Interview with Joana Bonet

Consol Vancells:
Strategic thinking
willing to serve

Entrevista amb Joana Bonet

Her father, Antoni Vancells, wanted his children, in the process of deciding their future profession, to carry out a practice that he carried out when he was selecting staff as manager of the Quirón Hospital: a graphological examination.

After analyzing the letter, the expert confirmed to Consol Vancells that her vocation was right: she was gifted for communication, with a great capacity for listening, quick thinking and determination to set a strategy, Vancells she is a rara avis in the world of communication.

Consultant in Brand Communication and Councilor of an Observatory (Observatori Dona Empresa Economia) of the Barcelona Chamber of Commerce for gender equality, at just 23 years old she set up the Enriqueta Villavecchia Foundation to help children with cancer and she took care of its management for five years. “It was my father’s initiative, and it’s the most difficult thing I’ve ever done in my life,” she recalls.

Pouring human values into the business roadmap is one of the main skills of this woman who was brought up to embrace sensitive worlds. Every day, when Consol wakes up, he takes her cats out from under the bed. She is a long-time reader and has an extensive library. Just finished The Moscow Knight, by Amor Towles, and recommend it. She is recognized as impatient, although she exudes serenity and confidence. Her favorite flowers are daisies, and she perfumes herself with J’adore de Dior. And she recognizes Paul Polman as one of her references: “He is a lighthouse. Doing good while doing business is possible. And he proves it.”

Her time at the National Theater of Catalonia as communications director, her contribution to the Barcelona City Branding project – Close your eyes. breathe What comes to mind when I say the word “Barcelona”? – or her classes at the ESCI-UPF – where she teaches branding strategies to international students – make up the proper itinerary of a cultured woman who knows the fine print of management and with a wide and open view covers both macro as well as micro. This “Caress the details!”, which Nabokov recommended to his students.

When we did the interview, in front of the Alma Hotel’s interior garden, her father had died a few months ago, and he was present on a few occasions during our conversation: “He left with great dignity. He told me: “you have all the abilities and all the light”. He started doing yoga when it was barely known here. And he reached a level of internalization that scared him. I remember a sculpture made by my father with a sentence by Juan Ramón Jiménez: “Don’t run, go slowly. Where you have to go is to yourself.”

During the interview, Consol Vancells repeats the word “world” seven times, and the word “listen” six times, faithful to her humanist vocation. Her gaze adjusts the threads between content and commitment, creativity, and change, aware that the word Silence is still pronounced loudly.

Joana Bonet

Director of fashion, luxury and lifestyle content

La Vanguardia Magazine

There were six siblings. Do you remember any moment of aesthetic fulfillment during your childhood?

My happiest childhood took place during the summers on the Costa Brava, when we were all together.

Even so…you grow up and the time comes when you are happy when your parents are not at home.

My parents had many records of the French song. As I was studying French, I learned all the songs. It fascinated me and I was singing around the room like a crazy!

Does she still sing?

Yes [and sings Ne me quitte pas]. I sang with the Gospel Viu Choir on the stage of the of TNC (national theatre of Catalonia)! but now I only sing in the car. French was something wonderful for me. I learned whole passages from The Little Prince, like the one about the fox when he says that he has to tame him and the Little Prince says: what is taming? And the fox answers: to create bonds, if you and I meet every week at the same time… .

Does personality determine destiny?

Ummm… in Gospel mode it would be “I am on my way to who I am” [laughs].

I don’t know to what extent the character is part of each person’s DNA or is it a sign of our ego. I loved a sentence by Frederic Laloux in Reinventing Organizations: ‘the ego is what we get when we distance ourselves from ourselves’

How do you build a strategic consultancy?

I would tell you: getting older.

Now that you say it, in the title of the first article on my website I asked a question: ‘¿Senior me?’ I was surprised that others would start asking me for professional advice.

After a long journey through the Foundation, the TNC and the City Council, over the years I have been practicing strategic thinking, helping others to better communicate their brand, their reputation, to connect with their clients. In recent years, moreover, I am happy to observe how ‘publicity’ (a word that is becoming obsolete) is increasingly transformed into ‘brand content’ and ‘purpose’.

