UNO April 2019

The value of embracing important social causes

For an organization, forging an emotional bond with its customers is an increasingly difficult challenge. People are exposed to an “avalanche of stimuli” each day, with information from a hundred brands coming not only through traditional channels, but amplified exponentially by social media. The chances a customer retains the message promoted by a given company is increasingly small. Engagement is a daily challenge.

We live in a time of saturated senses. Think of the normal day-to-day routine for an average Chilean. Before leaving home in the morning, many have already listened to the radio or turned on the television, where news comes from more than 5 organizations. If we look at our cell phones (which we probably do more than 30 times a day) to go to our preferred social network or check some web page, then instantly, and without us realizing it, other brands have already begun to occupy our minds. In Chile, 82 percent of the population uses a cell phone or mobile device every day. Special offers recommended by Facebook, a special bank credit or YouTube videos shared via a multimedia link add up over the day without us being particularly aware of it.

On the way to work, there are ads on the street, including the flyer a young woman hands out. There will be perhaps 50 brands communicating with us in less than an hour. What a dilemma for the marketing, communication and social networking teams.

How can we differentiate ourselves amid the overabundance of brands?

This challenging task cannot be taken on without understanding customer expectations, not only in regard to products, services and attention, but also regarding something beyond: their collective desires.

The basis of any advertising campaign is knowing how to respond to demand and how a product or service will fulfill its brand promise. Otherwise, it is a fiasco.

Let’s imagine, for example, that we bought a cell phone that boasts 60 hours of battery life, promoted in a spectacular MKT MIX by a well-known sports personality. If this product gets into our hands and does not fulfill that promise, then not only will the marketer’s reputation be damaged, but the consumer will be deeply dissatisfied.

“The basis of any advertising campaign is knowing how to respond to demand and how a product or service will fulfill its brand promise”

Now, if the device works well and the advertising campaign is appropriate in intensity and differentiation, we will achieve the goal of positioning ourselves in that segment and selling the product, responding to the customer’s deepest desires—even the intangible ones, such as status.

But what about services? Can we “sell” and “advertise” the same way?

At Esval and Aguas del Valle, which operate in the Chile’s Valparaiso and Coquimbo regions, we are beginning an experiment that has yielded positive results. We are moving from our traditional communication strategies to take on important social causes, co-creating campaigns with the community that not only speak of our service, but also give us a role in resolving social problems and championing important causes.

Would you sponsor a hydrant?

In recent years, we have worked with the community on the “Sponsor a Hydrant” initiative, which turns our customers into protagonists in keeping essential tools in good condition in the face of an emergency, helping them take charge of something transversal: for example, a fire, which does not distinguish between regions or social class. Something that clearly nobody wants to experience.

The task has not been easy. Who cares about a yellow device on a corner? It’s like having an affection for the bathroom faucet, toilet bowl or shower. Clearly we know about them, but until we find ourselves facing a tragic situation, they seldom seem relevant.

This is the challenge we took on. Through a web platform, we invited the community to sponsor a fire hydrant. In the beginning, it was not easy. How could we engage someone living in the comfort of their home and make them responsible for the nearest water tap, for free? This is where communications played a fundamental role.

We worked with residential associations and customers to offer short video testimonials that shared the importance of taking care of fire hydrants and, most importantly keeping them in good condition, alerting us of leaks or illicit access. We didn’t use the typical dramatic campaigns of burning cities to provoke attention, instead featuring fishermen, housewives, firemen and other normal people positively discussing their decisions to sponsor a fire hydrant. Some of those reasons included job security and peace of mind for their families and neighbors.

But there is another group too: those interested in personalizing their fire hydrant. They are not only our allies, but also have the power to breathe life into a hydrant on our platform by giving it a name. We are setting aside a numerical nomenclature in preference of names like Rayadito, La Joya del Pacífico, Grifaldo, La Consentida, etc. to help share citizens’ commitment.

“In a world filled with multiple stimuli, a brand will only stand out if it is capable of ascribing meaning to its actions”

We want to touch our customers with more than efficiency and good service. Water is an essential part of daily life at home, and we are committed to our customers. Through initiatives like this, we want to take it a step further, ensuring strategic communications play a fundamental role.

We believe the role of companies today goes far beyond their product or service offerings or the results of their MKT MIX. In a world filled with multiple stimuli, a brand will only stand out if it is capable of ascribing meaning to its actions, satisfying consumer desires enough to inspire communities to get involved. Thus, communications becomes an important driver and enhancer, but not an end in itself.

Walter Droguett
Assistant director of Corporate Affairs for Esval and Aguas del Valle
The assistant director of Corporate Affairs for Esval and Aguas del Valle, he is also the president of the Regional Council of the Global Compact, Valparaiso Region. He holds a bachelor’s in Social Communication and a Journalism degree from Pontificia Universidad Católica de Valparaíso in Chile. His postgraduate specialization was in Corporate Communications at the same institution, and he earned diplomas in Leadership (2016) and Customer Experience (2018) from Adolfo Ibáñez University. [Chile]

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