Back in the early 1990s, I set up a boutique ad agency in Bacolod to service the needs of local clients who wanted to take their marketing efforts to a level much higher than the usual tombstone ads they would find in Bacolod's leading daily, The Visayan Daily Star.
Some of the work emanating from that agency is still alive and well today and is in fact is part of Bacolod's brand icons. We're talking about the logo, menu, and place mat of Bob's Restaurant.
One of the most interesting work we did in that boutique agency with my college buddy, Julie May Calderon, had to do with the Lopez Sugar Corporation. There was a window for a marketing advantage seen by Lopez Sugar Executive Vice President, Eusebio "Butch" Lopez, given the furor that was rattling the sugar industry in Negros at that time.
The talk of the day was about the "Sugar-less Quedans" in some mills. For those who are not familiar with the system in sugar farming, the Quedan is the warehouse receipt that functions as the sugar industry's most important negotiable instrument. And because it is a negotiable instrument which represents physical sugar stored in a mill, the Quedan can change owners several times through trading before the physical stocks are withdrawn. Under the Warehouse Receipt Law, a mill assumes sole responsibility for the protection of the sugar stocks represented by the piece of paper known as the Quedan.
Our small agency came up with a campaign which basically presented two versions in print media. The first graphic we used was that of a baby. The proposition was that if a planter milled with Lopez, he or she could sleep like a baby, knowing fully well that their Quedans were at all times backed up with physical sugar in the mill. We knew that as the "Sleep Like A Baby" version.
The next wave of the campaign showed an actual photo of a planter smiling. For that layout, we showed Benjie Gonzaga standing in his garden giving his own version of a contented smile. The headline was simple, "This Planter has Peace of Mind". The rationale behind the contented smile and the headline was explained in the copy.
I waxed nostalgic today remembering a fun time of running a creative advertising operation in a land which mainly thrived on agriculture and where appreciation for the creativity was scarce. I look back to that time and am very thankful to Butch Lopez whose genius in marketing allowed us the space to create a campaign so unique. After all, when was the last time you have heard of a sugar mill advertising?
I write these today because yesterday, I read the news that about P47-million worth of sugar stock inside a warehouse at the Batangas Sugar Central in Balayan town is missing.
The sugar central is a repository of the Sugar Regulatory Administration (SRA) of all sugar stocks harvested in Southern Luzon. And again, under the law, all sugar stocks are to be turned over to the SRA, which deposits them in the warehouses of sugar centrals, before these are released to their dealers.
Another case of "Sugar-less Quedan" only this time outside Negros.
True enough, the unique selling proposition of a mill is not just its efficiency but its integrity.