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Main Feature Marketing Southeast Asia

From Economics major to marketing dir of Grand Hyatt Manila: ‘I’m a believer that you can try’

In this month’s episode of #MARKETECHMondays, we spotlight a marketing exec from the industry of hospitality management. 

Heidi Manabat, the current director for marketing communications at global hotel brand Grand Hyatt in Manila is the perfect example of how passions run deep – if one is someone’s calling, life will bring down its wondrous ways and somehow sway you into the direction you’re meant to be. 

Originally having her eyes on business management with an economics degree in hand, Heidi knew she wanted to thrive in the creative side of things.

Heidi recounted in the #MARKETECHMondays interview that while everyone else went to work for banks after college, she immediately responded to where her heart is pushing her –  as a marketing officer – at the time for sports clothing and gear brand Mizuno in the Philippines.

After her first dip into marketing, Heidi kind of went back a little, and assumed the role of a real estate officer for none other than the McDonald’s brand in the Philippines.

It was when she decided to re-explore her career options, and braved the journey of fully pursuing marketing that she found her position at Henann Group of Resorts, starting her foothold and esteem in the world of hospitality management. 

“I’m a believer that you can try.”

Heidi believes in one simple, but often unpracticed principle – try something to know if you can do it, rather than spend your days wondering of the possibilities. 

“I’m a believer [that] you can try. It’s better for you to try rather than just wonder if you could have gone into it, or if you could’ve made it or not,” said Heidi. 

This brave mindset is what would later on jumpstart and define her career in marketing for some of the most renowned brands of hotels and resorts. 

In 2015, Heidi ‘tried’ and successfully landed the group marketing manager role for Henann Group of Resorts – bolstering the branding and marketing of four resorts in the famous Boracay beach in the country and one in Bohol province. 

After this, Heidi became the Cluster Head For Marketing Communications & Public Relations at the Philippine arm of Singapore-headquartered hotel and serviced residences company The Ascott Limited, handling a total of eight properties. Then just before assuming her current position at Grand Hyatt, she also first became Marketing Communications & Public Relations Manager at Crimson Boracay, going back to the island in 2019 to take charge of the management of the resort’s brand awareness and personality. 

All this from the strong belief that with a simple step, great things can grow out of the once uncharted territory. 

“I don’t come into things afraid,” said Heidi.   

When Heidi was a real estate officer for McDonald’s, the transition to marketing was not just a mere shift, whereas she had to go through changes on both job function and industry. 

“It was a fun challenge,” she continued. “When I started, [I assessed] what I [needed] to do. Just started reviewing everything, and started looking into what had to be done.” 

Heidi shared that the biggest challenge in fact was, maneuvering in a marketing dynamic where traditional and modern practices were still at odds.

Heidi revealed in the interview that in her first foray into marketing in Hennan, a lot of the big bosses in the company were very traditional, and the new practices of marketing, such as influencer marketing were still considered taboo. 

“During that time, [it was still] the beginning of [social] media marketing and influencer marketing,” she shared. 

On Heidi’s part, she said the challenge was about fast tracking on learning how to take care of media, and looking after influencers: “Learning how to take care of other people for me to be able to make them feel [that what] they’ll experience [is] unique to Hennan, or to the resorts that we’re inviting them to. It was more of the service side” 

“It was quite a challenge, but as you know, it all worked out in the end,” she said. 

Failures and successes for Heidi

Much of what Heidi considers as success was during her first marketing stint at Henann – an experience to which she refers to as the ‘eye opener’, ultimately making her realize that marketing is something she’s capable of doing. 

“[It’s really Hennan]. [It] will always be one of the brands that will always be near and dear to my heart, ‘cause that’s where I made my mark.”

To be specific, the milestone was when she was able to successfully handle a campaign on her own – the grand opening of Henann Resort in Panglao, Alona Beach, in Bohol Philippines and the partnership of Henann and Asian airline AirAsia, where its aircraft had been painted with the Hennan logo. 

“That’s where I really grew as a marketing person, and I’m always thankful for all the opportunities, all of the learnings, [the] knowledge, [and all] the skills I was able to hone or learn during that period.”

With failures on the other hand, Heidi believes there is no such thing. 

“This may sound weird but I really don’t consider missteps failures,” she shared. 

“I feel like they are more of lessons rather than failures. I don’t have anything major but I would say in general, the missteps I’ve made have taught me to be more thorough and detailed about everything that I do.” 

Heidi as a leader: “I’m not your boss, I’m here to help you.”

As a manager, Heidi doesn’t believe in the traditional way of leading. Regardless of names and titles, she views team dynamics as how it really is – less of the hierarchy and more of the achievement of one goal. 

“I always believe in being considerate, in being firm but being considerate,” she said.

For her, the best leadership style is leading through example.  

“I’ll always be the first to [notice instances] [when one would] want us to listen to [something], but [that person] [would do the same thing], or want us to follow [orders], but don’t follow [his own] orders,” explained Heidi. 

“For me, it’s very important to lead by example, very important to be compassionate, to be considerate, to be firm, [but] to understand what the other person is going through,” she added. 

She also touches on one other important thing – empathy. 

Heidi believes that more so in marketing, the practice of empathy is important. 

“Empathy is something that you really need in this industry, mainly because in marketing and PR, it’s something that you need to possess. Because you’re dealing with other people’s lives, other people’s feelings, other people’s experiences. You need to be someone that has that ability to understand.” 

Advice for budding marketers: “Do not be disheartened easily, people [think] that marketing is an easy task.” 

For those wishing to enter the world of marketing, Heidi says to hold your horses on whatever misconception of the field, because what looks glamorous on the onset is far from the real thing. 

“My advice is do not be disheartened easily. People may think that marketing is an easy task but what most people don’t realize is that it’s actually one of the most taxing industries cause it’s not for those that are not passionate. It’s not just art but one has to be creative yet logical,” said Heidi. 

And when it comes to the bread and butter of marketers – campaigns – Heidi said one has to be well-thought and that it’s important to have that strong belief in your idea. 

“If you want to make it in marketing, you have to have the grit, passion, commitment, and vision – you also have to be strong-willed,” said Heidi.

