Main Feature Marketing APAC

What’s NEXT: Guide to help you master the art of content marketing in 2022

More marketers are recognizing the power of branded content in our rapidly evolving digital age. Consumers are constantly being bombarded with all sorts of adverts, so it is vital for brands to tell stories that resonate with their customers to ensure they stand out from the crowd. 

Content marketing also offers a range of other business benefits, including helping companies to build brand awareness, cultivate consumer loyalty, and generate organic growth through publicity.

Up to 80 percent of marketers regard content creation as one of the top priorities, according to a 2021 report by Hubspot. It also shows that content marketing makes up 26 percent of their business-to-business marketing budgets, while spending is on the rise.

Plan your next successful content marketing campaign

To better plan, manage and evaluate a successful content marketing campaign, it is important that companies put a clear structure in place. Here is our five-step guide to help you plan your next content marketing campaign.

1. Define your strategy with a framework for measurement

Brand equity modeling is a useful tool to assess the impact of measures of brand equity on long-term brand performance. Marketers should first include metrics such as ‘trust’, ‘quality’, and ‘reliability’ with a definitive monetary value and hierarchy, alongside other tangible indicators such as the audience engagement level or sales conversion.

With such a framework, marketers can constantly measure the effectiveness of each campaign and adjust their strategy to optimize the results.

2. Know your audience through data

Storytelling is a form of art, but tailoring your content to the right audience is a science. Making use of first-, second- or third-party data is instrumental in mapping out the key communications challenges of engaging your target audience.

By analyzing the data, which shows such things as who your audience is, what content they consume, and how they behave; marketers will have a better idea about how to strengthen the brand relevance to the target audiences in the right context.

3. Internal support for creative process 

Compelling content requires creativity, but the bureaucratic approval process sometimes kills imaginative thinking. As such, marketers should lobby internally and get the backing of C-suite, or senior executives, to ensure the least intervention in the creative process, while gatekeepers are in place for quality assurance and crisis prevention. Ideally, two to three sign-offs would be sufficient in keeping the right balance between gatekeeping and the creative process.

4. Tailor your distribution plan to match user journey

With a massive volume of content available, both online and offline, marketers need to work towards more than just clicks and eyeballs. Instead, they should curate a content journey – through the right distribution channels at the right time for the right audience – that allows people to discover your brand, generate interest and build brand loyalty.

5. Focus on long-term benefits

Most content marketers define the success of a content marketing campaign by the number of sales conversions. This overemphasis on short-term results prevents marketers from benefiting from the long-term returns – gained from: creating real bonds with your customers and cultivating customer loyalty.

This article is written by Darryl Choo, regional sales director for APAC at South China Morning Post.

The article is published as part of MARKETECH APAC’s thought leadership series What’s NEXT.

This features marketing leaders sharing their marketing insights and predictions for the upcoming year. The series aims to equip marketers with actionable insights to future-ready their marketing strategies.

If you are a marketing leader and have insights that you’d like to share with regards to the upcoming trends and practices in marketing, please reach out to for an opportunity to have your thought leadership published on the platform.

Main Feature Marketing APAC

What’s NEXT: How can platform businesses supercharge their loyalty programs in 2022

Our lifestyle today revolves around platform businesses, and the need for such services has been further heightened with social restrictions over the course of the pandemic. From what we eat (food delivery), how we commute (ride-hailing), to how we consume entertainment (video-sharing websites), we use the services provided by platform players. In fact, the market size of the global platform economy has surpassed the US$7t mark and is still growing at a compounded annual rate of 15%.

In 2022, there will be more startups coming to the scene disrupting traditional markets, and even established companies shifting their business model, all adopting the platform-based approach.

With increasing competition coming next year, what does it take for a platform player to emerge as a winner? The answer is the ability to create an ecosystem that not just meets the needs of both the consumers (buyers) and suppliers (sellers), but also one where both sides of the platform are committed and engaged in interacting with each other.

This can be achieved via platform loyalty programs. Platform loyalty programs are different from traditional loyalty programs. The program design of the latter is geared only towards the consumers whereas in the former, both players have their own roles to play to drive sustainable growth of the platform.

Five Strategic Archetypes of Platform Loyalty Programs to consider in 2022

As we enter 2022 with service platforms now deeply ingrained in consumers’ day-to-day, today proves to be the best time to double down on their engagement and build loyalty programs that will make the stay and long for a brand’s product or service.

Here are five strategies platform players can adopt in building a winning engagement strategy as their growth engine.

1. Two-pronged programs

The most direct way is to create a separate reward system for both consumers and sellers as means to create growth loops i.e. consumers bringing in more consumers; while sellers bringing in more sellers to the platform – to create more activities. 

Example: foodpanda

Foodpanda is a great example of how they create a separate rewards program for both sides of the platform ecosystem. Consumers have access to challenges and rewards where you get to unlock badges and points and redeem them for vouchers. Meanwhile, foodpanda has Bamboo Rewards to recognize riders. Through Bamboo Rewards, riders get to earn rewards such as fuel incentives, vouchers, and free merchandise.

Source: Screengrabs from foodpanda app and website

2. Customized programs

A platform owner can allow sellers on their program to launch their own mini loyalty program, which offers and rewards customers based on their own business needs, but still within the overarching rewards design principle of the platform.

Example: Lieferando

Lieferando is a food delivery platform in Europe. While they have an overarching points program, they allow the participating restaurants to customize their own stampcard program where users will get to earn a stamp for every order they make and redeem it for vouchers – personalized from that very restaurant – after collecting x number of stamps.

