December 29, 2014
Written by Onsurang Siripiyavatana
Case and discussion
To illustrate how heritage brands develop viral storytelling in the era of social media where the power of sharing and the perception of brand value are in the hands of consumers. The examples of Thai Life Insurance and Volkswagen will be analyzed from heritage perspective as well as consumer orientation.
Branding in social media era is not only about creativity but also facilitating conversations around the brand. From the heritage perspective, roots down to brand promise and brand essence, heritage brands have track records and many stories to introduce to the audience. Heritage brands have demonstrated successful relation to consumers in the past through its core values and heritage essence hence, it should be able to modify and re-tell the story given the current marketing landscape and the way to stand out in the crowd is to make the brand’s story go viral. In order to go viral, a brand must choose the right story to tell and craft around it, brands must know their targeted audience, learn what the consumers are care about most and do more of that. The new version of the heritage stories provide relevant factor that is consistent to the brand’s core and hence consistent heritage brand image that yield trust, caring and authentic impression to the targeted audience. Thai Life Insurance (TLI) is a heritage brand that is still much relevant today, the key behind this is to take simple product and to promote it by relating the most relevant human emotion to the product. TLI exploited sensitive human emotions and develop extremely effective marketing tool, namely advertisement campaign. The emotional ads have made the brand memorable and placed securely on top of the mind of the consumers. Take the “Silence of Love” advertisement campaign for example, without directly mentioning about the insurance product, the story of the commercial states: the kids are sometimes ashamed of their parents, but it is their parents who care for them no matter what. The overall tone of the ad is sad and touching which provoke all the positive emotions full of caring, love, family bonding and honesty are then translated into more down-to-earth message: if you care about them, insure them. The “Silence of Love” ad is not the first in the series of TLI emotional advertisement campaign, but it definitely creates a consistent message, and adds to consistent brand story and relevant brand image through the co-creation with the consumers who were impressed by the message delivered. The company made the ads public by broadcasting it through Thai television channels as well as in YouTube. The first channel of distribution is costly but it opens to wider audience and definitely worth it, amongst the crowd of television ads “Silence of Love” gains much attention from audience and creates a viral offline word of mouth impact. In parallel, the company makes the ads available in YouTube to create online viral with a potential to reach endless consumers since they are much more likely to view an advertisement if it is communicated to them from someone they know and not a company.
The language spoken in the ads was Thai, the company later provide English subtitle to enhance the understanding and hence emotional engagement of international audience.
Figure 1) Silence of Love-Thai life insurance commercial (Thailifechannel, 2011)
As a result “Silence of Love” becomes viral because TLI does it right by understanding the culture and know what the consumers want and how to approach it for example Thai audience have the characteristics of sympathetic, sensitive, like to chit chat, social media addict and easy going. The brand works hard to give people something they are willing to talk about, something they can relate to. The series of emotional ads is a catalyst and the tool that the brand use to consciously and continually bake word of mouth into its product. The company gives consumers a reason to talk about its product part of its culture, not just marketing.
Heritage brands on the other side of the world also work hard to understand consumer and find the relevant in brand storytelling. Rules, regulations and restrictions of international marketplace are different, let alone the consumer diversity. A successful marketing story of the brand from one country may not even gain recognition in another country for example Dove’s real beauty campaign was a viral success in the US but the same campaign fails to market in China (Chiu, C., Ip, C. and Silverman, A. 2012). That’s why social media marketers have to be creative and specific, matter to one person first, speak to that person. Volkswagen’s The Fun Theory is a good story of viral success in social media. Volkswagen launches a campaign through The Fun Theory website with the slogan “Be it for yourself, for the environment, or for something entirely different, the only thing that matters is that it’s change for the better”. The brand invited creative people to come up with their ways of making everyday activity more fun. The Fun Theory campaign is brand’s storytelling tactic that relates to consumers in a given current marketplace and brand’s core messages of being innovative, offering enduring value and responsible (Volkswagen, 2012). One of The Fun Theory award is “The speed camera lottery” the idea behind this is to get more people to obey the speed limit by making it fun to do, this idea was made a reality in Stockholm, Sweden. The Speed Camera Lottery device would photograph all drivers passing beneath it. A portion of the subsequent fines levied against speeders would be pooled in a lottery, with a random winner periodically drawn from the group of speed-limit adherents. The result of this campaign is impressive, according to Volkswagen, average speed before the installation of the Speed Camera Lottery sign on a multilane street was 32 kilometers per hour. That figure dropped to 25 kilometers per hour during a three-day test, despite the device’s inability to issue financial penalties. The short films documenting the projects went viral and it invokes positive brand association in relation to the audience. By making boring thing such as obeying the traffic rules fun and instead of getting punishment for disobeying the rule, people get rewards by obeying the rules. The idea not only reflects upon brand heritage and story but also score high in the relevant scale of contemporary marketplace. The consumers are engaged in the campaign from sending their ideas in for the competition and the trials is seen as a little excitement added to consumers’ everyday lives without provoking frustration to the pedestrian. The brand uses an excuse of promoting safety for positive brand associations and gain awareness. The Fun Theory is a storytelling strategy that embraces the heritage and stays relevant in the consumers’ minds in the current era of social media. The continual success of the campaign endures the heritage for tomorrow.
Figure 2) The Speed Camera Lottery- The Fun Theory by Volkswagen (Rolighetsteorin, 2010)
Heritage brands have developed the brand story over a period of time, the time required for the consumers to absorb and digest the story. However in an ever changing marketing landscape of social media era, the ability to adapt and fit in poses a challenge on heritage brands to stay relevant in consumers’ minds. They key to relate to consumers while maintaining brand’s heritage is to understand consumers and focusing effort to change how people feel before trying to change what they do. As illustrated by Thai life insurance case, telling simple emotional stories work well in relating the brand’s heritage to consumers. The brands deal with customer-centric orientation in an emergence of social media and act as facilitators. Storytelling facilitates conversation amongst customer community and it is brand’s job to give people a story that they are willing to talk about. By this method, consumers become co-creators of the brands as they influence the transmission of messages by getting involved in the viewing, commenting and sharing through social media or even directly helping to create a story, as illustrated by Volkswagen’s The Fun Theory where consumers get involved in the process from the beginning to submit their ideas, take part in trials and sharing the story.
More specifically, while keeping to the heritage, brands have to invite consumers into the branding process in order to stay relevant and this can be achieved by telling a consistent series of compelling story, stories that keep going viral. The businesses that succeed outrageously are not just founded on ideas that are shared in a split second; they are grounded in what matters to their customers throughout the long heritage. The track record and relationship between a brand and its consumers are parts of the heritage that they co-created and stay relevant until now. The key for an enduring heritage is to make giving people a reason to talk about your products and services part of brand’s culture, not just marketing.
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