“There will always be struggles but seeing the realization of your work will always be one of the best feelings in the world. So, keep going and keep pushing. Don’t let any challenges or negativity stop you,”  she concluded.

Catch our live interview with Heidi today at 6:30 pm PST on our YouTube channel.

This was done in collaboration with Blogapalooza Inc. Blogapalooza Inc. is an influencer marketing company, which manages business-influencer collaborations for conversations across different platforms.

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Premium Main Feature Marketing Southeast Asia

#MARKETECHMondays: Dabs Castillo, Co-Managing Director, M2.0 Communications

Not all the time do you hear a dedicated wordsmith successfully launch as a leader – and our latest marketing expert in the spotlight is a living embodiment of that: passionate writer turned strategic leader Dabs Castillo, who is the current co-managing director of one of the leading PR and digital communications agencies in the Philippines, M2.0 Communications. 

Dabs have long assumed senior leadership positions at the agency, but his directorial role came at a time when the world was struck with a threatening virus – talk about double the challenge, double the pressure. 

Having “stringing words together” as a passion, Dabs has set out to be a full-fledged storyteller for brands – find out how the once energetic and ardent “racketeer” finally found his stable place in the world of marketing – and more.

Starting out as a writing “mercenary”

If we’re to go all the way back, Dabs didn’t really immediately foray into the professional world as an eager writer, rather, just like all others, he simply wanted one thing: to get a job and be employed. 

Back in 2008, Dabs was a budding professional at a time when opportunities weren’t as abundant in the country for someone like him. With the booming BPO industry during the period, Dabs found himself in an internationally sourced position – a copywriter for an auto parts firm in the US. 

As Dabs puts it, he began as a writing “mercenary.” Aside from the copywriting post, he took on numerous writing gigs – ranging from ghost blogging to creative writing for ad agencies   

“The economy was entering a recession and great opportunities were in short supply. At the same time, I was not exactly an honor student so I knew I needed to work doubly hard to prove my worth to employers,” he said in the #MARKETECHMondays interview.

As Dabs went on to building his craft, being a contributing writer to local news outfit The Philippine Online Chronicles and creating copy for big Filipino brands under ad agency Saatchi & Saatchi, it became the key to what would ground him on another calling – being a creatives strategist and leading people. 

Dabs’ journey to marketing leadership

By 2013, Dabs knew his adventurous writing stint had run its course and that he needed to push himself to find stability; stumbling upon his current company M2.0 Communications at the time, little would he know that more than a sustainable environment in store for him was eventually a ticket to the world of marketing creatives.

Starting out as a copywriter at M2.0 Communications, he eventually moved up positions, and after two years, found himself at the forefront of campaigns – cooking up strategies for public relations and social media for big brands such as canned goods Del Monte, chocolate brand Loacker, and premium residential development Crown Asia. 

The turning point came when one of the company’s senior managers had been absent for a campaign pitch and Dabs had to step in. 

“That sort of tickled my appetite for campaigns. [Campaigns] for me is storytelling, campaigns [are about] stories,” said Dabs. 

From there on, he had slowly been introduced to different areas of the business beyond content, and that’s when he started to assume the role of a strategist, developing a more intimate understanding of the bigger picture.

Of his current role – co-managing director – an appointment given to him just January of this year, Dabs said, “[it was] everything I had hoped for and nothing that I expected.”

He further said, “In short, it can be at times overwhelming. I was always comfortable with the technical aspect of communications work, but looking back, I don’t think I was ready for the responsibility of bringing people together.” 

It was when M2.0 Communications CEO Doy Roque had to leave for a trip abroad and Dabs had to proxy as the firm’s OIC that he first got roped into the responsibility of his new role.

“I think that was the first time I recognized the possibility to do this role.”

Dabs as a leader: “It’s important to build a culture where people aren’t afraid to make mistakes.”

In the interview, Dabs shared how he takes mentorship from every person he works with, as there is always something to learn from each one, and when it comes to one of his core principles in leadership – it’s something he learned firsthand from his colleagues.

During a big pitch for a major fast food chain – something Dabs would also say a “failure” he won’t forget – he had messed up a presentation that had been perfectly prepared for three months prior.

“We had [a] good team, the right messages, good executions, [and] the deck was so nice, [and] it was one of my earlier pitches. [But] when the presentation came, I couldn’t string six words together.” 

“I really think I didn’t deliver the pitch, I didn’t deliver the presentation value that was needed to push that thing forward. But everything else, going into it, I thought we had it.”

Despite having carried a burden off it for a long time, what struck Dabs most is how his colleagues accepted the incident, and afforded him the same level of respect even after falling short with the project. 

“What struck me the most was how people were still receptive of my inputs, even after that, because [with myself], I take it personally, and they treated me like I didn’t make a mistake.”

And with such storm, one of Dabs’ valuable outlooks on leadership came to him – the importance of building a culture where people are not afraid of mistakes. 

He also said that one’s success as a leader “depends on three things: time, people, power.”

“Leadership is about finding the time to manage a thousand moving parts effectively; [It’s] about engaging people and aligning them to the broader goals of an organization; [It’s] about embracing a realistic understanding of accountability and authority,” he added.

How about leading during this time of pandemic?

The biggest challenge for Dabs and his organization also emerged to be one of its great successes – being able to work effectively as a team and bringing good stories to brands amid limited activity and interaction. 

Dabs’ not so novel, but undoubtedly effective antidote to the problem – looking at the silver lining. 

“When this lockdown started, I told my team that we might find something better at the other side of it. And I think, if we put in the work, set aside the distractions of this thing, [since] it’s really hard to work from home, I think we might find a better version of ourselves.”

Having been tapped for the role right at this time, Dabs made sure he focused on what’s important, and that is his people. 

“For an agency that takes such pride in its culture, the work from home arrangement was quite a big dilemma. Earlier on, our leadership team made a strong commitment to focus on people. We doubled down on engaging everyone so as not to lose what we valued the most: working for each other.”

Advice for would-be marketers: “Embrace changes, but hang on to fundamentals.”

In the ever-evolving field of marketing, it’s smart to adapt and learn the ropes of the newer practices and trends, but Dabs said that with a digital world that peels off its latest buzz by the minute, it’s all the more reason to focus on the fundamentals. 