What is the most difficult thing they have asked you?

Well… I did my degree and worked in an advertising agency at the same time. That’s how I realized that advertising back then was exactly what I didn’t want to do. And at the end of my degree, I made my debut in management with the launch of Fundació Enriqueta Villavecchia. I was accompanied by my father, who founded it and a board of trustees, but at that age it was a huge responsibility for me.

Barcelona occupies an important place in bone marrow transplants and many families come from all over Spain come to Catalonia. In many cases they had to stay for several months and had nowhere to sleep. At the time we enabled flats near the hospitals, and later teachers joined to follow the school year, we organized fun activities (we went to Disney World with 15 boys and girls in treatment, with medical staff!), a network of volunteers, collection of funds… Over time, the Foundation expanded and diversified its activity and after 30 years, it received the “Creu de Sant Jordi”!

And how do you enter the business world?

I have always said that I am a ‘private’ person in the public environment. Bureaucracy suffocates me. I am an executive and decisive person, with strategic thinking, but with a will to serve.

What types of projects are you interested in?

Those in which it can help companies to communicate their essence. There are many companies in love with their products and services, which are doing an excellent job, but those who don’t have the time to communicate it. They know they have homework, they want to communicate better but they don’t know how. My external vision is a value for them and while we design the strategy, I accompany them to reveal their DNA, their purpose and their differential value, which will be the seed and compass of their message. Someone said ‘fes-ho bé i fes-ho saber’ as ‘do it well and let it be known’.

When I studied Advertising at the UAB, sales and creativity were the objectives of each campaign. The sale, to satisfy the client and its shareholders, and the creativity, to take the advertisements to tender.

But in recent years the turnaround has been brutal. Surely since the digital tsunami and the crisis of 2008, we have changed advertising for conversation, the full-page announcements in the press for indicators and results. And the perception of people, who trust less and less in governments and the media and more in companies and NGOs to provide solutions to the great challenges we face (Edelman Trust Barometer dixit). People are asking the company to take responsibility in order to return the benefits achieved at the expense of the planet. It is no longer worth giving accounts to the shareholder (which, by the way, is also in evolution/rotation).

In recent years, moreover,
happy to observe how 'advertising' (a word that is becoming obsolete)
it increasingly morphs into ‘branded content’ and ‘purpose’.

It is important to think about the business, but also about the benefit of all the groups with which we are related. Many have already understood. At the Patagonia company, for example, in 2018 they changed their purpose into a new claim: “We are in business to save our home planet”. And it is not a utopia, Patagonia shows it with facts. Because  those business lines that work with a purpose are more profitable. An example, Unilever’s sustainable brands grew 70% faster than the rest of the company in 2018.

When a company is touched or hurt and comes to you, what is the first thing you do?

To listen and try to understand. Over time I have created a questionnaire to get to know the company, where it comes from, what was its reason for being, what differentiates it from the competition, its internal and external audiences, what weaknesses and strengths it has and what are the short-term challenges. There are issues that are difficult to answer because perhaps they have not even been raised. With their experience and a good conversation, I work on a strategic proposal.

Let me tell you that there are words that “need to be healed”. The word ‘advertising¡, or that of ‘brands’ for example. But that brands exist ‘per se’. Brands reside in people’s minds and its generic name is ‘perception’. Therefore, we must listen to the perception that people have of our brand and bring their perception closer to our DNA, or what should be our DNA and our differential value. That is why sometimes it is not just about communication strategy but business strategy.

Listen, analysis and solutions.

Yes. But we go hand in hand. The clues are given to you by them, you just have to listen well and look for the best formula: a good product, added value, transparency, purpose and storytelling.

I prefer to work with companies that have a good product, that helps!

I always give the example of “The Grönholm method”, a play that was born in the Sala Tallers of the TNC.