Source: Screengrabs from Lieferando website

3. Coalition programs

Multiple brands join together in a partnership and offer a joint loyalty program, often having a single rewards currency in the ecosystem.

Example: PAYBACK

At the core of the coalition program, PAYBACK has market-leading brands in the everyday spend category. This helps to ensure sufficient scale to support the economics of the program and in turn attract other partners to the coalition. A highly liquid rewards currency is the main draw for the consumers where they can freely earn/ burn across the participating brands thus allowing them to stretch their dollars.

Source: Screengrabs from PAYBACK website

4. Alliance program

Similar to a coalition loyalty program except that participating brands do not have to forfeit their own loyalty program and consumers do not have to sign up for a new program to be part of the alliance ecosystem

Example: Star Alliance

Star Alliance is a two-tier rewards program that gives passengers more options to book their tickets from the participating airlines, simplified in-flight operations, and the ability to earn and redeem miles on other alliance members. To be a member, customers just have to be enrolled in any of the participating alliance members’ frequent flyer programs. For airlines, joining an alliance gives them access to more customers and by combining networks, member airlines can offer more flights to many more designations without having the need to operate these routes on their own.

Source: Screengrabs from Star Alliance website

5. Employer-Employee program

While this model is not quite a typical platform rewards program, the program is meant to solve the pain points of employers and employees while still driving the main activities to the platform itself.

Example: Grab for Business

The program helps employers and saves them from having to give and track transport allowance to staff, and staff (users) do not have to be bothered with manual expense reporting while still being able to earn rewards points on their business travels.

Source: Screengrabs from Grab website

Program design principles for a successful platform loyalty program

Whichever model a platform player chooses as their engagement strategy, they need to adhere to these principles to ensure their program is successful:

1. Platform owners must solve the pain points of both consumers and sellers; or at least give sufficient reasons for them to join the program

2. Program insights should be made available to sellers (e.g. real-time dashboards) to improve targeting and offerings

3. Personalization and segmentation are important ingredients for sellers

4. Loyalty economics (e.g. earn/burn, breakage, floats) are critical for platform growth.

5. Balanced earn and burn across all partners and program must be independently owned by 3rd party

Platform business is in abundance and the market will get even more crowded in 2022. Only those who can foster healthy relationships between consumers and sellers will be successful, therefore, it is imperative that platform players start investing in their engagement strategies today.

Platform loyalty programs are an important growth loop strategy for platform businesses to grow their players, both buyers and sellers. Introducing such a concept in the current market environment could prove to be a winning asset and a strong differentiator from the competition.

This article was written by Loyalty & Growth Leader Henry Christian. He is the former general manager of Singapore’s loyalty program NTUC Link, and previously the head of loyalty program of leading lifestyle retailer MAP in Indonesia.

The article is published as part of MARKETECH APAC’s thought leadership series What’s NEXT.

This features marketing leaders sharing their marketing insights and predictions for the upcoming year. The series aims to equip marketers with actionable insights to future-ready their marketing strategies.

If you are a marketing leader and have insights that you’d like to share with regards to the upcoming trends and practices in marketing, please reach out to for an opportunity to have your thought leadership published on the platform.

Premium Main Feature Marketing Southeast Asia

Marketing experts, creatives majorly thumb down Shopee’s latest 11.11 ad ft. Jackie Chan

Singapore – In August this year, top e-commerce platform Shopee unveiled its newest endorser, probably its biggest ambassador to date – global superstar Jackie Chan. 

Following the announcement, Chan’s first visibility was for the platform’s 9.9 sale, and now the renowned action celebrity is back to grace Shopee’s campaign for 11.11. 

Both advertisements with Chan were nothing short of the e-commerce’s creatives DNA – a cheerful and upbeat mood, animated movements, and of course, Shopee’s staple soundtrack. 

Screencap from Shopee’s latest 11.11 ad

However, on the back of the recent release for 11.11, some marketing and creative professionals on social media gave their verdict on the ad – which leaned towards disappointment and frustration over its creative execution. 

On Monday, October 25, Richard Bleasdale, a specialist advisor at media investment analysis firm, Ebiquity, shared an article about the ad on a LinkedIn post with the comment, “Is it just me? Or is this without doubt the worst ad ever made? I challenge anyone to nominate better (worse).”

The post attracted other creative experts and advertising leaders to share opinions of their own, which had a resounding rejection of the ad’s conceptualization and overall direction. 

“The bar is very low…”, one ad leader wrote, while one marketing leader pointed out how the ad made him “lost for words.” 

Another agreed to Bleasdale, commenting, “I know what [you] mean. Very disappointing. Was hoping for more [Jackie] action.” 

MARKETECH APAC‘s Inner State reached out to some of the marketing executives that jumped on the post for their official insights on the ad.

A common sentiment among the marketing executives was how the brand failed to leverage Chan’s superstar imprint of action coupled with comedy. 

Shopee’s 11.11 platform-wide sale is running from October 25 to November 11, and the campaign was launched on October 18 on the platform’s YouTube channels across its covered markets.

The ad showed Jackie Chan on the street, being slowly approached by dangerously looking men. With an impending fight scene, Jackie is seen mustering his strength to prepare to defend.

Throughout the 30-second ad, Jackie is able to fight off the men with Shopee’s ‘Big Sale’. Using only his phone, Jackie magically defeats the men by powering through Shopee’s ‘big discounts’, where for every press of a button, discount bubbles pop up, such as “$60 CASHBACK ALL DAY” and “$6 OFF EVERY $50” off the phone and beat the men down. 