“I believe the fundamental concepts of this business do not yield. As we enter a more data-driven age, we mustn’t forget that understanding people is and always will be the grounding compass of this industry.”

“Digital makes [marketing] highly conducive to disruption. Your success depends on your capacity to integrate new approaches, while tempering them with time and tested tactics.”

Specifically with developing meaningful campaigns, Dabs said those fundamental blocks would be writing and conceptualization. 

“These elements are learnable and given enough dedication, training, and experience, they can be mastered.” 

Dabs also touched on one other important thing – research and development.

“Because the industry is highly susceptible to disruption, our agency also doubled down in research and development efforts during the pandemic. We developed new products, ranging from more data driven reports to online events. We now have ON3, our very own webinar platform dedicated to engaging communities. Our first two series focused on the digital evolution of communications and the challenges of the pandemic for startups.”

Then he goes back to the most important factor – the lifeline of all – people. 

“I would argue that the bigger takeaway from my earlier experiences is the value of collaboration. The way things are set up today, where people have access to information in the comfort of a tap, we often undervalue people skills – which shouldn’t be the case.”

Watch the full video of this interview on our YouTube channel, going live today at 6:30 pm PST.

This was done in collaboration with Blogapalooza Inc. Blogapalooza Inc is an influencer marketing company, which manages business-influencer collaborations for conversations across different platforms.


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Main Feature Marketing Southeast Asia

#MARKETECHMondays: Raffy Bariso, Executive Director, Technology and Platform Services, MullenLowe Treyna

“The pandemic is the biggest digital disruptor” – these are the very first words from Raffy Bariso when we chatted with him on the #MARKETECHMondays interview.

Raffy is currently the executive director for Technology and Platform Services or TAPS, the digital unit of integrated marketing communications agency MullenLowe Treyna in the Philippines; and with the pandemic pivoting everything to digital, the word “busy” has taken a whole ‘nother meaning, with Raffy disclaiming, “busy but rewarding.”

Raffy’s entry into tech and digital has been a straightforward path, starting out as an account executive for a website back in 2004. The journey may not have been dotted with exhilarating career turns that are straight out of the movies, but still can be said to be a work of fate, with the field not being Raffy’s well-intended path.

As a communications major, he desired working for the big names – the multinational agencies in the creative industry – but with little luck, took his first professional gig in the area of digital within a boutique agency; and from there, his expertise grew.

By 2010, he was taking on a senior managerial position for digital projects, and that’s when a former boss peddled his services to MullenLowe, eventually moving into a consultant role for a campaign on food seasoning brand Knorr. MullenLowe Treyna was one of the multinational agencies that invested in building a digital team, and when he started working fully for the firm in 2011, his work spanned creatives, digital media, and social media marketing. 

Now at TAPS, he heads its services, which is mainly the use of creative technology to answer clients’ marketing challenges, coming up with products that leverage on the firm’s expertise in strategic narrative, content and media, PR, activations, and production.

Armed with an omnibus of experience in digital 15 years after, he goes on to share his most fulfilling campaigns, his definition of success and failure, his creative heroes, and how he manages a team landscape that has more profound generational differences than ever.

Value-led campaigns under his belt: Knorr and 7-11

For Raffy, the most remarkable campaigns he did were those that advocated and fronted social values.

Most recently, he worked on a family-oriented campaign for Knorr – a short film called “Kanya, Kanya” which means “being on one’s own.” The project was close to Raffy’s heart as it brought the message of togetherness despite circumstances that may cause a family to take space and time apart.

“[It’s about] how sometimes [being] exposed to a lot of technology, and the [pandemic], sorts of divide the family; but [that] at the end of the day, your family can bring comfort, and that comfort can come from like a food, lovingly prepared by your loved ones, or your friends,” said Raffy.

Another remarkable project is that of convenience store chain 7-11, which he revealed as “one of the highlights of my career.” The campaign was launched at the time of the presidential elections in the Philippines in 2016, and with the use of the famous self-service Gulp cups from the brand, the campaign intended to inspire citizens the importance of voting.

With the candidates’ images printed on the cups, the store chain ran an informal vote canvassing, called “Gulpihan sa 7-11,” with the Gulp integrated to the word which means “Fight.”

Raffy said, “My involvement was more on helping us react to the country that was being divided by the elections. This was Gulpihan sa 7-Eleven.”

“It was important for the mere fact that we wanted to encourage people to vote instead of being undecided. We won awards both internationally and locally.”

His creatives hero: the mentor who reframes challenges into solutions

Not everybody is able to name on top of their heads a particular mentor, with most owing their inspiration to a multitude of exemplary individuals. Though not entirely an exception, with Raffy looking up to a number of female leaders, it was clear-cut – his biggest mentor of them all is MullenLowe’s chief product consultant, and formerly president Leigh Reyes. 

“I’ve been in the industry for 15 years, and I’ve been blessed being in the same breathing space with a lot of advertising legends, but I think out of all of them, Leigh Reyes would be the person that had the most impact in my career, and actually my personal life.”

According to Raffy, in every meeting that Leigh would be present in, one is able to get a lot of value from such simple interaction. 

“What makes her great for me is her generosity as a leader. A lot of the marketing principles that I’ve learned would have to come from her.” 

“[During meetings], the way she reframes arguments and challenges, and comes up with solutions, [which] she can put together in a stack, in a new technology. ” 

Raffy further said, “When she was inducted into the Creative Guild Hall of Fame in 2015, she said something about being generous with your ideas, [and] that by doing so, you let other people shine, and this reflects back to the whole team and industry.”

Failure for him is, “Everytime I do not apply myself.”

As if Raffy’s creative credentials in digital and tech isn’t enough to call him multi-talented, there comes the history of his passion for the performing arts. He said that for him, failure is when every time he’s not able to apply his passions.

Back in his college days, Raffy actively pursued singing, dancing and scriptwriting, and even described his experiences as that of theatrical series Glee. 

“Categorically, I cannot say there are any [failures] that [qualify] as great; however, I failed at pursuing other interests like doing performance arts, scriptwriting, or simply pursuing a career overseas.”

