A positive economic outlook presents opportunities for brands; while storytelling marketing will appeal to the culturally savvy Filipino consumers.
Philippines is a pop-culture infused nation with deeply ingrained influences from American culture following a brief colonial history during the turn of the last century. A deep passion for NBA, which debuted at the 25th place for the professional sports league category, is one of the legacies left by the US. And it would not suffice to leave out the great love that Filipino consumers have for American-styled fast food which later spawned the birth of homegrown fastfood chain Jollibee (67).
JP Salustiano, chief strategy officer, IPG Mediabrands, said the high number of Filipinos working abroad (estimated at 2.4 million), coupled with another million in the business process outsourcing industry, helps to bring on a global outlook to their kin back home. "They spend a huge chunk of their working lives studying and communicating with people from other nations, and because of our penchant for sharing, this segment would naturally share their views with their friends and family," said Salustiano.
In recent years, however, the Filipino society is shifting towards Korean influences thanks to the Hallyu wave and the influx of South Koreans in the country to study English. Samsung retains its position as the number one brand in Philippines for the third consecutive year while other Korean brands LG and Lotte are at 6th and 73rd respectively in the country rankings. Overall, the top 10 brands only had a minor shuffle compared to last year with Coca-Cola making a comeback at the tenth position. Among the new entrants, ride-hailing app Grab is the highest placed at the 21st place.
Pop culture aficionados aside, Filipino consumers are chacracterised as being the most emotional and most confident in the region from Gallup's 2016 Global Emotions Report and Nielsen's consumer confidence survey released earlier this year respectively. The Philippine economy is growing at a robust rate on strong fundamentals; Fitch Group's BMI Research forecasts that real consumer spending in Philippines may exceed 16 trillion pesos (US$318.27 billion) by 2020. Aspirational brand Apple moves up a spot to second on the rankings this year, displacing Nestle which slips to the third place. Filipino consumers seem to be willing to splurge, based on the performance of certain brands such as Starbucks (12), Chanel (43) and Gucci (47).
On marketing to the highly emotional Filipino consumers, several brands stand out including Jollibee and Uber in their recent campaigns. The Valentine's Day Kwentong (stories) series by Jollibee helped the brand earn social currencies as Vow, a sappy love story that revolves on a groomsman at the wedding of a girl he is in love with (spoiler alert) reaches close to 1.2 million views to date on Jollibee's YouTube channel. The fastfood brand's global brand chief marketing officer Francis Flores told Phillppine Daily Inquirer in an interview that the running Kwentong Jollibee campaign would have stories for all red-letter ocassions.
Meanwhile, unrequited love appears to be a theme that tugs at the heartstrings of Filipino consumers. When AJ Tabangay posted a series of tweets about ending up in a shared Uber (23) ride with his crush, the brand knew that his experience would make a good story and turned it into a campaign. It became a successful campaign not just by the number of shares and mentions alone as Uber also received praise for embracing the LGBT theme. Prior to that, telco brands Globe and Smart Communications started the ball rolling with their respective LGBT-themed campaigns.
Salustiano nevertheless pointed out that the predominantly Catholic society in Phillipines is still fairly conservative and only mature brands can drive cultural shifts.
"More and more people from the LGBTQ community are coming out but most Pinoys still view same-sex marriage as taboo. In the past, the only acceptable way of portraying gays in commercials is if it is funny," said Salustiano. "Globe was able to do a serious LGBRQ-themed commercial, and most of the feedback were positive. This just proves that with the right brand and a powerful creative, controversial issues can be tackled.