Anand Vathiyar, managing director of Cheil Singapore, describes the ad as an ‘orange mess’, a reference to the platform’s orange branding 

“Jackie Chan’s brand equity is action-comedy…Shopee could have done something [on what] we’ve come to love Jackie for instead of the orange mess they’ve rolled out,” said Vathiyar.

Echoing this, Rob Sherlock, advisory board chairman at martech solutions DAIVID, said, “I do think they could have taken Jackie Chan’s trademark antics and dialed them up into something even crazier, more ‘action’ exaggerated – and still have Shoppee fully integrated into the story.” 

He adds that instead of handing Jackie a mere phone in an attempt to inspire action to the ad, Shopee should have had “some whacky martial-arts impossibility performed by Jackie.” 

“And make the Batman & Robin pow-wow cartoon bubbles more integrated into everything we love about the man,” continued Sherlock. 

Meanwhile, Bleasdale, the one who published the LinkedIn post, shared to MARKETECH APAC that he thinks the ad has been “devoid of any idea.” 

When asked what Shopee could have done better, Bleasdale said, “Start with a real brief – with a clear objective and a compelling consumer insight. Anything that responded to that would be better and more effective than this.”

On one hand, executives were also quick to poke on the past Shopee ad with professional footballer Cristiano Ronaldo, saying that the e-commerce brand had been underperforming with its campaigns even before when it signed the Portuguese sports personality in 2019. 

Shopee’s 9.9 ad in 2019 with Cristiano Ronaldo

The two-year-old ad puts Ronaldo on a football field where shortly after scoring a goal, audiences in the stadium start changing into an orange-wearing army with the trademark Shopee pop-ups coming out of each one. At the middle to the end of the ad, Ronaldo performs the Shopee dance together with his team. 

According to a survey done by consumer research Milieu, 24% of audiences in Singapore ‘dislike’ the 9.9 ad with Ronaldo in 2019, with 56% ‘liking’ it. Of those that disliked the ad, stated reasons were they found it “silly” (60%), made them cringe (60%), and was “annoying” (47%), and lacked product information (37%).

For Sherlock, Ronaldo was the worst use he’s ever seen of a mega-celebrity and thinks if Shopee had done a low-quality ad the first time, it would be difficult to redeem itself.

“It probably worked, drove sales, and tattooed the brand in the consumers’ brains. But, like any sequel, it’s hard to improve on the original – or in this case, be intentionally ‘so bad it’s good’,” said Sherlock.

MARKETECH APAC has already reached out to Shopee for a comment. 

Shopee’s presence expands Southeast Asia and Taiwan. For the latest 11.11 ad, the Thailand market paid the ad a staggering 30 million views on YouTube as of writing. 

The e-commerce platform continues to be the top platform in Southeast Asia with the most visits by consumers in 2020, trailed by Lazada. 

Inner State is MARKETECH APAC’s dedicated platform for industry deep dive.

Main Feature Marketing APAC

APAC roundtable gathers region’s marketing leaders, discuss current state of consumer acquisition & retention amid pandemic

We know that the consumer is ever-changing but the fluidity of their behavior has taken an entirely different meaning this pandemic – with unprecedented changes that unfolded such as the constraint on physical interactions and the economic plunge of markets, this completely overhauled how brands and businesses engaged with their target consumers. 

Last September 21, MARKETECH APAC, in partnership with CleverTap, gathered marketing leaders from all over the APAC region representing different industries, for the roundtable “Business Growth Levers from Acquisition to Retention” to discuss how the pandemic has shaken brands’ current playbook on consumer acquisition and retention strategies. 

Growth and marketing heads from the edtech, grocery, TV, airline, fitness, fintech, fast food, and publication sectors each shared their unique challenges and how their teams adapted to emerging brand new cohorts, shifting priorities among consumers, with new desires and motivations at the front. 

Watch live the highlights of the roundtable and hear straight from APAC’s marketing heads the notable changes this pandemic on consumer acquisition and retention.

The rise of new consumer segments amid the pandemic

The areas of educational platform, publication, and fitness witnessed the arrival of new consumer personas borne out of the heightened digital lifestyle. 

Marisha Lakhiani, CMO of Mindvalley, a learning platform for self-help and entrepreneurship, shared that during the period, the platform suddenly attracted younger users, a group it didn’t predominantly draw in before. 

Meanwhile, for global fitness brand Les Mills International, it found that its main fitness consumer now favors a split between in-gym and home digital workouts.

“The consumer’s new normal is 60:40 in terms of live and digital fitness; so if they’re doing 5 workouts in a week, 3 of them they want to do it in a club, in a live environment, and 2 they want to do as a digital workout,” shared Anna Henwood, CMO of Les Mills International. 

As for publications, Philippines’ Summit Media saw these changes most evidently on how consumers shifted their patterns in finding and consuming content. Specifically for its parenting brand, Smart Parenting, Facebook used to be its biggest acquisition channel, but over the current period, the channel has not been giving the volatility that’s expected, according to its Growth Lead Iza Santos-Cuyos.

During the roundtable, David Lim, the vice president for marketing of grocery platform HappyFresh, pointed out that whatever strategies that may have served marketing teams pre-pandemic can now be officially considered bygones.

“As a marketer, whatever we have learned in textbooks, on websites, [and] on webinars can be forgotten in the past 18 months…because if you just look at acquisition, everything has changed,” said Lim. 

Lim adds, “I think when it comes to the topic of acquisition, everything has to be extremely localized. We have to look at each market on its own, we have to look at each cohort on its own, and then link it back to how they retain, how they come back month after month in a very granular [manner], much more granular than before.” 