His other passions may have taken a pause, but only for the reason that he already found one of his great loves: advertising. 

“[The] opportunities I’ve turned down in the past, I realize [I’ve done them] because I enjoy what I am doing in advertising.”  

“So the best thing for me [now] is to maximize my time in learning from everyone I work with, so that I can create opportunities that can help further my contribution in the agency.”

For the great success on the other hand, Raffy said it would be his tenure and post in MullenLowe. 

“I have been here for almost 10 years and so much has changed. MullenLowe Treyna has given me a room to grow and maximize my potential, so staying around has been an easy decision.”

Raffy as a leader in a youth-dominated field of digital

Raffy describes his team as “most being really young, and in their early 20’s.”

He shared what he loves about Gen Z’s: “They really seek out mentorship, and information, and want to have that kind of high-touch interaction with you. And I think, I feel pretty privileged that I get [to have that kind of interaction]. 

Raffy says he considers himself a little green on the job, as only prior to two years ago on his appointment as digital lead at MullenLowe, he was used to working alone.

“[Stepping into the position], there’s a side of me that I’ve already known, and just sort of confirming those things for me; and there are portions of myself [as a leader] that I have come to discover.”

Even in the mid of achieving full growth into the senior role, Raffy abides by his approach that centers around “vision.”

His personal mantra is that of American author Seth Godin, which goes, “The secret of leadership is simple: do what you believe in. paint a picture of the future. go there. people will follow.”  

Raffy said, “I had to set [a] vision for my team. [This] sets the tone and direction for everybody, and [from them], I have to sell that vision, [so that] I can build that trust, and they can get behind my goals.”

He also upholds that sense of responsibility for his team, to nurture their talents, because he believes “it starts from the top.” 

“Let me tell you first that I am not perfect. It is easier to spot the mistakes, and call them out; but as they happen, you should reflect if there are bad habits that you tend to pass down to your team.”

“When you see them able to stand on their own during meetings, execute decisions without you, failing and learning from their own mistakes. That’s a moment.”

Watch the full video of this interview on our YouTube channel, going live today at 6:30 pm PST.

If you’re a marketing leader and you want to share your career experience to inspire the marketing industry, please reach out, we want to hear your story.

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Main Feature Marketing APAC

#MARKETECHMondays: Prashant Kala, Country Manager, ShopBack Philippines

Before joining rewards and discounts platform ShopBack in the Philippines, Prashant was with the Philippine arm of India-grown restaurant aggregator Zomato for five years. 

What made him do the big shift? In Prashant’s words, he said he wanted to do something “different than what he was used to working on.” Having always been on the B2B side of things, he was looking for a project that will make him work on both B2B and B2C and stumbling upon Shopback, the opportunity on the platform gave him the challenge of not just building its partners but growing its users as well. 

Now the country manager of ShopBack, we sat down with Prashant to know more about his humble beginnings and the journey he took before becoming the head of one of the leading shopping platforms in the region.

First foray into marketing

Fresh out of a master’s degree, Prashant didn’t veer away too far from roots, and in fact, had his very first job right in the university he graduated in, as an assistant manager for sales and marketing in the Institute for Integrated Learning in Management (IILM) – Institute for Higher Education in Delhi, India.

Working with students as a target segment, he shared that the type of marketing the role had him doing was not in the likes of big advertising projects, but rather, more personalized.

“I was handling marketing for the college across North India and a couple of international markets. The whole focus was to attract a huge student pool to apply for our courses and finally assisting them with their admissions and courses,” he said in the #MARKETECHMondays interview.

“It was more about talking to people, [more about] community building; It was a lot about knowing exactly what people are looking at, [and more] of career development.”

On Mentorship: “Everybody has taught me something.”

When asked about his role models, Prashant struggled to name one particular person and said that he’s the type who seeks inspiration from every person he meets.

“Professionally, I have had a chance to work with some amazing people over the years and I would say everyone that I meet has been able to make me learn something new. I don’t really have one mentor for all aspects of my professional development but I seek advice and guidance from multiple role models in my life.”

That is at least, professionally. But when it comes to his personal values, he didn’t have to think hard and said he owed his good ethics to his parents and uncles.

“In terms of personal growth, I think my parents and my uncles have always been the biggest source of inspiration in my life. I have learned the value of hard work and most importantly, I have learned the value of how to be true to people who expect your feedback and suggestions in life no matter how harsh the truth is from my father and my uncles.”

“I’m still waiting for the greatest career success.”

It would be naive to say that with Prashant’s experience, he still hasn’t claimed success, but for him, there is still a greatness ahead that’s yet to be tapped.

“I really hope I find it later in life and not very soon as I really want to keep getting that rush of trying to get smaller successes, and I want to keep dreaming of [greater success]. I think that thought drives me every morning so I wouldn’t want to achieve it that fast.”

Of course with successes also come the failures. And still within the context of “great,” he believes there is no such thing.

“I won’t call any failure a great failure [as] every failure comes in with disappointments, and I don’t think we can categorize something [as great].”

“Instead of failures, I would say I had many challenges where I was unable to find a solution quicker which would have been ideal.”

Making that more specific, he said that the most critical setbacks were when good people leave your team.

“I have lost a few teammates in the past and that always sets your plan a few feet back but I think every situation teaches you something new, but one takeaway that one such setback gave me was to have a plan B but not to rely on it and give plan A 100%.”

He added, “Also plan B cannot be a totally different plan from A and they both have to be interconnected, else you are going to start from scratch which will push you to take a lot of reverse steps.”

Prashant’s words to live by: “Be a best friend to yourself.”

For Prashant, the secret to success need not be too far away from oneself, and the key is to be your own best friend, an honest and frank one at that.

“Keep it real, no matter how difficult it is, and be your best friend so you can talk real with yourself.”

“Best friends don’t shy away from telling you harsh truths. As a team lead, I try to be as real as possible with my teammates, clients and even [the] people around me. I don’t shy away in giving or taking feedback and I try to keep it timely, as well as even [to] myself.”

How about for those who are eyeing to enter the world of marketing?

