Brand Whispering

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Home > Articles > Brand Whispering

 Brand Whispering

Bertrand Leong | Today's Manager
June 1, 2017

Great marketing does not speak loudly. It whispers and appeals to your senses.

Great marketing does not need to shout or blast itself; it whispers and appeals to your senses. Rather than scream or push, marketers must have a good grasp and understanding of the mechanisms that cause people to listen and act.

Mr Javier Sánchez Lamelas, founder and chief executive officer (CEO) of Top Line Marketing Consulting is a strong advocate of the whispering approach to marketing strategy. Known for his work on Coca-Cola, Mr Sánchez has had a decorated career which spanned 30 years of global experience in P&G and Coca-Cola. Under his leadership, the author of MARTKETING and his team have helped develop some of the most iconic campaigns of Coca-Cola in recent years. Coca-Cola was awarded with 24 Cannes Lions and nominated as Advertiser of the Year in 2013. His creative work led to “El Sol” recognition as Advertiser of the Decade. He also developed the highest-voted 2012 Super Bowl creative.

For a company like Coca-Cola, the secret to reaching a new generation of customers is in its communication, thought leadership, and its phenomenal global distribution system and availability. “The ability to listen to people first and then provide a powerful point of view is key,” says Mr Sánchez. “Call it cultural leadership if you want. It’s about answering and providing a point of view on things that are important to people. And that resonates very well and makes the brand generally attractive.”

He feels that loud, push-and-pull marketing are old-school marketing strategies which may have worked at a time where advertisers and advertising companies had a better understanding of the human brain. But today, whispering marketing strategies work where having a dialogue with consumers matter the most.

“Marketing by interruption (which had worked in the past) won’t work in the future either,” says Mr Sánchez. “It is a traditional model of product promotion, in which people have to stop what they are doing to pay attention to a marketing message. This meant that televised movies, football matches, or Formula One races could be interrupted for advertisement slots which were sold as advertising spaces. There won’t be enough money to make people watch what they don’t want to see. This is the big change that is coming. It’s about ensuring that the brand you sell and the product that you want people to love is embedded in the space, programme, communication, or content that people want to watch.”

Brand Whispering
“Whisper to their hearts…we should direct our conversation to the emotional brain,” he says. “Marketing is the process by which (we make) people fall in love with products and services through the creation of brands. You won’t make anybody fall in love by talking to their rational brain. You don’t make anyone fall in love with you by talking about how smart or handsome you are or what beautiful eyes you have (if anything, you’ll end up annoying them). These assets should be obvious, and if they are not, you need to find mechanisms for people to see your product’s superiority without annoying audiences over time”. 1

In MARTKETING, Mr Sánchez writes that rather than talk about refreshment, quenching thirst, or great taste, Coca-Cola’s dialogue is about values which are aimed at people’s hearts. The “Choose Happiness” campaign he and his team ran in Europe was a case in point. “I bet that among your favourite brands, you can’t remember a single communication that just talked to your rational brain. On the other hand, you remember communications that talked about sophistication, friendship, humour, courage, hope, optimism, love, and so on”. 1

Differentiating Product Role and Intention
Having said that, marketers may consider using the rational benefit of their product as the reason for the emotional benefit.1 “Marketing managers should not confuse or mistake the original intention of a product with its current role. Today people don’t only choose restaurants because they are hungry or choose a drink because they are thirsty; they choose them before they get hungry, quench their thirst way before they begin to be thirsty, and patronise them for different reasons,” he says. “Products endure, but their original reasons for being may be long gone…It’s sad to observe managers who focus their brand communications on the lowest level of the Maslow pyramid—which usually leads to a rational message—when those motivations are long gone and therefore irrelevant... New motivations have replaced original ones, usually much higher up on the pyramid…People drink beverages for pleasure, image, relaxation, energy, sophistication and so on. The same goes for cars, watches, clothes and other products.” 1

Mr Javier Sánchez Lamelas believes that the persuasive powers
of whispering marketing strategies can do more than conventional
marketing methods. (JS LAMELAS)

Elements of a Successful Sharing Platform
The sharing platform is new to everyone in the age-old economy. For Mr Sánchez, there are three elements that make a sharing economy work: trust, understanding what is relevant, and fluidity.

Trust. “Without trust, it doesn’t fly,” says Mr Sánchez. It’s a very complicated trust because it’s trust between the vendors and among the customers. So you need to make sure you trust the person on the other side of the transaction and also your vendor. There are a few mechanisms like rating points that are working well. But, we still need to find ways to continue building trust. Leave aside the rotten apples, implement reward mechanisms, and give people the security and other mechanisms they need to continue building that trust.”

The second is understanding and finding for relevant things that people can share. “We have seen this happening with apartment houses and real estate whether if it is your primary or vacation residence (Airbnb). We’ve seen that with cars (Uber). We haven’t seen much with brains (in terms of language skills and knowledge-sharing) or with clothing though. But it will happen. There are few of us who show how to do it at the moment. But it is important for the people in the sharing economy to understand what we are going to be able to share that we have yet to discover.”

The third is fluidity. “Disruption caused by the sharing economy creates enemies because some may perceive this as a threat to their businesses and livelihoods. So being fluid in dealing with those risks and barriers would be in my opinion a turning point.”

1 Lamelas, JS, 2017, MARTKETING, LID Publishing Limited.



Copyright © 2017 Singapore Institute of Management

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Today's Manager Issue 2, 2017

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