For acquiring consumers, improving SEO and search strategies have been the common thread, while forging strategic partnerships showed itself to be the redeeming factor among marketing teams to both acquire and retain consumers in the current market climate. At the roundtable, marketing leaders also emphasized the importance of first-party data.

For Mindvalley and Summit Media, it has been the same go-to response – focusing and investing more in search and SEO. 

“We identified the customers that we are actually retaining and try to acquire them, so like micro-acquiring a particular audience,” said Mindvalley’s Marisha Lakhiani. 

Summit Media’s Iza Santos-Cuyos shared that as they bolster their search strategies, the publication realized that it is in fact attracting a different set of cohorts on search versus those coming from Facebook, bringing them to conclude that they cannot now discount Facebook altogether while focusing on search.

“What we learned from doing that is to devise a separate strategy for audiences acquired on Facebook versus those acquired on search,” said Santos-Cuyos. 

Brands forming strategic partnerships to cushion drastic market changes

The fast-food industry took one of the biggest hits during the pandemic, with the phased-out in-person interactions blowing the footfall for dine-in. 

In the roundtable, KFC Malaysia’s CMO May Ling Chan shared that partnering with food delivery platforms acted as a safety net, where within the e-commerce scene, the QSR sector has not been the fastest in adoption. 

“I think what happened during the pandemic was [the] growth of food aggregators. For us, I think that’s the biggest part of acquisition that we see,” said Chan. 

Online food delivery has seen an unprecedented rise in adoption by both brands and consumers. According to a report by Statista, in Asia, revenue in the online food delivery segment has been projected to reach US$223,372m this year. 

Singapore’s supermarket chain NTUC FairPrice echoes the same gameplan, where its convenience store Cheers inked a tie-up with top delivery platforms GrabFood and foodpanda in order to answer to the surge in need for on-demand and fast delivery of food products. 

Vivek Kumar, NTUC FairPrice Group’s director for strategic marketing & omnichannel monetization, cited ‘Supper moments’ which Cheers aimed to create through the partnership, where consumers can not only see product offerings in a snap but to “go ahead” and complete their transaction in real-time.

“Supper moments on food delivery platforms is quite a unique opportunity. [When] restaurants are closed and you [still] want your beer and your nachos and your croissants, and stuff like that, this is the place to go to.” Kumar said.

He adds, “We can’t wait for the customers to come to us. We can create the right occasion [as long as] we understand the customer’s needs. We must give them very friction-free shopping experiences where they can complete their mission – you can’t leave it midway.”

The fast-changing consumer patterns pressing the importance of first-party data

Global cross-border payments platform OFX was also one of the brands that participated in the roundtable and its Global Head of Digital Acquisition Shad Haehae shared that as the pandemic pushed the stronger need for brands to know their customers a lot more, this made the platform re-evaluate the quality of data it obtains.

“We’re a money business, and people send money for particular reasons, so those reasons have changed,” said Haehae. 

OFX previously relied on third-party data for insights, but Haehae shares that as a business, OFX figured that it needed to be smarter on this front.

“We adopted new partnerships, new types of technologies [not just] from [a] martech [and] adtech perspective, even from a data perspective. We’ve done a lot of consolidation on platforms and data.” 

The same is the case for TV and radio operator giant, Astro, in Malaysia. 

“So it’s a balance between providing value to the customers to [keep] them from churning [and] aggregating our first-party data with social data, and with data that we have in the network to go after customers a lot more aggressively than we have in the past,” said Norsiah Juriani Johari, Astro’s vice president of marketing. 

For Les Mills International, they eventually leveraged first-party data which it successfully included in its marketing strategy because of the direct-to-consumer journey it now has via its own fitness app. Predominantly, its consumer was a gym member which Henwood admits the brand had no prior visible data of as well as on how its products looked like. 

With digital fitness now ingrained in people’s exercise routines, Henwood shared that content has become its differentiator, which is what makes “people stay.”

“So how we film our content [in] the lockdown, how we do that more and more so it’s really engaging with the customer, and how we [connect with] different personalities through [our] content – that’s been a big part of our retention strategy,” Henwood shares. 

For Cebu Pacific Air, meanwhile, one of the Philippines’ leading airlines, answering to pandemic-induced shifts meant working inward and letting the team adapt to new ways of implementing marketing strategies. 

Alongside relying on new consumer segments during this period, Michelle De Guzman, the airline’s marketing director, said, “Even the ways of working that we have as a marketing team, it has changed as well when it comes to user acquisition and retention.”

She shares, “We have also developed agile marketing sprints – and that was not something that was done before, but [has become] very important on what we do now.” 

Consumer acquisition & retention in 2022 and beyond

While overcoming each of the hurdles in their industries, marketing leaders agree that staying on top of the game is all about being continuously aligned to the shifts – from the minute to the massive transitions – in consumer and market behavior. 

HappyFresh’s David Lim believes that we cannot apply the same methods of acquisition anymore, and in 2022, one of the beliefs and assumptions that their team has is things would not be the same as pre-covid.

“Every country has [its] own announcement, every country has [its] own waves of covid with different government announcements. I think when it comes to the topic of acquisition, everything has to be extremely localized,” said Lim. 

Building trust among consumers also remains a vital factor in the consumer engagement journey, says Katherine Cheung, CMO of edtech Snapask. 

“One key factor that we have in Snapask on user retention and how to retain customers to our platform is of course by building trust. We have to bear in mind that since the pandemic, people have so much more free time, as most of the regions are still experiencing lockdown and they are not allowed to go out from time to time. We have to bear in mind that users have so much more time to invest in your product,” Cheung said.