Prashant said, “Read a lot, follow great brands and their campaigns, [and] take risks but always calculate what you want to achieve out of it. Always have the eye on the goal and do backward mapping, or back designing to achieve it.”

Watch the full video of this interview on our YouTube channel, going live today at 5:30 pm PST.

If you’re a marketing leader and you want to share your career experience to inspire the marketing industry, please reach out, we want to hear your story.

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Main Feature Marketing South Asia

#MARKETECHMONDAYS: Jasrita Dhir, Assistant Vice President, Fortis Healthcare India

For the third episode of #MARKETECHMONDAYS, MARKETECH APAC and Blogapalooza conversed with Jasrita Dhir, one of the most coveted women marketing leaders in the healthcare sector in India. 

#MARKETINGMONDAYS is an interview webisode every second and fourth Mondays of each month, where we showcase inspirational marketing leaders to impart their journey as well as their insights into the field, and their advice for budding marketers in the oftentimes challenge-filled, but undeniably dynamic world of marketing.

Jasrita’s marketing journey stretches a long two-decade integration into the craft. She has worked with companies such as Procter & Gamble, Oberoi Hotels and Resorts and NDTV before having focused entirely on brand and marketing for healthcare services. 

She was the woman behind some of the successful marketing strategies of healthcare services at Max Healthcare, and later on at Fortis Healthcare.

Having walked the path to eventually becoming a highly-regarded marketing leader, she admits that at the end of it all, the thing that matters the most isn’t the glamour and luster of brand ownership; but goes back to the simple reason of why you chose to become a marketer, that is, the ability to impact and make better the lives of consumers. 

First ever dip into marketing

Ever since Jasrita stepped into the professional world, her career journey has always trailed the direction of marketing, particularly in healthcare brands. Her first job in the field was as a marketing communications manager at Max Healthcare, one of India’s biggest healthcare service providers. Five years prior to such post, she was immersed in direct marketing or sales for Procter & Gamble, where eventually the calling to endeavor in more creative work is what pulled her to fully take a shift. 

Chance did not take it easy on her, debuting as a marketing woman. For her first project: a campaign to launch the flagship facility of the company in the upmarket residential colony of South Delhi, Saket. 

Truly an intimidating assignment for a freshie, the weight of variables involved proves it to be far from sweet and easy. Four newly hired department heads at the time, each with a different institutes to be launched. 

“I had to work on the entire stack of marketing communications of the flagship facility of Max Healthcare that they were launching. It was their biggest facility which is in Saket in South Delhi. There were four very senior doctors who were hired; their institute collaterals had to be made, each one of their institutes had to be launched, and then the overall hospital had to be launched,” said Dhir.

“From the pre-launch buzz, to the launch day, followed by the post-launch sustenance phase, and all of that, that was my big, first campaign; a trial by fire.”


Her first ever campaign may have had her grappling, but such was what ultimately grounded her fundamentals into the work of a marketer; launching her into a career that would later on, expand over a decade, where she now finds herself as the AVP for brand and marketing at Fortis Healthcare. 

The intricacies of healthcare marketing

Marketing in healthcare separates itself from other types of marketing. When one’s mind touches on marketing, it is easy to immediately think of it in terms of a tangible product that is being promoted. But in healthcare, one of those products is a doctor – a highly skilled individual.

Having been into this subfield of marketing for almost 2 decades, Jasrita knows all too well of the technicality of being tasked to own a brand of healthcare nature, and says that there isn’t any other way to thrive but to “roll up one’s sleeves.” 

“When you get into healthcare, you have got to understand that healthcare is a technical field. If you are not a doctor yourself, you have to get your hands dirty. You have to understand your product, your product is the doctor, your product is a highly-skilled individual, whose time is at a premium. So you have to put in the effort that goes into understanding your product and educating yourself,”


And by getting your hands dirty, she means shadowing the doctors, even if that requires you to be in an operating room yourself.


“You get to learn while being with the doctors in their OPDs, be at the operating theatre [and] see how a surgery is done, and then talk about it, then market it.”


Cause-based Marketing: Campaigns that don’t merely plug a product 

Jasrita mainly describes herself as passionate, and for her, to do something is to do it with passion, and with heart. With her identity as a marketer, cause-based marketing had become her personal advocacy. For her, the field is not just an avenue to promote a product but to impact lives – the lives of the consumers. 

When asked about the most memorable campaigns under her watch, the notable ones that came about weren’t those that have product plugging as the main aim, but projects that have advocated behavioral change, and those that as a result, have actually helped save lives.

Around 2015, Fortis Healthcare launched the #MoreToGive campaign, with an objective to encourage more Indians to donate their organs. The nationwide campaign was based off data from WHO that in India, the organ donation rate fares far from well with only 0.5 donors per million (at the start of the campaign).

The campaign adopted influential and famous ambassadors from different fields – war veterans, movie stars and sports personalities – to encourage civilians to pledge their organs. And after 3 years the needle has been pushed from 0.5 to 0.96 donors per million, and people who were actually waiting for a crucial organ donation were able to receive one.

Another campaign that Jasrita is quite proud of is the twitter campaign called, “Unmute yourself;” targeted to encourage people dealing with depression and mental illnesses to open up and jumpstart a healing process.


She says there is nothing more “Immensely gratifying” when you as a marketer are able to do something to make the world a more livable place. One of the groups of people predisposed to such campaign were students who are susceptible to suicidal tendencies during exams time. 


Advocacy-focused marketing as Jasrita lives by, meant staying true to the sincere and genuine purpose of helping people and spreading awareness on issues that truly matter. For the “Unmute yourself” campaign, personalities who had experienced real-life struggles with mental health such as sports personalities as well as film, and movie stars were tapped to lead the forefront of the advocacy, bringing the message that anyone can be impacted by mental health issues.

Jasrita’s Marketing Heroes

Having lived and breathed healthcare as a marketing strategist for many years, Jasrita’s most inspirational mentors were mostly doctors. One is former regional director of Fortis Healthcare and now founder of healthcare concierge service medECUBE, Dr. Dilpreet Brar. 

Jasrita’s relationship with Brar has been first forged during her days at Max Healthcare where the two have worked together. After some time, Brar would transfer to Fortis where Jasrita would later follow, adding in sum almost 12 years of a working relationship for the two. 


