Guest Host: Xzavier Ramphal, Strategic Planner and Marketing Manager
Vyoocast #1: Xzavier Ramphal, Marketing Manager around town, has been part of such organizations as LG, Bell and Home Depot. We’ve reversed things and are having Xzavier as our guest host guiding our questions with Henry Wong. We’re going to chat about everything under the sun. From marketing to branding to anything else that he might feel is relevant.
vyoocast 1.1 – On Future Planning for strategy
Henry: I am very happy to introduce Xzavier Ramphal, Marketing Manager around town, who’s been part of such organizations as LG, Bell and Home Depot. So we've reversed things; what we're doing is having Xzavier as our guest host who will be guiding our questions, and we're going to chat about everything under the sun. From marketing to branding to anything else that he might feel is relevant. Xzavier, welcome and thank you very much for participating. [READ MORE]
Xzavier: How much of your job as a strategic thinker is actually thinking about the future and thinking where things are going? Do you spend a lot of time contemplating that or reflecting on it or do you just stay in the moment?
Henry: I think is important to stay in the moment. You can certainly look for indicators of trends in future trends and where it might go. But for every product that has been researched to death and has in a very disciplined way mapped out what the future can be. There are products that simply come out of nowhere and surprise people and take them by surprise the way songs do. I think I heard Randy Bachman, formerly of BTO, a 70’s pop Canadian rock band once say on his CBC show, “If I knew to create a number one hit, I would have had more than five”. So, it’s very hard to predict what the audience will like. The best you can do is look for those opportunities. Particularly from an artistic side to allow that emotion to come out. To allow yourself to connect with people in a meaningful way that they can react to.
Xzavier: In terms of channels and selecting marketing channels and different content. Take the ideas of you know how marketing has evolved and planning has evolved the idea of content marketing which you have mentioned. How do you apply the idea of where the consumer will be going next to try and determine what’s the best place to create a plan, for say your client?
Henry: To plan the media. I would not want to risk the client’s money, simply to predict that oh, this is going to be the next best thing. Certainly, we’ve had clients in the past who you earmarked some of it for experimentation. But as a savvy client, as a savvy marketer. They and we are looking at what is responding well these days as opposed to what could be. However, we do know that there are multiple platforms, multiple media more so than ever before. How do you know which one to choose? And that’s always the fundamental question. So basically, if you do your job right as a planner you create a profile of your consumer and you know what happens in their day to day life. In the early days, you used to make up a profile in a way you had kind of a rough understanding.
Here is the demographic of a soccer mom. Let’s say she goes to work, picks up the kids at the end of the day is time-stressed to try to create dinner. And you have sort of a rough idea of that. Here in Canada, it’s quite different as you know, because we live in such a multicultural state where there are all sorts of factors. There are different types of families that exist that never existed before. What we really have to do is begin to understand truly the consumer one on one, and walk through that day-to-day life and really see where the intersection points are where media can be presented. A soccer mom only exposes her to media maybe the radio in the car or maybe it’s not. Maybe it’s a podcast. It’s the signage along the road on her way to school and so forth.
It’s so defined and the reason why digital has worked so well as you know is that you can map that route through their surfing habits through their internet traffic and so forth. But the rest of it you have to be able to fold in and understand to get a clear picture of.
Xzavier: Coming from both an agency side and the client side that I’ve been on, there’s always been a bit of debate on demographics versus psychographics and how much to tie each one to when you’re mapping out who a consumer is. And so you’ve mentioned understanding your consumer on a deeper level. Do you have a thought on either the balancing the two or which one plays more heavily when you’re trying to figure out who a consumer is and how they behave?
Henry: You know, I think it really has to lean towards, psychographics, which can be limited. I think we have to focus on the human behavior – the human consumer as opposed to simply defining someone. So, we could be a male between the ages 24-38 working within the city. But that tells you very little. It may tell you a lot in terms of taxes for the government and census. But what do they do? What is the indefinable? What are more the qualitative elements that you can fold into it? How do they spend their time? We know from life; even growing up as a teenager there were so many different groups in that lunch room in high school. That’s the way consumers are. You know there are so many little pockets of different types of people, with different sorts of interests that may overlap and may not.