FairPrice’s Vivek Kumar’s advice to leaders, “As a marketing leader, we need to create that vision and then keep people involved in the journey, so that becomes their objective and their mission and not just [acting according to] marketing teams’ wishlist – the moment that silo happens, we have lost the battle.”

Main Feature Marketing Southeast Asia

MARKETECH Mondays feat. Singapore Institute of Technology’s deputy director for corporate communications, Royson Poh

For this episode of MARKETECH Mondays, our feature showcasing marketing leaders’ career journey to inspire the next generation of marketers, we sat down with Royson Poh, the deputy director for corporate communications of the Singapore Institute of Technology (SIT). Royson has held the position since 2018 and no one would have imagined that with such an esteemed role in communications, Royson actually had his start as a credit analyst at a credit bureau.

The turning point was when within the said analyst job, a supervisor had challenged Royson to take on a responsibility meant for sales which became the spark for him to transition beyond his initial chosen profession. 

Since then, Royson forayed to roles in business development, and for his very first marketing position, he managed the advocacy & outreach efforts of the Society for the Physically Disabled (SPD) in Singapore. Today at SIT, Royson helms the corporate communications department where he watches over the university’s brand research, web, and social media efforts.

Watch the full interview with Royson on our YouTube channel

Royson’s very first campaign

Royson cut his teeth in campaign management when he was working at SPD. His very first campaign was a national IT literacy program for persons with disabilities with Singapore’s Infocomm Accessibility Centre. 

The campaign’s objective was to drive awareness and registrations for the said national IT training program. Royson shares that this was right at the point where Facebook had just become part of the marketing mix. 

I recall creating my own FB account, testing posts, and figuring out how I could use Facebook to achieve my campaign objectives.

On first marketing campaign

Fast forward to today where digital is now held at a premium, Royson’s leadership at SIT includes heading the school’s web communications and social media efforts. Royson shares in the MARKETECH Mondays interview that he sees his current role as becoming an advocate for digital media, serving as the middle man between on-the-ground social media specialists and senior management. 

“The leadership of the university is typically [going to] be a little bit more senior, [and] they may not be that familiar with social media and digital channels; so for me, I am the middle man working with the folks on the ground who know the channel and the technology [as well as] the agencies who are the specialists, and then kind [of] lobbying for that support or rationalizing with management and getting the buy-in,” shared Royson.

Royson entered SIT in 2014 and was first the assistant director for corporate communications prior to being elevated to the deputy director role. As assistant director, Royson was already responsible for the university’s online branding, communications, and reputation across web and social media. Meanwhile, rising through the ranks, the higher directorial position had him delivering the university’s first digital-led brand campaign which was conceptualized to address specific insights from brand research.

How a banking background helped Royson transition to marketing 

Royson admits that although quite distant, having had his beginning as a credit analyst served as a big help in helping him understand the demands of a marketing job, which has now grown to include data, analytics, and measurement at its heart. 

“[Like] many students, I studied what I was good at, and I was good with numbers. And so I took a banking major, and started working in the finance industry,” shared Royson. 

Obviously now speaking with more expertise and deep insight into the industry, Royson said that while marketing used to be a very subjective field, data has now become a very important part of marketing now involving analytics, web traffic, and social media metrics. 

I think for the young people who are entering the industry and the digital age, they will never realize that marketing used to be a very subjective field. You had a lot of creative types, people working with designs…but that has slowly gone away. I mean that is still a skill set that you need, but data has become very very important.

On how marketing has moved from being subjective to being data-driven

As deputy director for SIT, Royson actually developed a brand management framework alongside producing the first quantitative measure of the university’s brand equity.

Royson said, “The numbers part of the work has really helped me. I see a lot of common skillsets [between] finance [and] marketing especially in the area of data analytics to be able to digest and look at numbers and direct marketing efforts from there. That has been a common thread across my career,” said Royson.

On leadership: “Everyone needs a sense of role and purpose in the team.”

Entering SIT in 2014, Royson was assistant director for corporate communications for four years, where in 2018, he was appointed to his current role of deputy director. 

As a marketing leader, Royson strongly believes in entrusting a team member a specific role by which the person can grow with and eventually gain mastery of.

Everyone needs a sense of role and purpose in the team. They need to come to work knowing that ‘everyone is counting on me’ for this part of the work.

On leadership

Royson compares his preferred approach to the usual rotational work setup. He shares that while this is the way to be in many creative setups, where there is a ‘special assignment’ method and people get assigned to projects, he still believes in the positive result of charging someone a focused role.

“I think that if someone knows what they’re uniquely good at, and they have been entrusted that role, they will come back to work every day [having] a purpose, and they’re motivated.”

Royson adds, “My approach to leadership is really to be very clear about responsibilities, creating roles for individuals, trusting them to do it well, and encouraging them to give them that sense of purpose and that belonging in the team.”

For the new generation of marketers: Keep learning and re-learning 

As a marketer part of the generation that was at the cusp of traditional and digital marketing, Royson shares that it’s very important to never stop learning and to add to one’s experience and knowledge as this is the way to be at par with the ever-evolving industry of marketing. 

It’s very important to have this ability to keep learning and re-learning amid fast-evolving technological advancements in marketing.

On advice for budding marketers

Aside from this overarching view on marketing, Royson also shares his advice on dealing with day to day challenges of the job.

He shared that throughout his career, he learned that sometimes, there is a need to be able to say no and to be able to do that in a professional and mature way, and in a way that delivers value to the organization.