Faced with equal conditions in production, advertising budget, days on the billboard, etc. This work stood out from the others and connected with the public at the minute. In 24h. we hung the “Sold Out” sign. The best advertising, word of mouth. And the cheapest.

Is a company without a storytelling an empty shell?

The brand exists per se. There is no brand that is an empty shell because they all transmit something. Everything is perception. Whether it is a person, a company or a city. Another thing is that the perception that others have of your brand is negative. But if there is a good “product”, with added value and transparency, you have to find the formula to connect with your community to combat negative perceptions.

What is there to build a brand story?

Do we need to build a brand story? Well yes, but from its DNA. It is not about saying: “we will pretend to be what we are not”.

""Listen, analyze audiences, competition, company SWOT and purpose. Identify the differential value, which will be a compass to create content and spread it through the appropriate channels. And when you finish, measure and learn for the next one. That's the cascade.""

¿Y es más importante la estrategia o la táctica?

¡Eso suena a guerra! ¿Has leído a Santiago Posteguillo? [risas].

Para mí, más que la táctica y la estrategia, con el permiso de Benedetti, lo importante es la cascada. Lo que fluye y tiene sentido.  Escuchar, analizar audiencias, competencia, empresa y propósito. Identificar el valor diferencial, que será brújula para crear contenido y difundirlo por los canales adecuados. Y al acabar, medir y aprender para la próxima. Eso es la cascada.

Eso implica una utilización del lenguaje mucho más femenina

No sé si femenino, pero sí hay algo de “cuidar” asociado a lo que hago. De hecho, cuidar y fluir son dos de mis palabras favoritas. Porque si la cascada no fluye, lo demás no funciona. Esa es mi forma de comunicar. ¿Y el modo Premium? Mira los ODS (objetivos de desarrollo sostenible), es muy probable que una empresa se identifique con uno de ellos o con varios. Y además de hacer negocio, se puede cuidar a los demás y al planeta. Esa es la mejor fórmula.

¿Y no se necesita prestigio y leyenda?

El prestigio de una marca es la percepción que tienen los demás de ella. Bueno, Nelson Mandela no pensó en ser una marca, pero se convirtió en leyenda. 

¿Qué factores pueden acelerar el prestigio?

Los hechos. “Facts, not Ads” es una frase recurrente, pero muy certera. El ADN, el valor diferencial y el propósito de la marca es lo que deviene en prestigio. Por tanto: el marketing del futuro no va de la publicidad, va de contenido.

¿Hay alguna herramienta del periodismo que haya incorporado a tu trabajo?

La verdad es que… apenas en los últimos años he ido descubriendo empresas que sí necesitan herramientas del periodismo. Contar bien las cosas, por ejemplo, de manera transparente y asertiva. Las marcas, como el periodismo necesitan de la confianza para prosperar.  con el 

“Facts, not Ads” es una frase recurrente, pero muy certera. El ADN, el valor diferencial y el propósito de la marca es lo que deviene en prestigio. Por tanto: el marketing del futuro no va de la publicidad, va de contenido.

Pensamiento y creatividad son dos palabras que están muy en desuso, ¿no? 

Me apena que estos no sean ya conceptos ‘cool’. Admiro al filósofo JM Esquirol, que nos hablaba un día del cielo, el cielo sin nubes, como parte de nuestra casa, que es el planeta. Cuando miramos al cielo hay sosiego y esperanza. Hay algo de sentirnos en paz.

O sea que ha estudiado filosofía

No, no. Soy una hormiguita inquieta y curiosa; hice un postgrado en La Salle, donde el profesor Esquirol compartía su sabiduría a través de las mentes pensantes de la historia. Decíamos ‘los miércoles, a la Academia’. ¡Y de vez en cuando todavía nos vemos con el grupo!

La reputación, ¿se puede comprar?

No lo veo. Qué te viene a la mente cuando digo Trump, Pep Guardiola o Jacinda Ardern. Será difícil cambiar la percepción que tengas de ellos con dinero. Facts, not ads. A veces digo que no puedes controlar lo que te pase, aunque tu reputación se verá afectada (para bien o para mal) según cómo reacciones a lo que te pase.