What she admires most about Brar is what may come off as a paradox, but one that couldn’t be more true to her approach to work, and that is, the esteemed doctor’s “fiery brand of leadership coupled with empathy”.

“She is this person who has empathy for the team, for the patient, and for the consumer. Part of what she brings to the table is her no-nonsense, no-holds-barred, “what you see is what you get” brand of leadership,” Jasrita said. 

Jasrita also speaks of Brar’s one-for-all, all-for-one principle. 

“As [she] moves along [her] career, [she takes her] entire team along with [her]. And as a woman leader, when you reach up there, you also [have to lend your hand] to the ones who are coming up there and helping them. That is something that I love about her.”

What makes Brar a sought-after mentor for Jasrita is that she hurdles one other thing: the never-ending disparity of gender in leadership roles.

“There are just so few women leaders. When we enter the corporate board room, there are hardly any women there to look up to, and then you see a woman like this,” she said.

Another person that Jasrita has been greatly inspired by is Fortis Healthcare’s ex-CEO Bhavdeep Singh. And she tries to take after the man for the simplest reasons, but one that is still lacking in most leaders: leading by example.

He was the most hardworking person on the team, whichever team that he was in, he is my most hardworking CEO ever.”

“[He leads by the principle wherein] ‘I’m not going to ask you to do something that I won’t do. I’m only asking you to do what I’m doing.”

As a proponent of women empowerment and leadership, another of Singh’s characters that strikes her as commendable is how as a male leader himself, Singh could genuinely advocate women to have more seats at the table.

“And he was a great proponent of women leadership, not just by mere lip service, but by action”

“Be the consumer’s voice”

When we sat down with Jasrita, she relentlessly spoke of marketers being the consumers’ voice throughout the interview, and finally, when we asked her of her ultimate advice to young would-be marketers, she uttered the same snippet of wisdom: represent the voice of the consumer. 

She explains why: 

“As marketers, we need to have a pulse on our consumer, on the economy, on the market. You are the eyes and ears of the marketplace to the organization,”  she said. 

“You are the consumers’ voice inside the boardroom. No matter how unpopular it is, no matter how harsh it is. There will be times when the consumer is disillusioned with your brand, dissatisfied with your brand.”

“Speaking truth to power is something that comes very naturally to me. And this is something that I have chosen, that I will be that consumer’s voice in the boardroom.”

Another advice that she wants to give to marketers, which right off the bat, can be said to be a true life advice, marketing folk or not, is to continually upgrade oneself.

She speaks anew of now the proverbial “pulse” of the consumer: 

“Keep upgrading; it’s nobody else’s responsibility to upgrade your skills. Because your consumer is going to keep changing; there are new avenues, there are new mediums, [and] there will be new platforms. You have to have their pulse.”  Finally, she shared how such a growth mindset can jumpstart, at the same time, keep it grounded for the years to come. ”If you keep upgrading, you will keep your creative juices flowing, and you will be a marketer who’s in demand always.”

Subscribe to MARKETECH APAC’s YouTube Channel and watch the full video interview with Jasrita as we premiere tomorrow, August 24 at 5 pm (PHT).

If you’re a marketing leader and you want to share your career experience to inspire the marketing industry, please reach out, we want to hear your story.

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Marketing Featured Southeast Asia

#MARKETECHMONDAYS: Jim Guzman, Network Head of Social Media of Dentsu Aegis Network PH

In the second edition of #MARKETECHMONDAYS, MARKETECH APAC and Blogapalooza sat down with an agency-side expert, Jim Guzman. Jim is the Network Head of Social Media for Dentsu Aegis Network (DAN) Philippines. He is also the General Manager of D+GILITY, DAN’s Social Media Intelligence Center. He is also a Managing Partner of iProspect Philippines, DAN’s Digital and Performance agency.

Jim had previously worked with McCann Worldgroup, where he worked for a decade. He handled big brands like Nestle, Unilever, Unilab, Jollibee, BPI, and other prestigious brands in McCann. In 2014, he moved to Singapore to join Commonwealth//McCann, a bespoke agency that was created for one of McCann’s biggest global accounts, General Motors.

Recently, he co-founded the Creator and Influencer Council of the Philippines (CICP) with industry colleagues and partners. He is now the founding president of the council. Early this year, Jim became the recipient of the 15th Mansmith Young Market Masters Awards which recognizes excellent Filipino marketers of today as role models.

First Dive into Marketing

Jim dove headfirst into marketing after finishing Integrated Marketing Communications at the University of Asia and the Pacific. He is also part of the faculty teaching Digital Marketing for graduating students under the university’s Integrated Marketing Communications (IMC) Program.

Right after graduation, he joined McCann Worldgroup Philippines, where he started as an Account Manager. Jim led the digital success of Nescafe in the Philippines. Nescafe Points was the first-ever DRM platform in the country and was at the forefront of the brand’s success online.Nescafe Points was a digital rewards engine that helped drive growth, engagement, and influence within Nescafe’s social communities. During this time, Jim also worked with other brands like Jollibee, where he launched Jollitown.com.ph, BPI Loans, Coffee-Mate, Nestle RTD, MLhuillier, Sky Cable & Sky Broadband, and United Laboratories.

Holistic Mentoring Under Dr. Donald Lim

Jim’s mentor, Dr. Donald Lim, is regard as the Father of Digital Marketing in the Philippines. Jim said that Dr. Donald Lim continues to guide him in his career.

“He [Dr. Donald Lim] started digital marketing in the country, having built websites for a lot of brands when he used to be with Yehey.com. I met him when he joined McCann Worldgroup to head MRM, the agency’s digital arm. I learn a lot from him day-by-day, even until now, as he continues to guide me in my career. 

 “One thing I learned that I value up to now is his style of working. He has trained me to always add value to the company that I work for, the industry, and the wider community.

 “He involved me in various groups and organizations and has honed me holistically and professionally. I am also a fan of his charm, PR skills, and style of leadership; that’s why people love working with him,” Jim said.

