SOKO’s Founder Felipe Simi on Diversity and Authenticity as Powerful Marketing Tools

SOKO’s Founder Felipe Simi on Diversity and Authenticity as Powerful Marketing Tools

Interview by Ricardo Esteves
Published: May 19, 2023
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Who Is Felipe Simi

Felipe Simi is founder, CEO and Creative Chairman at SOKO. Named one of the 50 most creative people in Brazil in 2020 by Wired Magazine, Felipe is also a LGBT+ activist, wich led him to create SOKO as a way to make his experience, and those of his colleagues, in the advertising industry less toxic. Before that, Felipe worked at global companies such as Hershey's and Unilever before joining local agencies as creative director.

“In an era where consumers are becoming increasingly skeptical of advertising and marketing, authenticity helps create a connection.” Felipe Simi

Storytelling is becoming increasingly important in branding and marketing for capturing the attention and support of its audiences. As companies strive to make an impact in the industry, creativity has played a crutial role in effective storytelling.

And when it comes to creativity, one agency stands out: SOKO.

Founded by Felipe Simi, SOKO has produced impressive campaigns for big brands like Netflix, Dove, and Heinz.

In this interview, Felipe Simi talks about the demand for authenticity by the consumer, diversity as a core value, and the exceptional campaigns that have propelled SOKO to international acclaim.

SOKO Logo

Spotlight: Why is authenticity important in storytelling and how can brands ensure that their brand stories are genuine and relatable to their target audience?

Felipe Simi: Authenticity is crucial in storytelling because it builds trust between brands and their audience. In an era where consumers are becoming increasingly skeptical of advertising and marketing tactics, authenticity helps to create a connection with the audience by conveying a genuine and relatable message.

To ensure that their brand stories are authentic and relatable, brands need to understand their target audience and their values, beliefs, and desires. They should also be transparent about their brand values and practices, and avoid using gimmicks. Consistency is also key, as brands need to maintain their authentic message across all communication channels and throughout their entire customer journey.

Recently, for instance, we launched with Dove an unprecedented beach chair for bigger bodies. Dove is all about changing the perception of beauty, and being authentic on this purpose is not only talking about it, but actually changing how the world is structured for every beauty.

How can brands effectively balance the need for authenticity with the desire to showcase their brand in a positive light?

One way to balance these needs is to focus on the values and purpose that the brand stands for and weave those into the storytelling. By sharing stories that reflect the brand's mission and values, brands can create an authentic connection with their audience while still showcasing their strengths and unique selling points.

Additionally, brands can be transparent about their challenges and failures, and how they've learned from them, as this can also enhance their authenticity and credibility.

In the era of social media, how has the need for authenticity in storytelling changed, and what strategies are brands using to effectively leverage social platforms for organic and authentic engagement with their audience?

The need for authenticity in storytelling has become even more important in the era of social media, as consumers are more discerning and can easily detect when a brand is being insincere or inauthentic.

We've been using strategies such as user-generated content, influencer partnerships, and transparent communication to effectively leverage social platforms for organic and authentic engagement with the brand's audience.

By allowing their customers and followers to share their own experiences and stories with the brand, and by partnering with influencers who align with their values and aesthetic, brands can create a sense of community and authenticity that resonates with their target audience.

Additionally, transparent communication about their brand values, processes, and goals can help build trust and establish an authentic connection with their audience.

Let’s talk about SOKO. How does your company utilize storytelling as a strategic approach to capture media attention and promote businesses?

SOKO's approach to storytelling is deeply rooted in our belief that the message should come before the channel. We prioritize finding a powerful brand story and developing it collaboratively through our diverse team's cultural backgrounds and identities.

This approach allows SOKO to create authentic and relatable stories that resonate with the audience and capture media attention.

By putting the message first, SOKO can craft a narrative that speaks to the heart of our clients' businesses and communicates it in a way that is engaging and effective, generating earned media.

What steps does SOKO take to ensure that clients' brand messages and stories are effectively communicated across all marketing channels and targeted towards the right audiences?

The "earn before you pay" approach at SOKO involves prioritizing the development of the brand story and messaging before selecting the marketing channels to be utilized. We believe in understanding the target audience and their needs to craft a message that resonates with them.

As I said, we also value collaboration and diversity in our team as a strategy to being more creative and effective, which helps to bring a range of perspectives and ideas to the table.

By focusing on the brand story and working collaboratively, SOKO ensures that the client's message is effectively communicated across all marketing channels and targeted towards the right audiences.

And we utilize data analysis and measurement to track the success of campaigns and make adjustments as needed.

How do you balance creativity with effectiveness in your marketing campaigns? What role does data play in that process?

SOKO believes that creativity and effectiveness go hand in hand in marketing campaigns. Our Creative department is actually called Creative Data, that helps to bridge the gap between creativity and data analysis. Data analysts and copywriters work side by side responding to one single leadership.

