“Historians and archaeologists will one day discover that the ads of our time are the richest and most faithful daily reflections any society ever made of its whole range of activities,” the father of communications and media studies Marshall McLuhan once said. And it seems this day has rightfully come, now that brand storytelling is proclaimed by experts and the lay audience alike as one of the most authentic means of creating long-lasting engagement with customers in today’s increasingly saturated advertising world. Looking at the trend from a local perspective, Castania Nuts has been a market leader when it comes to creative storytelling thanks to its ongoing “Kel 2a3de fiya Castania” (“every get-together calls for Castania”) platform, which kicked off almost a year ago with an upbeat one-minute ad showcasing its product across different day-to-day situations and totals six spots to date, each tied to a culturally-relevant national occasion. ArabAd reached out to Castania Nuts’ CEO Peter Daniel and Beirut-based independent agency Operation Unicorn, and the creative team behind the campaigns, for firsthand insight into the brand’s current content strategy that has so far proved to hit the mark with consumers.
Beyond the Product: Conveying a Relatable Experience through Locally-Flavored Stories
Digital media and interactivity significantly changed the dynamics of how consumers see and pay attention to brand messages nowadays, a massive shift that has pushed marketers to become increasingly innovative in turning these new tools to their advantage.
Drawing upon the vibrancy of Lebanese culture, Catsania’s ads feature real people interacting with nuts in their everyday environment, amounting in memorable locally-flavored positive vibes. “We are trying to establish the fact that Castania is present in our gatherings, by showing multiple and storytelling ads of people enjoying their pack of nuts in different locations, scenarios, occasions [and] events,” Daniel told ArabAd.
“The main element that has paved the way for the kind of storytelling we have been producing for Castania is the new brand tagline we laid out,” Creative Director at Operation Unicorn Nathalie Masri stated. “This allowed us to introduce and keep the brand relevant in any form of social gathering or occasion all while creating stories around it without having to focus on the product as the focal point of interest.”
“Since consumers nowadays are brand oriented, we are focusing on reinforcing the brand image into the mind of consumers not just to be their favorite nuts but rather their loved brand.”—Peter Daniel, CEO of Castania Nuts
Relying on hybrid talents rather than headcount, the small team has got the flair to bring out the magical side of every brand, this time through featuring common scenarios where the product is subtly embedded in the story instead of being pushed straight in the viewer’s face with a promotional message.
“Castania has been present in the market since 1983. We have already established the fact that it offers premium quality and tasty nuts. Since consumers nowadays are brand oriented, we are focusing on reinforcing the brand image into the mind of consumers not just to be their favorite nuts but rather their loved brand,” Daniel explained.
Despite featuring different scenarios, one thing that ties the spots together is that each of them depicts a lifestyle scene every Lebanese household can relate to using funny characters and good-natured humor. The series also translates easily on social media given its personal/realistic undertones.
As a result, the ads are snappy, fun to watch, and exude the kind of effortless, doesn’t-take-itself-too-seriously confidence that most brands aspire for, helping build a deeper connection with consumers and grow affinity towards the brand. “The audience is reacting very well to our recent content,” Daniel noted, affirming Castania’s plans to pursue this strategy at least until the end of this year.
Strategic Shift: Moving from Real-Time Marketing to Culturally Insightful Marketing
Any brand that aspires to be loved by the consumer today should produce content that entails some kind of cultural currency or cultural impact. And Castania has been consistent in this approach, by showcasing moments that can easily become part of the cultural conversation.
“We try to show as many occasions as possible where two or more people gather around a bowl or pack of Castania. A successful ad would be even more powerful if it [manages to] grab a happening occasion or event that is not a pre-defined one like Valentine’s, Christmas, etc.,” Daniel explained. “We have successfully done that with our Lebanese election day.”
The acclaimed spot features a guy attempting to explain the new electoral law to his friend over a game of backgammon by moving around a pile of Castania nuts to illustrate each of the confusing notions, while he can't bring himself to resist eating some along the way, a storyline that successfully borders on Lebanon’s endless socio-political subtleties to induce a chuckle at the end.
“When you’re a market leader and a pioneer in your distribution nationally, it is strategically sound to switch from product oriented communication to a more storytelling approach, especially given the brand promise we adopted recently, and in fact this switch has cemented Castania as a brand immersed in local culture.”—Nathalie Masri, Creative Director at Operation Unicorn
Just like its predecessors, the spot ends with the brand’s signature platform “Every get-together calls for Castania” to reinforce its impact. “Castania’s recent ads are tied to special occasions particularly because this platform allows it to. Another angle we consider to be key in creating successful real-time marketing is the reliance on cultural insights that are relevant to the masses in order to create relatable and successful stories,” Masri explained.
“When you’re a market leader and a pioneer in your distribution nationally, it is strategically sound to switch from product oriented communication to a more storytelling approach, especially given the brand promise we adopted recently, and in fact this switch has cemented Castania as a brand immersed in local culture.”
And while it wasn’t particularly challenging for Castania to break out of the norm of focusing on the product itself and venture into creating audience-centric scenarios that reinforce its underlying values, the challenge now is to keep it current and relevant in a way to keep surprising people.
“The audience’s response has been very welcoming, especially that all the ads we’ve produced included highly relatable cultural insights. For example, "Ma teshb30 bzourat jeye el2akel” (don’t fill your stomach with nuts, the food is on its way) is a very common phrase that all mothers and aunts say at every family lunch or dinner, and more notably on Christmas Eve,” Masri added.
“So obviously, we believe this is the way to go for brands because they are required to better articulate what they stand for and what they are about in a way that stands out from the clutter of content that gets diffused online.”