Converting media investments to brand growth

MANILA, Philippines –  You see a memorial adorned with fresh flowers and framed photos right smack in the middle of a busy street. You stop to take a look along with other curious passersby. You start feeling sorry for the names engraved on the stone and the families and friends they left behind.

They were victims of the Southpoint Mall tragedy, it said. But for the life of you, you can’t remember such an event. How could you have missed something so tragic? You search for more clues. On the other side of the list of the deceased, you see an advertisement for Resorts World Sentosa announcing the upcoming Halloween Horror Nights. Now you understand. You went, and fortunately, were not disappointed.

This anecdote by Dennis Perez, head of media at Unilever Philippines sums up the framework that brands can use in its media campaigns to link investments back to business growth – the creation of memory structures through story, context, and experience.

“In media, we have a big role in driving mental availability. It’s beyond your measure of salience, beyond your measure of top of mind awareness,” said Perez. “It’s about memory structure, mental linkages, meaning a consumer or a target audience will be able to recall your brand and retrieve it from memory and drive them to act.”

Perez shared this framework through three Unilever case studies, the only Filipino campaigns that brought home metals from the 2017 Festival of Media Asia Pacific Awards (FOMA) in the recent Media Congress: Ascendant, held in Baguio City.  

‘A story is the foundation of memory’

Studies have shown that the brain can process stories better than facts. A message communicated through a story has a higher chance of being remembered than one that’s told using merely facts.

Filipinos, no doubt, love stories. As kids, we had Lola Basyang and as adults, we have Maalala Mo Kaya. Unilever saw this as an opportunity for Breeze.

But how can a laundry soap tell a story?

“In order for us to differentiate Breeze, we need to tell a story that’s beyond function, dirt, and stain,” said Perez. Thus, ‘The Good Experiment’.

‘The Good Experiment’ by Dentsu Jayme Syfu won a Bronze at FOMA.

“We’re selling a laundry soap here but the format is storytelling. That made people remember. This campaign grew Breeze at the time,” said Perez.

‘Context strengthens memories’

We can all tell stories but how do we tell stories that stick? It’s by providing context.

“With so much clutter and fragmentation, you need to make sure that you use the channel very well in order for the audience to absorb the message,” said Perez.

And that’s what Unilever did to re-introduce Vaseline’s core product – petroleum jelly. Without enough budget for a TVC and other big executions, how can you communicate the healing power of petroleum jelly?

With the context of El Niño in 2016 paired with one of the oldest but most tested mediums – outdoor – and integrated with new media – digital – Vaseline put up a torture test to show that petroleum jelly can heal the skin.

‘The Healing Power of Vaseline’ by Ogilvy and Mindshare won a Silver at FOMA.

“Outdoor is alive but we wouldn’t get much reach and increase in sales if we didn’t live broadcast that billboard as the leaves dried up and if we didn’t amplify it,” said Perez.

“Let’s look at all channels equally. If you just have the right context, whether you use traditional or digital as a medium, it could work.”

‘Experience preserves memories’

At the end of the day, experience is what consumers are after. We can tell great stories with all the right context but experience is what completes the process.

“The world is getting smaller because of technology. The benchmark for experiences keeps on getting higher,” said Perez. “People feel that they can be a part of the experience, they can co-create the experience.”

Social networks like Twitter and Instagram have brought fans closer to their idols. Through these channels, celebrities have become more like friends and less like actors and actresses from TV.

Unilever wanted to magnify this experience through a Cornetto campaign that brought JaDine fans closer to their favorite love team. They let them write their story – from a simple Wattpad series to the big screen.

‘That One Summer’ by AdSpark and Mindshare won a Gold at FOMA.

This fully media-led campaign grew Cornetto sales, and the film, ‘This Time’ grossed more than the Hollywood film, ‘Avengers’ in Philippine cinemas.

“It’s not about adding a campaign on top of another, it’s about exponentially using a medium to lift the experience further,” said Perez. “There was a blur – a big but good blur – between the story in Wattpad and the film, it was so well integrated.”

This may not be the Holy Grail that the media industry has been looking for. This framework may change over time but at least for now, it works and it’s free for everyone to use.

“As an industry, we need to make sure that we share what we learn. Especially now that media is getting fragmented, we need to make sure that we combine our learnings to land the Philippines on the map,” said Perez. –

Marj Casal

Marj Casal heads the content team of BrandRap, Rappler’s sales and marketing arm. She helps create native advertising campaigns for brands like San Miguel Brewery, Shell, GCash, Grab, BDO, and more.