Malaysia – AirAsia Group has appointed Allenie Caccam as its new head of business growth to bolster its market presence and growth trajectory. With a robust background in marketing leadership, Caccam brings a wealth of experience and strategic insight to her new role.

In an exclusive interview with MARKETECH APAC, Caccam discussed her vision, responsibilities, and plans for driving business growth at AirAsia Group.

Leveraging marketing leadership experience

In her new role, Caccam shared that her team will be responsible for supporting the establishment of business operations and the go-to-market strategy for new markets, targeting specific geographies for AirAsia Group. This involves project management from the initial sale phase through to the inaugural launch, working closely with cross-functional departments such as ground operations, network, route revenue, regulatory, communications, and marketing.

Additionally, her team is also tasked with identifying growth opportunities in terms of channel and customer. 

“We are actively looking into new channels to support underserved markets for AirAsia and interline solutions to increase our reach and feed our Asia and Pacific network, where AirAsia is strong,” she explained. 

Caccam believes that her extensive experience in marketing at AirAsia Philippines has equipped her with a strategic perspective vital for her new role.

“My marketing experience has trained me to strategically look into the different angles of the business and align our strategies with customer insights to determine maximum demand and revenue potential,” she said. 

She also noted the crucial importance of the ability to commercialise a product in her role, ensuring the service is brought to market comprehensively through market research, distribution, promotion, customer support, and operation. For Caccam, this remains a vital skill in identifying growth opportunities and achieving successful implementation in the highly competitive airline industry.

Now, as she leads the go-to-market strategy for new market development, Caccam underscores her clear priorities for AirAsia Group.

“AirAsia’s tagline has always been ‘Now Everyone Can Fly’ and our strength has always been our broad network of over 130 destinations. Serving the underserved underpins our operations. Our focus is to not only fly the most popular routes but also bring in more passengers to our network from markets we are not yet serving or even where no other airline is serving, all the while making sure that it helps build the trade, economy, and tourism of both markets, which is a win-win for everyone,” she emphasised. 

Adapting to the evolving travel landscape 

Caccam foresees the evolving landscape of travel and tourism significantly impacting AirAsia’s growth strategy. She believes that travel will continue to be an integral part of people’s lifestyles, and as more channels emerge to offer customised travel experiences, the industry will become increasingly competitive.

AirAsia will continue to harp on our strengths: our service, our network, our customer data built up over 20 years, and our affordable fares. We plan to use these huge assets to serve more underserved routes to connect Asia to the world,” Caccam said. 

For Caccam, online channels are reaching maturity, particularly in Asian markets where digital is a top priority. Customers are rapidly transitioning to the generation of digital natives, and online media is no longer considered “new.”

“It is now a game of great raw content and relatability rather than glossy and hard-selling advertisements. In line with this, AirAsia will continue to produce relatable content through our social media channels and our own internal and external ambassadors and use these avenues to remarket our service,” she added. 

“AirAsia’s tagline has always been, ‘Now Everyone Can Fly’ and with this role, I will be able to contribute more to making this vision a reality,” Caccam concluded.

Manila, Philippines – Allenie Caccam, the head of marketing of AirAsia in the Philippines, is adding podcast hosting to her list of credentials. Caccam just launched her own podcast ‘The Middle Manager Show’ which tackles real-life challenges of being a middle manager.

“Before we become CEOs, we are middle managers after all,” said the podcast’s ‘About’ on Spotify. 

The show is already three episodes in, with the pilot podcast launching on 23 August. For its latest episode, Caccam conversed with top corporate consultant in the Philippines and Apprentice Asia winner, Jonathan Yabut. 

When asked why focus on management instead of marketing in the podcast, Caccam shared to MARKETECH APAC, “There are tons of books and articles that talk about marketing, but there’s not a lot on middle management. While training my team [at AirAsia], especially those who just got promoted to manager, I realized there are certain skills that I thought were natural, but apparently were not and when I dug deeper, I realized managing in the middle is more complex than it looks.” 

Admittedly an introvert, Caccam shared that more than the medium appealing to her natural strength as a person, she chose podcast because she believes a podcast is able to create the environment “where you are listening to a friend speaking over the phone,” and that in that way, it seems more personal and intimate.

Caccam adds, “I want to create that space where the show sounds like your usual pantry session where you exchange [pieces of] advice with your workmates.” 

Caccam entered AirAsia in 2014, and prior to landing her marketing head role in the airline, she assumed the position marketing manager and senior manager for international marketing.

She shared that topics she discusses in the podcast are actually topics she has already touched base with her team in AirAsia first. 