By using data to guide creative decisions, we are able to ensure that our campaigns are both innovative and impactful. Everything we create to clients already comes with a trackable KPI on earned impacts, for instance, because we can measure the potential of any idea through data.

Ultimately, we believe that effective marketing requires a mix of both creative thinking and data-driven insights.

SOKO Heinz Campaign

One of SOKO’s latest campaigns shares a powerful story about Heinz's brand and the launch of their tattoo ink. What was the inspiration behind this idea and how successful was it?

Heinz has been trying to find ways to connect to Gen Z that are not focused on traditional media, as 99% of Zoomers skip ads, and 63% use ad blockers, making it a considerable challenge to get in touch with them.

But we found a way to do it, as Heinz is one of the most tattooed brands in the world, and Gen Z is making tattoos mainstream, with over 46% of them having at least one piece.

Our main objective in working with the brand is to create awareness around its two main pillars – the naturality and the superiority of the ingredients they use to make their products, especially ketchup – and we seized the opportunity when the news of colored tattoo ink being banned all over the world because of the harmful ingredients used to make them hit mainstream media.

To make sure we hit those objectives, we conducted a post-view survey right after the campaign and found out that over 98% of the people impacted by the campaign believe that Heinz cares for ingredients, while over 97% believe the brand uses the best ingredients to make ketchup. Besides, the campaign has reached over 230 million people organically so far.

We also had the highest CTR numbers in the history of our social media accounts and engagements, twice the number we had predicted. Also, more than 10,000 tattoo artists or tattoo parlors have registered to order the ink, which will be distributed for free in the coming two months.

In just seven years, the company has achieved exponential growth with 350 employees and notable clients like Netflix, Google and Spotify. How difficult was it to break into a highly competitive market such as the creative industry and what makes SOKO the choice for brands like these?

Breaking into a highly competitive market such as the creative industry is never an easy feat, but I'd say we had two main reasons for being successful in this journey. Firstly, because of the agency's methodology that is focused on creating brand stories with the potential for earned media, rather than relying solely on paid media.

This approach ensures that ideas have the strength to organically reach the target audience, even if they occupy paid channels later on. This makes the client's budget worth more.

Secondly, diversity is a real business strategy at SOKO, with the team becoming more proportional to the Brazilian population, reflecting different experiences and a greater cultural repertoire. More diversity means more creativity.

Keeping campaigns creative and innovative can be a challenge. How does SOKO stay ahead of industry trends and maintain their creativity?

For me, one of the secrets to staying ahead of industry trends is actually ignoring them. At SOKO, we're able to create relevant stories because we're connected to the present.

There's an industry-wide anxiety to try and anticipate imaginable futures with trends, new tools, technologies or behaviors. The thing is, there is no future if we don't understand the dimensions of the real problems we need to solve today, right now, for brands - whether as advertisers or as conscious citizens.

By staying attuned to what's happening in the world right now, and by always putting the brand's story and message first, we're able to create campaigns that stand out and resonate with audiences.

What are some of the key challenges the company faces in the current marketing landscape and how are you addressing them?

As a company that was founded with a cause - to prove to the advertising industry that diversity, collaboration, and combating toxic practices are crucial to delivering more relevant creative work - we face a paradox.

As we grow and become more successful, it becomes increasingly challenging to keep our cause alive while being a part of the very market that can generate chaos. However, we address this challenge by staying true to our values, continuing to prioritize diversity and inclusion in our hiring and decision-making processes, and being vocal advocates for positive change in the industry.

We also constantly reflect on our practices and seek feedback from both our clients and team members to ensure that we are staying true to our mission and creating work that is both effective and socially responsible.

Looking into the future, how do you see the need for authenticity in storytelling evolving? What strategies can brands use to stay ahead of the curve and effectively connect with their audience through authentic and relatable brand stories?

As we move forward, the need for authenticity in storytelling will only continue to grow in importance. Consumers are becoming increasingly savvy and can quickly spot inauthenticity, so brands must be genuine and relatable in their storytelling.

That's the reason recent stories created by SOKO, such as Heinz Tattoo Ink and Dove beach chair were successful - because they are truly connected to brand values and purpose: ingredient superiority for Heinz and changing beauty for Dove. To stay ahead of the curve, brands can use strategies such as showcasing their values and purpose through innovation and prioritizing transparency and honesty.

It's also important for brands to actively listen to their audience and adapt their storytelling accordingly. Ultimately, brands that can effectively connect with their audience through authentic and relatable brand stories will be the ones that thrive in the long run.

Thank you for your time, Felipe. Best of luck to you and SOKO!

Keep up with SOKO on LinkedIn and read about other successful businesses here.

 

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