“The biggest challenge of my career is learning how to analyze something critically and having that skill to be able to deliver [an opinon] in a professional and non-confrontational way that would help to complete the final product.”

Royson said that in marketing, it’s important to find a way to express diverse opinions in order to successfully co-create as a team.

Also, his very simple advice, but one that’s equally crucial in the cutthroat world of marketing: becoming your biggest ally and supporter. 

“We face a lot of criticisms in a marketing profession so it’s important to be your biggest supporter and all,” he said.

Ultimately, Royson to the aspiring marketers, “You will never know everything that you need to know [in marketing], you just have to keep figuring it out as you go along.”

Listen to the full podcast of the interview with Royson on Spotify:

Main Feature Marketing Partners APAC

MARKETECH Mondays feat. PSB Academy’s assistant VP for marketing, Jovan Lin

A veteran of the education industry, we sat down with Jovan Lin, the current assistant vice president for marketing of PSB Academy, to get to know more about the career journey and the leadership of a marketing head in the higher education sector.

Jovan may have spent more than a decade in the industry, but one wouldn’t imagine where he actually began his professional career – in construction. Through a combination of having the right opportunity and making the best of it, Jovan’s career in marketing soon took off. 

He started out as a student recruitment officer and a sales manager for academies that focused on providing IT and psychology education respectively. His transition was something of a slow but sure process, where he gradually took on marketing functions before fully foraying as a marketer. 

Watch the full interview with Jovan on our YouTube channel

From managing projects in construction to crafting campaigns

Recalling his days in the construction line as his first step into the professional world, he shares that at the time, he had to drive the company’s lorry to fetch workers to sites and coordinate tasks under the sun and the rain, and this is all the while attending his part-time degree classes all sweaty and smelly. 

It was until Jovan got the opportunity to enter the education industry that he realized it’s the job fit that determines if you can attain some level of success. 

From recruitment and sales roles, he gradually went on to becoming a full-fledged marketing manager at Kaplan Singapore. Before finally landing his position at PSB Academy Jovan had also become the head of product marketing of Management Development Institute of Singapore. 

Jovan shared that more than anything, his initial stages in sales as a recruitment officer are what laid the foundation for him to become the marketer he is today. For him, his biggest mentor had been the marketing director that helped him fully realize his marketer role, Emily Han. 

“I was there on the ground talking to prospective students, their parents, and that’s where I had the common understanding of what [the needs], the [desires], and wants of prospective students [are]. I think that really helped me in my campaigns and try to create content that really resonates with [the] target audience,” said Jovan in the MARKETECH Mondays interview.

The crucial moment [in my career] was my ex-boss who took a risk on me to take me into a full-fledged marketing role, so that really transformed my career to which I’m fortunate to stick by.

On his mentor Emily Han

Jovan remembers the campaign that really had an impact on him during the early years of his marketing career, making him realize how far he is from the knowledge and skills needed for the job. 

Jovan had to create an online lead generation campaign and went through the usual process of working with a creative agency to develop the assets and creating the campaign brief. When the ads were launched and when he was served the ad on Google network and was beaming with joy as he shared it with his boss. 

Interestingly, Jovan shared what happened next, “She replied, good work but you probably [have] seen it because you were retargeted! After which I thought, why should I be seeing this ad when I am not even considered a relevant target audience for this course?” 

Since then, through this quite naive experience, Jovan began to explore deeper the context of performance marketing, things such as creating audience lists for exclusion, and also relying on first-party data to create more relevant reach.

“I wouldn’t say this is the first campaign, but it is one that I still laughed at myself, but it is sort of an important milestone that shaped my principles and beliefs on marketing,” said Jovan.

As a marketing leader: “I have to trust myself in order for me trust my colleagues”

As the current assistant vice president for marketing at PSB Academy, Jovan oversees the full marketing and implementing strategies that align with the business direction. 

As a leader, Jovan’s main philosophy is putting trust in the team. Jovan believes that at the end of the day, everyone makes mistakes and that working harmoniously among the team means succeeding and learning from mistakes together.

I have to trust myself obviously in order for me to know and translate that trust to my colleagues.

On leadership

Jovan’s definition of successes and failures also evolved as he grew both in life and career. He speaks of metrics for success, and how these have gradually changed from something tangible such as target number of leads and then slowly changing to subsequent metrics such as quality of said leads as he gains more knowledge and skill set. 

But Jovan says that as you grow with times, you’ll find that they are indeed important measures that define the level of business success, but that there is also a much more valuable impact amid marketing to students, one that is slightly less tangible. 

“What matters to me right now is what [social] impact I can deliver to my peers, my colleagues, and even to a certain extent, the students,” said Jovan.

He adds, “When you see certain students going through the education system, and [until] they [graduate], you kinda feel there is this self-achievement, and [you think], there must have been certain things you’ve done in marketing that influenced that choice.”

Jovan on pandemic-induced shifts: a time to shape the future of education

With the education industry worldwide taking a hit from the drastic changes brought by the pandemic, Jovan believes that the biggest question of all is what would the future of education now look like. 

Will online classes now be the norm? Shall students go back to the traditional face-to-face classes when nations recover, or must it be hybrid now? 

The challenge right now for every educational institution is how to look beyond this pandemic for the future of education.

On the challenge of higher education institutions amid the pandemic

He also emphasizes that digital today is seeing great transformation taking in all forms and shapes and at a very fast speed due to the pandemic. 

Jovan believes that we may not have all the answers right, but it also spells an exciting time to redefine the future of education.