Back to the PH: Dentsu Aegis Network (DAN)

According to Jim, it was Dr. Donald Lim who had asked him to go back to the Philippines to help build the social media capabilities of Dentsu Aegis Network (DAN). Before returning to the Philippines, Jim had been working in McCann Worldgroup Singapore, leading Social Media in the agency.

 “So far, I’ve been enjoying my work in Dentsu as I lead social media in the network and drive businesses for both D+GILITY, the network’s social media intelligence center, and iProspect Philippines, a digital and performance agency. Both belong under the DAN group. I love working with great minds and talents and, of course, with Industry icons in the network.”

Jim also talks about CICP, a newly-established organization composed of creators, influencers, and marketers in the Philippines. The organization “aims to shape, inspire, educate and empower the creator influencer industry by leading training, initiatives, and projects to benefit its members and stakeholders,” Jim said.

The Learning Curve

Jim also shared  what he considered a memorable “career failure” and his most significant accomplishment in his marketing career thus far. For the ‘failure’, Jim recounted a failed website launch for one of his agency’s biggest clients.

 “It’s not really like a massive failure, but I will never forget the website I launched for a client before that crashed on the day it was supposed to be launched. What made me worried about it was that the client had invested a lot of money to amplify it, but it turns out, it wasn’t launched on time.

“I consider this one of my most memorable booboos during my junior years because we almost lost the account after the incident. And it was one of the agency’s biggest accounts. Although, to be fair, it was not just because of me. Needless to say, this experience made me a better project lead and, luckily, we were able to retain the client. Since then, I am always OC with my work and would do everything to avoid the same mistake.

 “It taught me the value of always planning and having alternative game plans all the time. It honed me to avoid cramming at the last minute. This experience taught me to become more responsible, OC and detail-oriented,” Jim recounted.

His greatest accomplishment, he recalled, was his stint abroad. Working in Singapore contributed immensely to his personal and professional growth. Jim admitted that the work he handled in Singapore was different but much more advanced than what he did in Manila, especially in leading Social Media for General Motors then eventually for the entire agency.

 “I Never Planned My Career”

Jim admits that he doesn’t have a personal mantra. However, over the years, he said that he never planned his career.

“I don’t have a mantra nor a fan of life quotes, to be honest. But through the years, one thing about me is that I never plan my career. I enjoy my work, learn, and experience as much as I can, ensure that I have a significant contribution and value to the organization I am part of and be nice to people. I believe that everything that’s happening in my life is all part of God’s plan,” Jim said.

D+GILITY in 2020

When asked about his key marketing strategies, Jim shared the mandate of DAN in 2017 when he joined, which was to centralize the social media expertise in one group. This led to the birth of  D+GILITY.

“It was challenging because, technically, it’s another agency all together but servicing all DAN agencies internally to support their client’s social media requirements.

 “Back then and even presently, our key strategies are basic: (1) Drive business, (2) Build products and capabilities, and (3) Lead thought-leadership and future-thinking. Proud to say that it has worked effectively given the businesses that we were able to strengthen and acquire in the last two years.

 “I am not a big fan of grand plans. It’s okay to be ambitious but make sure that goals are doable and achievable. Sometimes, we create our own failures because we set unrealistic targets.

 “For D+GILITY, the timing was perfect because our strategies are aligned with trends, address the present gaps internally and deliver what our clients need for their business. Along with these strategies, we strengthened our talent pool, our tools and technology, and social support processes,” Jim recounted.

“Don’t Rush It.”

Jim’s advice to new and young marketing professionals is as straightforward as his mantra: don’t rush it:

 “Aligned with my “never plan” mantra, my advice is not to rush their career journey and success. There’s always a perfect time for everything.

 “What’s important is you enjoy the present, learn as much as you can, and experience every opportunity to expand your network and learn from industry leaders and practitioners.

 “Time will come that you will be leaders yourselves, and you will realize the value of maximizing what you have learned and experienced during your junior years,” Jim concluded.

Subscribe to MARKETECH APAC’s YouTube Channel and watch the full video interview with Jim as we premiere today, August 10 at 6.30 pm.

If you’re a marketing leader and you want to share your career experience to inspire the marketing industry, please reach out, we want to hear your story.

Categories
Marketing Featured Southeast Asia

#MARKETECHMondays: Mark De Joya, Head of Corporate Communications at Max’s Group, Inc.

MARKETCH APAC and Blogapalooza proudly unveil the first episode of #MARKETECHMondays. 

#MARKETECHMondays provides a platform for learning and sharing as we handpick influential marketing leaders and ask them about their careers, marketing journeys, and challenges, and successes. They will also be providing sage advice and rare insights from the most competitive frontlines of APAC marketing. 

In our pilot episode, we sat down with #MARKETECHExpert Mark De Joya, the Head of Corporate Communications of Max’s Group, Inc., and the Marketing Director of Max’s Restaurant. Mark De Joya is a recognized marketing professional with 17 years of experience.

He has worked with diverse brands, including Samsung, Huawei, Unilever, and Mondelez. He has also worked as a business leader and strategist for McCann Worldgroup Philippines. He believes in creative excellence and marketing effectiveness through “work that works.”

First Job

Mark began his career as a Brand Assistant at Unilever. He handled Lady’s Choice, a popular line of sandwich spreads in the Philippines. Unilever is widely considered as the “marketing university of the world.” He said that he is always grateful for the opportunity that he was able to begin his career the right way. He learned the nuts and bolts of brand development, equity management, portfolio management, and a truly integrated point of view of marketing communications.

He tells us about his first campaign and how he worked with Creative Guild Hall of Famer, Raul Castro.

“The first campaign I ever worked on was this little ad called “Isipin Mo Na Lang” (Think About It) for our Sandwich Spreads line; I’ve seen so many different iterations through the years—updating the food shots, packshots, tagline—but all with the same base ad. This was my first introduction to advertising, working with Creative Guild Hall of Famer Raul Castro.

“He’s intense, intuitive, and naturally brilliant. His team gave me my first taste of insight-based advertising and crafting narratives rooted in universal human truths and tensions—in this case, the innate nervousness of a young mom imagining the “lunchbox wars” that happen in the schoolyard, away from her eyes. But this first experience also taught me so much about the craft itself—pacing, casting, framing, lighting, blocking. I’m glad my first ad gave me hands-on experience both in the science and art of advertising.

