way that the key messages would be absorbed, regardless of the class that the audience belongs to,” Villasenor said. “If you believe that your service is necessary and needed by the Filipino people, you go above and beyond to communicate even to those who other marketers would perceive as insignificant, in terms of business metrics.”
As a communicator, Villasenor places great emphasis on keeping things genuine and inclusive. Working in fintech, he has come to understand how valuable trust is as it allows them to keep operating—without the people’s trust, they wouldn’t be here today.
In the advent of more automated and electronic means of communication, he called for people to continue keeping things personal when interacting with others. He wants his people to talk to one another and their customers the way they would want to be talked to, and he wants them to be genuine about it.
“At the end of the day, it’s attributing it to us being Filipinos, as pakikipagkapwa tao (being one with others),” Villasenor said. “Your communication strategy should always be grounded on us being human beings and more than selling an idea or selling a concept. It’s making them understand your purpose, regardless whether you’re talking to employees or consumers.”
To get more insights from other marketing leaders like Reyner Villasenor, please check out the full book, available for purchase here.
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