And the complexity of being able to blend that together is really the beauty of the work that we do. Isn’t it? To be able to see all of that and see if we can find patterns, or find certain profiling. And profiling is actually a good word. There was a show on Netflix right now, I don’t know if you’ve seen it. It’s called Mind Hunters. It’s really interesting cause it’s about the early days of FBI profiling. How before they truly understood the criminal mind they began applying psychology to it and could establish a predictive pattern for the sort of person that might commit this crime. That’s really what has become the backbone of the FBI in many of their crime units, particularly on the serial killing side. So very, very fascinating and a lot of the work that we do is very much like that profiling.
Trying to predict what that behavior might be given a certain type of stimulus. So you put it all together, I mean you take all those factors that do begin with demographics and that. But then how do you filter it to get your consumer. It’s never an ideal consumer what you doing is getting a cross-section. And that cross-section shouldn’t necessarily be just simply people who fit a mold but really have an understanding of certain universal behaviors. This is what I mean about those insights and trying to find those universal truths about people. Because you and I come from different backgrounds, but we have certain overlaps that we like and we enjoy talking. We might get out golfing, for example, we enjoy just talking about marketing and the cool things that are happening. So those are things that kind of blend together but yet we come from different places. But we see life rather commonly in that same regard. And that’s what you’re trying to apply for people when you’re looking at a bigger cross-section of consumers.
Xzavier: How do you see the way of the future of the world is going?
Henry: In regards to branding, It’s an absolutely fascinating question. The only thing constant is change as we know. The only thing you can predict is little bits of unpredictability. So I think particularly from our brand’s point of view and certainly, us working on it, the more nimble you can be to adapt to it the better. You know, you talk about the political movement: Who could have predicted more than a year ago that things would be materializing the way it was in the US. That certain leaders would have come to the forefront. There was absolutely no indication. It’s very much like the Monday morning armchair quarterback where you kind of analyze it. But could someone have predicted what was going to happen? Likely not. All we can do is understand that things can change and if you can adapt to it and be able to leverage it and certainly take advantage of it, then you can be in a very good front position. So, for us as marketers, it’s the ability not to be locked into any one methodology that can’t adapt for future change. So if you have that coming in philosophically, my belief as a brand as a person in this industry, you will do very very well.
VYOOCAST 1.2 – On Fundamentals OF PLANNING
Xzavier: Are there things that you find fundamental in marketing, branding, strategic planning that you've come to now realize are the foundations for it. Whether that's intellectual or creative? [READ MORE]
Henry: You know, I think it’s the middle ground between the two. So while you may do the upfront research and the audit and the understanding of the client’s problems. And the understanding of the market. It’s really the insights that you gather from it that it will allow and inform where the creative can go. And what I mean by that, is although you have all these facts and figures and the data that comes out of it and you’re given a dump load of analytics and you’re trying to make sense of it. And you try to draw some conclusion from it. What I try to do is take that information and extract what the human insight is. And the human insight is really an understanding of the human behavior. Something that’s a little bit more universal than going beyond why people gravitated towards these pages on the website or why they buy this product for this reason. What it ends up being, is a little bit more of an understanding of what drives a person. What motivates them. And by using those triggers, we can help share where the creative could potentially be.
VYOOCAST 1.3 – On Data
Xzavier: How have you seen both marketing and strategic planning change over the course of your career? Because a lot has happened: The digital revolution, you know. Psychology is becoming a more prominent staple in how people view customer experience. How have you seen your job or how you tackle the business problems change? [READ MORE]
Henry: I think there’s a greater reliance on that data to help. Even more so than before. Because now we have up to the second understanding of where people are going and clicking on and what they’re reacting to. But that in itself is still not enough to necessarily build a clear understanding of the consumer. You can have a pattern of what they’re doing now, but it doesn’t necessarily tell you what the people who aren’t reacting are doing. Just because one page on a website might appeal to one group, it doesn’t necessarily mean it will appeal to someone else. So by creating more of those widgets or creating more of those types of products, more of those types of communication may attract that certain crowd. It may not necessarily attract the crowd that you’re missing. So what the insights do is give you a better understanding of what can universally apply to people. What is it from an emotional point of view that they’re reacting to that we can leverage and apply more?