“To this day, before the age of viral ads memes, I will always recall the pride I’d feel meeting people off the street who could recite the ad back to me verbatim. Back in the pre-YouTube world, I consider that quite a feat.

I’ve carried the foundations I built in these years throughout my career as I branched out to different industries: consumer electronics, retail dining, the advertising industry, etc.,” he says.

Mentors

Mentoring is crucial to success in this industry. It gives a career person a head start that may help him get ahead faster than those who have to learn the ropes. While Mark is an independent go-getter, he says that two people also influenced him as he went through his career.

“The first was Gino Borromeo, my mentor at the McCann Worldgroup when he was the Chief Strategy Officer. You need a certain level of creative IQ to thrive in the creative industry. To many people, “being creative” meant being artsy, having a sense of métier, and a natural affinity for the arts.

“I learned from Gino that “creativity” isn’t just those things; it’s the ability to solve problems. Classically defined—something is not truly “creative” unless it solves a real problem for humanity. Creativity, at its core, is an exercise in problem-solving. Therefore, the job of a marketer is to prove his effectiveness by creating real solutions,” he relates.

The second person who influenced him the most was Ariel Fermín, the Group Chief Operating Officer at Max’s Group. Ariel was also Mark’s first Marketing Director when he was still working at Unilever, seventeen years ago.

“His mind is one of a kind. He was trained as a chemical engineer, his incisiveness, and his ability to break down any problem—into its most basic equation. And that makes any problem, no matter how impossible it may seem at first, eminently solvable, because there’s always an equation to solve for X, Y, and Z.

“Under him, I’ve learned the perfect balance that has to exist between building great brands and doing great business. No marketer can say they’ve done great brand work if it doesn’t help the business; likewise, a strong brand makes a great business sustainable. His adage of “brand over time, business overnight” guides me in trying to craft great, effective work that adds value to life, value to the culture,” says Mark.

Current Job

Mark joined Max’s Group three years ago. He currently holds dual roles: Head of Corporate Communications and Marketing Director for Max’s Restaurant, the group’s flagship restaurant.

According to Mark, there is the prestige of playing a critical role in the country’s largest casual dining group. In addition to Max’s Restaurant, Max’s Group also operates Yellow Cab Pizza, Pancake House, and Krispy Kreme.

“It is an honor to be part of an organization that is firmly rooted in heritage and tradition while being relentlessly geared toward reinvention and renewal.”

What’s fascinating about the retail industry is how it demands discipline in bridging the end-to-end the links, from high-level brand thinking, nuanced product development to intimate one-to-one relationships with our end-users in our stores and e-commerce platforms. 

Mark De Joya, the Head of Corporate Communications of Max’s Group, Inc.

“Much of my career was spent leading FMCG and consumer electronics brands—where, to be honest, the ability to connect directly with our consumers is not always as direct, given the layers of distributors and retailers between the brand on its pedestal and real human beings in the market.”

“These realities challenged my teams and me to be the best-in-class in five-sense marketing. Experiences and communications go hand-in-hand 24/7, not just as one-off branded activations.”

Leadership

Mark says he is blessed to have served under excellent leaders of his time. He believes that he learns as much from people as people do from him. He also believes that there are different kinds of leadership, but not all of them are ideal.

“Some of them lacked humility and self-awareness. So early on, I promised myself that I would try to do better when I was finally serving in the same position. Everyone has something to learn. Everyone has something to teach. That’s how teams grow together,” he tells us.

Failures & Successes

Mark doesn’t mince his words about the failures that he experienced in his career. But he takes it all in stride. He firmly believes that it is part of the process, and marketers must develop the right mindset when encountering failures in life.

“As the great Conor McGregor says, there’s no such thing as losing—either you win or learn. I’ve done it all in my career. I’ve made a bad strategic choice, played the wrong game, positioned something wrong, priced something wrong, built the wrong mix. But for every “whoops” I’ve made, I believe I’ve had the opportunity to say, “I’m grateful I learned this. So next time, I’ll do that.”

To Mark, his greatest achievement in life was being named the 2019 Innovator 25 for Asia-Pacific by Provoke Media. Provoke Media was previously known as The Holmes Report. It is one of the world’s leading resources on public relations.

When asked why he treasured this award more than anything else, he responded: “This mattered to me more than brand awards. I believe it was recognition built less on hard metrics and more on the accumulated body of work that I consistently built while working on meaningful brands and standing for making positive change in the world.”

Personal Mantra

Mark’s mantra is also the core of his work philosophy.

“I could state my orientation and professional philosophy as a marketer: Solve great problems, build meaningful brands, create great value.

“Or, in the words of one of the wisest men I’ve ever met, “Math + Meaning = Magic.”

“There is a growing public distrust of their sincerity and authenticity. There is also this sense that with growing commercialization, there is this inevitable invasion by people whose intentions are less sincere. The world needs less salesmanship, more soulmanship.”

Career Advice

He shares with us his essential list for career and life:

  1. Play with joy. Grit is great, but not when it starts to chew away your passion.
  2. Don’t wait ‘til you’re ready. Always say yes, then have the courage to figure things out along the way.
  3. Martyrdom is not a career path. Guaranteed, 100% of the time, martyrs end up dead.
  4. Focused bigness, not scattered smallness. Conserve your greatness for the moments that matter—then go to town.
  5. Be curious. The right questions can be as powerful as the right answers.
  6. Choose to say, “Yes, and…” Bring out the best in people by building them up, not breaking them down with a “yes, but…”
  7. Always be in beta. You are never a finished product. Progress is the goal, not perfection.
  8. Just do it. The world cares more about actions than about ideas.
  9. Choose to unite, not to divide. The things that bring us together will always be stronger than those that drive us apart.
  10. Be interesting. Your job is not your life. Find three hobbies to make your life more meaningful: One to make you creative, one to make you healthy, and make you rich.

Subscribe to MARKETECH APAC’s YouTube Channel and watch the full video interview with Mark as we premiere on Monday, July 27 at 6.30 pm.

If you’re a marketing leader and you want to share your career experience to inspire the marketing industry, please reach out, we want to hear your story.