Un ejemplo: el atentado del 17 de agosto de 2017 en Barcelona. Ahí el mundo vio la unidad y la solidaridad de los barceloneses y, nuestra reputación se vio favorecida. Otro ejemplo: en plena pandemia, se organizó un concierto con un público de cinco mil personas y se les hizo una PCR antes de entrar. En ese momento, fue una novedad y tuvo una difusión mundial brutal. Y el mensaje implícito: Barcelona es innovadora, le importa la cultura y está buscando soluciones a un problema sanitario global. Dos meses después, los medios internacionales todavía hablaban del tema: resulta que, de esos cinco mil asistentes al concierto, sólo seis acabaron siendo positivos.

"No puedes controlar lo que te pasa,
aunque tu reputación se verá afectada según cómo reacciones a lo que te pasa."

¿Qué implica la palabra Barcelona?

Pasión. La pasión que levanta esta ciudad entre sus ciudadanos. La sentimos tan nuestra que cuando la tocan… la defendemos al instante. Es una ciudad inconformista, emprendedora, creativa y curiosa. Esas características son históricas… Forman parte de nuestro ADN.

¿ La marca Barcelona está en crisis?

Los medios de comunicación del Estado español no ayudan. En el resto del mundo, la percepción de Barcelona es muy buena, pero en España no. Se mezclan asuntos políticos, pero profundizar en ello significaría dos días de entrevista. Y Barcelona está haciendo cosas espectaculares.

¿A qué tipo de empresa puede aplicar sus conocimientos?

A cualquier tipo de empresa que quiera comunicarse mejor para poner en valor su actividad y conectar con sus audiencias. Y si además podemos trabajar por el bien de la sociedad a través de su actividad, la empresa y sus trabajadores podrán verse beneficiados.

¿Y qué le ha aportado la docencia?

Conectar con la energía de la juventud, son una sacudida. Seguir aprendiendo. Y me lo paso pipa. Hace poco les puse el ejemplo de Monica Lewinsky y… muchos no sabían ni quién era ella. Me dije: ¡menuda boomer! El ejemplo lo puse porque la ‘marca personal’ llamada Monica Lewinsky fue la primera persona que sufrió un acoso global por Internet. Como ella dice en el TED Talk: “¿cuántos de nosotros no cometimos errores a los 22 años?” Cual ave Fénix, ha salido adelante, a pesar del machismo planetario, sin duda. En fin, aportar y aprender. Eso es la docencia.

Hay una palabra clave hoy que es confianza. ¿Cómo se genera?

Seguramente con experiencia. El buen trabajo que se traduce en buena reputación. Pero que alguien confíe en ti se consigue, sobre todo, a través de los hechos. Y de ahí, el boca-oreja.

Hay una palabra clave hoy que es confianza. ¿Cómo se genera?

Seguramente con experiencia. El buen trabajo que se traduce en buena reputación. Pero que alguien confíe en ti se consigue, sobre todo, a través de los hechos. Y de ahí, el boca-oreja.

¿Ya no le interesa la publicidad?

Sí, sí. Me encanta la buena publicidad, pero si tiene con contenido. Cuando ‘lo del Black Friday’, Patagonia anunció una chaqueta hecha con materiales sostenibles y un titular que decía así: “Black Friday. No compres esta chaqueta” O sea: en el día del consumismo al cubo, si no necesitas ropa, no compres. ¿Y has visto el último de Heura Foods? De la ternera al smiley. Creatividad y filosofía de empresa en estado puro.

¡Es el anti-marketing!

Sí. Contenido y autenticidad. Facts, not ads.

¿Qué le preocupa del mundo de hoy?

Bueno, veo que se avanza tecnológicamente de forma acelerada, pero ojalá fuéramos tan rápido humanamente. En palabras de Tagore: “Cada niño que llega al mundo nos dice: ‘Dios aún espera del hombre’ “.  Soy agnóstica y podría ahorrarse el masculino genérico de la frase, pero ahí estamos, no perdemos la esperanza.