What has changed in terms of the world at large is that we are now supplied with far more data, far more information and analytics than we’ve ever had before. I think it can be very overwhelming for people who don’t have a clear understanding of maybe how to cut through it all and get to the essence of what it is. The reliance on it ends. Someone wiser than me once said. Research and data are very much like a lamp post. You can lean on it or you can use it to illuminate. So, whereever you can use it to illuminate, is where you can gather the understanding and the insights to build something far greater.
Xzavier: Are you ever of the mindset that there is too much data? Or is it just merely how you manipulate it or separate it?
Henry: I really think there’s too much data and I think the people who are succeeding in this business are the ones who are able to make sense of it. Who can connect all the dots. It’s very much like the tea leaves of fortune tellers. You can look at it and go, ok those are tea leaves. But what do the tea leaves mean? What does that data mean? And what can I extract from it?
Xzavier: Was there any one particular journey or research or brand that you can tell a story about in terms of, you know, this was a really good exercise in terms of putting it all together and how some insights led to some really interesting creative or anything like that?
Henry: You know what I think there was. I was one of the key people who helped to launch the Toyota Prius in Canada. At that time, it was the early days of the environmental movement and we had people gravitate towards more environmental products and services. So the insight that was gathered was an eye-opener. Because it wasn’t simply a more linear approach to showcasing that this car gives you better gas mileage. But in fact, what it did do, was give us a better understanding that there are people – there’s a segment, the early adopter – who were looking beyond just the cheapness of it. Because the actual return on a hybrid car may be years before you can get your money back. However, the benefit to the planet and the world and their ability to feel better about what they’re doing is where the emotional connection was. So that in itself informed the type of campaign that we created. And we centered everything around the wonderful ability to help the environment, to help the planet. And that’s a far bigger movement and cause that people can get behind than simply something that is selfishly satisfied.
VyooCAST 1.4 – On Personal Branding and Authenticity
Xzavier: One of the things I always hear is that it's about authenticity. It's, can you create an authentic connection with consumers? Do you think that we as marketers and planners have become so savvy that we're able to really fake that and therefore adds to the noise that's out there? [READ MORE]
Henry: I think as good as we can fake it, our audience see through it. The last two generations have grown up very comfortable with the understanding of what media is. Raising my son; I used to just show him behind-the-scenes of what advertising was. We have many TV programs that showed behind the scenes. So people have become very clear that this is an ad. And it’s either very acceptable and I look at it purely as an ad or I look at it with some cynicism, that, oh it’s trying to sell me.
That’s why I think content is so popular these days because we’re looking for another way to the consumer. I can advertise to you which essentially is a clever headline or a nice way of visualizing a scenario that gets you to pay attention. Then I’m going to sell you this product at the end using the logo. Content allows a longer build. It allows that relationship to be built where you see something of value. I could be entertained. Along the way, this product that’s integrated, I feel good about it. It’s a much longer sell, but at the same time, it’s a much more permanent sell that allows your brand to be effectively attached for a longer period of time.
Xzavier: Do you use that same lens of cynicism when building the campaign to say I’ve gone down the right path or does it come out naturally? What is the end product going to be in terms of what the results are?
Henry: I think you’re right. A good cynical lens is a very good thing to have because you are looking at it very critically and not simply to fulfill the brief, or answer the question that has been posed by the client. You’re really looking from the consumer’s point of view that not every brand is trusted, not every product is trusted and not every advertising message is trusted. So you look at opportunities to break that down if you can. So having a cynical look allows you to view it more like the consumer.
Xzavier: You wrote an interesting article about personal branding and how you can network like a brand does. I would love to get your thoughts on it. How does what you just described, you know figuring out who the consumer is and branding and how that can be applied internally working on personal branding?
Henry: I think one of the fundamental truths that I often say during my talks or seminars on personal branding is quite simple. It’s a quote from Shakespeare: ‘To thine own self, be true,’ and that’s very true in branding itself.
A brand itself can’t necessarily be everything for everyone. You can satisfy universal wants and desires certainly but in the way, you position yourself in the market. You can’t necessarily tweak and alter it to be something different to someone else all the time. Although there will be aspects of a product, like a car or even a phone that will appeal to people. But at the end of the day and quite simply it’s not so much the ability to be universal to everybody and be pleasing to everybody. So the personal brand is very much the same. It’s finding the best attributes like a brand that you had and pronouncing it, and making it, and making the world aware of it. And you will, therefore, attract the people who you want to attract.