“We are in an exciting [time] as I see this period as the moment that may shape the future of education.” 

Jovan to aspiring marketers: “Marketing is forever changing”

With more than a decade of experience under his belt, Jovan has some advice for those who wish to enter and succeed in the marketing industry, and he breaks them into two: marketing as a profession and marketing as an attitude. 

First and foremost, he puts out the most important truth of all, and what serves as the umbrella for all relevant principles in the profession, and that is “Marketing is forever changing.” 

As a profession, Jovan says that data is now the name of the game. A lot of technological advancements have emerged when the digital age saw its birth, and now, long gone are the days of who has the biggest print ad or newspaper ad. 

“Obviously with more tools, data plays a very important role and as marketers, we need to be data-savvy, we need to be able to make sense of data, [and] this is a critical skill set that marketers should invest in,” says Jovan. 

However, with more and more platforms, tools, and solutions made available for advertisers, it is easy to get into the trap of chasing one’s own tail because you would want to chase the next big thing in marketing. With this, Jovan says it’s important to not lose sight of the fundamental principles of marketing, and that is placing the consumer at the heart of your strategy and making sure content is developed with their specific needs and behavior in mind. 

At the end of the day, marketing is really about engaging your audience or customers. Whatever we do, we have to place them at the heart of all things.

On his advice to aspiring marketers

Jovan adds, “Just ask yourself, what do you think your audience wants to see or read or hear, and then from then on, how do you actually create a journey and experience you feel that your audience would be able to engage and enjoy.” 

Now when it comes to attitude, Jovan admits that he himself has not maintained a positive mindset consistently for the past 10 years of being a marketer. 

He says what’s important is “possessing the right attitude to allow you to approach your work the right way.”

Being a marketer is a journey, you [will be] [experiencing] ups and downs. Nobody can win all the time, and when you fail, I think that is when you learn.

Jovan says to those who wish to enter and make a name in marketing

Ultimately he says, “Continuously be open to critics because they will never go away, be open to suggestions as well, and continue to work hard and smart.”

Listen to the full podcast of the interview with Jovan on Spotify:

This interview was done in partnership with Siteimprove. Siteimprove is a global SaaS solution that helps organizations achieve their digital potential by empowering their teams with actionable insights to deliver a superior website experience and drive growth. 

Main Feature Marketing Partners APAC

MARKETECH Mondays feat. AIB’s marketing director, Stephanie George

When a dialogue on marketing is sparked, the industry against the education sector isn’t always top-of-mind, hence, doesn’t always get that much attention due to its non-mainstream dynamics – with students as the ‘consumers’, and with the product, not just a purchase that could be merely classified as either a high- or low-involvement decision, but rather, education and a person’s shot at his or her future. 

We are pleased for the second time to be able to get to know the career and leadership journey of one marketing leader from the education space – the marketing director of one of Australia’s largest online MBA providers, the Australian Institute of Business (AIB)Stephanie George.

Stephanie is a marketing veteran having had more than a decade of marketing experience under her belt. As AIB’s marketing director since 2018, she helms the entire marketing function of the institute which encloses strategy, execution, measurement, and analysis both in Australia and the school’s global markets. 

Just like any first steps into a long journey ahead, Stephanie’s beginnings weren’t perfect and were marked with uncertainty. In the MARKETECH Mondays interview, Stephanie bared that she had her eyes initially set on becoming an accountant, something that she simply realized “wasn’t for me.” Thankfully, her foray into marketing – a marketing coordinator role in a tile company – way back in 2007 was a big break in disguise, affording doe-eyed Stephanie a first immersion into the job, that would later have her managing a TV commercial project and a big rebrand. 

Watch the full interview with Stephanie on our YouTube channel

The career journey into becoming the Marketing Director in AIB

Before landing her esteemed role in the education space, Stephanie polished her marketing prowess by managing the marketing of companies from various verticals. She’s become part of the marketing departments of companies HBO + EMTB, Liift, and Devine, which fall under the interior design, IT, and civil engineering industries, respectively. 

Her most recent role before her position at AIB was as the marketing manager for digital acquisition at Optus, which is one of the largest telecommunications companies in Australia providing mobile, telephony, internet, satellite, entertainment, and business network services. At Optus, she was responsible for the acquisition marketing of both the consumer broadband and the small & medium business (SMB) broadband categories.

Presently as the marketing director in AIB, she leads a team that executes all of the in-house digital execution, customer marketing, and campaigns delivery for the institute. At the MARKETECH Mondays interview, we went back to where it all started and asked the veteran what it felt like to be a first-time marketer. 

I actually thrive in an environment where we’re going at a fast pace, and trying things and learning on the go. I just kinda throw myself into it.

Stephanie on dealing with the industry for the first time

Stephanie took her first step into the marketing journey as a marketing coordinator for tile company Italia Ceramics in 2007. At Italia, she managed marketing campaigns across all media channels such as press, TV, radio, and online as well as in print. At this time, Stephanie had also been part of the brand’s rebranding and new brand execution. 

Stephanie reveals, “This was back when social wasn’t really a thing, and digital marketing wasn’t really a thing. At my time there, I was fortunate that we went through a whole rebrand.”

Stephanie shared that she’s always been the type of person who likes playing in the unknown and observing people that know more than her. 

“With the rebrand comes [recreating] all of the marketing collateral…and I was really lucky to be able to do all of that activity from the get go.”

The best thing about being a marketer: Delivering a product that has an impact on people’s lives 

As the marketing director of the graduate institution, Stephanie shared that the biggest challenge is convincing people of a product that does not only require a financial investment, but a significant investment of people’s time – something that is quite distant from the previous marketing she’s led where products were “household decisions.” But despite this, the reward still outweighs the said challenge, which is being able to help people be closer to a product that would genuinely have a positive impact on their lives. 