“They are willing guinea pigs and I am so grateful to them. Because we have a direct relationship, aside from the topics discussed in the show, I do have one-on-ones with them so the mentoring is still personalized,” shared Caccam.

Each episode of the podcast is less than 30 minutes in order to, Caccam said, cater to the fast-paced schedule of managers. The topics are picked based on information gathered from an initial survey of new managers, and those who are already head of departments which range from discussing the basics of the middle manager’s dilemma to navigating the first six months as a new manager. 

According to Caccam, the show would probably be less than 20 episodes for the first season, but the idea is that topics will also mature with the audience with the assumption that they are also growing in their role.

“Possibly the topics can tackle more complicated [or] complex situations in the future! Right now, it’s testing the market. It’s a new podcast, barely a month in, but what I really love is it has an average of 80% retention, so those who are listening are really interested!” shared Caccam.

In January this year, MARKETECH APAC sat down for a virtual interview with Caccam on MARKETECH Mondays to get to know her career journey in marketing. 

In the interview, she shared her philosophy in leadership, “I always make it a point to be more self-aware [because of that perspective]. For example, if your team is not doing well, it doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re not good, but also because maybe, it’s your style of leading them, and maybe there’s something more that you need to do from your end so they could do better.”

It would be hard to believe that Allenie Caccam, the head of marketing of one of the biggest airlines in Asia, AirAsia, in the Philippines is a self-confessed introvert–but now that she boasts of more than ten years of PR and marketing experience, you would think–she must have done something right. 

Allenie didn’t just thrive her way to an industry that is still mostly tagged as an extrovert’s world, but she did it with so much excellence that she rose through the ranks to become a top executive of a top airline brand. 

She started out as a marketing manager for the airline in the Philippines in 2014, eventually climbing up the ladder to become its senior manager for international marketing, then finally, assuming the role of head of marketing at a period that is none other than during the height of the pandemic. 

No surprise there–if you had to tap someone to trust your marketing during an unprecedented crisis, it would be Allenie. She is a Mass Communications graduate from the top national university in the country, University of the Philippines (UP), and carries a master’s degree in Business Administration from Asia School of Business. 

Fresh out of college, she began her grip in the industry as a PR manager at Grey Group which was still called Campaigns & Grey Philippines at the time. Before stepping into the world of aviation, she also had her time whipping up marketing strategies and creative campaigns for milk consumer goods company, Alaska Milk Corporation. 

In the MARKETECH Mondays interview, Allenie did not just let us in on her great career journey, but also gave insights that only a person with a unique experience of hers could impart – on failures and successes, on leadership, and ultimately, a veteran’s advice to the budding marketers of the new generation. 

An introvert’s foray into the colorful but sometimes rowdy world of marketing

It’s been months since we’ve started our MARKETECH Mondays webisode, and if there’s one thing marketing leaders speak in consensus, it’s that marketing may look fun on the surface, but is actually a work demanding of great determination and grit. 

Admitting to being an introvert, starting out as a PR manager took a challenge for neophyte Allenie at the time, sharing that her first dip into the industry immediately thrust her to do a lot of ‘people work’. 

As an introvert, it was very hard for me to talk to media, to talk to different kinds of stakeholders, presenting in big meetings. It was really going out of my comfort zone.

Albeit a challenge, Allenie said that more than anything, the experience was ‘exciting’. 

Allenie Caccam_MARKETECH Mondays_Olay_CAPRI
Allenie’s PR unit CAPRI in 2011 at the launch of Olay Natural White Bar

“Most of the skills that I learned during that time are also the same skills that I think have been useful in my career journey even after staying in the PR industry.” 

Allenie’s PR unit at Grey was called CAPRI, where she did PR campaigns for multinational companies. Her first PR event was a launch for a fashion brand and was tasked to do media relations. 

She shared that as a beginner, she had a lot of sit-down engagements with her bosses, hence, reiterates the importance of feedback at such stage of one’s marketing career. 

Learn as much as you can. I was always having one-on-one talks with my managing director, my direct boss during that time, and we would always sit down and discuss what are the things that should be happening in the day-to-day.

Allenie adds, “A lot of it is also trying to figure out what you really want to contribute to the group. For example, if you’re really into a certain type of industry, then that’s also I think [something that] you should voice out to your manager or to your direct boss so that you could actually hone your skills first at something that you’re comfortable with, and then as you become more confident in what you’re doing, then you start to venture into other industries or [to] other products, or [to] other companies that could actually expand your knowledge or your expertise.”

How the concept of failure and success evolved for Allenie

Having started a decade ago, Allenie said that with growth, her concept of ‘failure’ and ‘success’ has also naturally evolved. When before, failing would mean that a creative idea or campaign has not translated to sales or the target engagement, being a leader changes those entirely, where now, a fallout or a victory is more closely anchored to people management. 

Earlier marketing stints saw Allenie launching Alaska’s Krem-Top coffee creamer product to compete with leading Nescafe brand at the time, and when she stepped into the AirAsia company, earlier roles had her driving the network expansion plan of the airline in the country and lead digital campaigns to promote international routes. All of those–she shared, was what used to be her ultimate metric of success and failure.

Allenie Caccam_MARKETECH Mondays_AirAsia 1
International team of AirAsia Philippines in 2018

From just projects [and] meeting the targets, now it’s also more of how successful am I in building or training the members of my team. Now, failure for me is if they didn’t learn anything, or if they’re not improving, or if they’re not growing.

Success then would be the counter of such possible shortcomings in team management. For Allenie, success now meant being able to successfully launch those under her to manage their own, or heck, see them become even better than her, or when those that are more senior to her are able to recognize the efforts of her team. 

Now having assumed two senior leadership roles in AirAsia in a span of three years, she shared that at times, her team members have grown to be more confident that they don’t bother anymore to ask for her opinion – to which she agrees is a “good thing.”

Seeing your team being able to handle their own [projects], [and when] you would see the difference between you holding their hands before versus now that they don’t even ask for your opinion anymore because they already know what they’re doing–those are the moments that I think I’ve been really, really successful.

As a leader: ‘As above, so below’

Allenie is no doubt a leader not just in title but in heart. Even after a decade-long professional career, when it comes to leadership, she still clings to a principle that she learned way back as a university student which is ‘As above, so below’–a philosophy pertaining to the close relationship between the forces taking place below a surface and above it, such as leaderhip.

I always make it a point to be more self-aware [because of that perspective]. For example, if your team is not doing well, it doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re not good, but also because maybe, it’s your style of leading them, and maybe there’s something more that you need to do from your end so they could do better.

AirAsia marketing team 2020
AirAsia marketing team 2020

Allenie believes that leadership is looking at your team as a reflection of how you are as a leader – how you manage, how you decide, and your mood as a leader. 

“I always make it a point [to] do self-reflection, especially when I’m having a stressful day [or week], [I try to see] how does that affect my team, and however they are performing is a reflection of how I am training them.”

On a more operational level, Allenie scratches the idea of “imposing things,” instead, engages the team through conversations to talk about the important ‘whys’. 

“[I like] having discussions with them to talk about the ‘whys’ like ‘why do you want to do this’, or ‘why is your strategy this and not that’”

I think when your team understands their ‘why’, why they are doing things, why they are performing a certain task, then it becomes more natural for them to initiate actions or to initiate solutions because they understand the reason why they’re doing it.

To budding marketers–specialization and being collaborative are the ways to go

Specialization–that is Allenie’s advice to the upcoming generation of marketers as we conclude the MARKETECH Mondays interview. You would think that carrying such ‘versatility’ in the profession – with experience in product development, PR, and aviation and route management – such advice would be ironic, but it actually takes someone who has successfully made ‘the rounds’ and experienced different pathways in the profession to know that being out in the field and experimenting is only part of sharpening the saw. 

Know everything or know the basics, and then you specialize [in] one thing, so that you have a specific skill set that only caters to that before you expand to the others, [because] that will also help you get a direction on what career path you want [to take] in the marketing industry.

Allenie also touches on another important thing, something that transcends expertise and one that encourages good work ethic – and that is being collaborative. 

Allenie believes that while marketing is one of the core departments in any company, it is only one part of the equation and that whatever success comes out of one brand’s marketing efforts, it is always, and will be a product of a good collaboration with other departments. 

Just because you’re [in] marketing, doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t care [about] all the other departments. Marketing is one of the core departments in any brand or in any company, and [if you] know how operations work, know how finance, [sales] [or] [PR] works, [and just] know how all the other departments work, you can come up with better marketing strategies and better campaigns that [are] more holistic and [more] collaborative.

She adds, “If you just focus on marketing, it’s not just about shouting prices, it’s not just about coming up with buzzwords, or the next big thing, [because] a lot of those insights come from the feedback of the [other] departments. Usually, successful campaigns are successful because it involves full cooperation of the other departments in the company.” 

Ultimately, she said, “Sometimes, the real core ideas of our campaigns also come from other departments. Stay collaborative all the way.”

Watch our live interview with Allenie Caccam on our YouTube channel.

If you are a marketing leader and have an inspiring story to share, email us at [email protected].