Stephanie emphasizes that when somebody chooses to study for a master’s degree, they usually choose to do it on top of full-time work, alongside family commitment, and usually at a time of their lives when they’re juggling a lot of other responsibilities.

“Helping people make the commitment and take the plunge or the decision that they’ve probably been thinking about doing for a while, I mean that can be a bit challenging sometimes,” she said. 

But Stephanie said the effort is worth it as they get to celebrate milestones with their students, whether it’s “completing their first subject, or hitting the halfway mark, or completing their masters in business.”

Being part of that experience in people’s lives, [it’s just] a really special moment and it’s a privilege really to be part of that after all the hard work that they put in.

Stephanie on marketing MBA as a ‘product’

Stephanie admitted that throughout her decade-long journey in the industry, her biggest mentor has always been her dad, who wasn’t even a marketer at all. 

The ‘mentorship’ was just sort of an accident when while growing up, she would always hear her dad, who entered entrepreneurship post-navy, introducing himself as someone who did sales and marketing. That stuck into young Stephanie, and grew up wanting to do the ‘same thing’. 

“I’m not saving lives but I’m doing sales and marketing,” said Stephanie.

I think the thing that I particularly love though about sales and marketing is just the stories that you get to tell, and then you get to fill things in people’s lives, such as encouraging someone to enroll in an MBA, or whether it’s encouraging someone to order a broadband plan.

As a leader: “keep an open mind that you’re constantly learning.” 

Stephanie’s leadership in AIB started in 2018. She said that the kind of leader that she is today is not only because of the ‘great’ leaders she’s met, but also the ‘bad’ ones. 

“I may not [always have] great leaders, but I still learn from those [bad] leaders, sometimes it’s about what not to do. More often than not, I learn from the great leaders, and still, everything I do [is] from the great leaders, and the leadership they’ve had over the years and continue to have,” shared Stephanie. 

Stephanie said that leadership is something that she doesn’t take lightly at all, as being in such position means you are in a crucial place of having the power to influence the people around you. At the same time, leadership for Stephanie is something that must be sharpened through time. 

It’s the type of thing [where] you’re constantly going to be learning [how] to be better. If you keep an open mind that you’re constantly learning, I think that’s an important thing to do.

Stephanie on leadership

Advice for budding marketers: “If an opportunity presents [itself], go after it.”

Stephanie believes that there really isn’t such a thing as failure. She’s always applied the view that opportunities must be grabbed, and with this go-getter attitude, she knows failures are inevitable. 

“On my point of view, I’ve always [taken] the approach that if an opportunity presents itself, go after it. With that comes the risk of failing at it, or not doing a great job.”

And this same philosophy is what she hopes aspiring marketers to carry – to not be afraid of challenges and to bravely own the multitude of opportunities before you as one is only able to figure out the ‘perfect’ opportunity and hone their expertise as they go along. 

[From] one opportunity, another one presents itself, and then another one, and you’ll be surprised [what] you end up doing

Most importantly, she advises, “It doesn’t matter if you’re the newest person on the team, if you’re the youngest [or] the oldest, or if you’re the least experienced, or the most experienced; if you ever have an idea, don’t question whether it’s a good idea; I think you should always bring those ideas forward.”

Listen to the full podcast of the interview with Stephanie on Spotify:

This interview was done in partnership with Siteimprove. Siteimprove is a global SaaS solution that helps organizations achieve their digital potential by empowering their teams with actionable insights to deliver a superior website experience and drive growth. 

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.

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.

Technology Featured APAC

Qualtrics unveils new batch of XM leaders across APJ

Singapore Experience management company Qualtrics has announced new senior industry leaders for customer experience (XM) services that will help diversify their services across the Asia Pacific and Japan (APJ) region.

Crissa Sumner, who was a former talent manager for talent solutions company Hudson, joins the ranks as the company’s lead employee experience (EX) solution strategist for Australia and New Zealand (ANZ). She will be focused on coming up with new EX strategies for businesses in the region to assure organizational performance. 

Meanwhile, the company’s Japan division has seen two appointments: Tomoko Kyuzaki as lead CX solutions strategist, and Mikito Ichikawa who will be its lead EX solution strategist for Japan, a first appointment of such position in the country. Prior to their appointment, Kyuzaki worked with Zurich Insurance and Deloitte; while Ichikawa was one of Japan’s leading EX experts with almost 20 years of EX leadership.

To further bolster more widespread leadership, former Prudential Singapore executive Harish Agarwal joins as the company’s lead, customer experience (CX) solutions strategist for Southeast Asia, India and Hong Kong, where he will work on scaling customer experience programs across organizations under his geographical clientele base. 

Lastly, Kunjal Patel joins as research services regional sales manager for APJ. He was involved previously as head of business for Nielsen Singapore.  For the new role, he will be responsible for providing full access to Qualtrics’ market research programs. 

In a statement, Brigid Archibald, managing director for Qualtrics in APJ, expressed excitement for the new XM leaders on-board, noting that the company will continue its goal towards equipping businesses with change and expertise against the changing business trends of today.

“The collective wealth of experience and ability to understand and serve the needs of businesses across APJ by Qualtrics is unmatched. Each of the appointments today are proven leaders in their respective fields, and the fact they have chosen to join Qualtrics is further testament to the ability of the Qualtrics XM Platform and the business outcomes it drives,” Archibald stated.