Formulating Marketing Strategy

At the recently concluded 16th Mansmith Young Market Masters Awards (YMMA), we asked three of the marketing rockstars to share about formulating compelling marketing strategy. They are Mark Alvarez, Managing Director (Philippines) of InSites Consulting and YMMA Awardee for Insighting, Camille Ang, Group Manager of Marketing and Demand of GrowSari and YMMA Awardee for Marketing Management, and Gian Louis Yap, Brand Director of Procter & Gamble and YMMA Awardee for Brand Management. Here are the learning points from the YMMA winners:

Q1: If you could pinpoint the three most important tips in formulating marketing strategies, what would they be?

Mark: It’s all about having a true customer centric mindset and culture: First, genuinely have the desire to understand your customer or market – know how they think, feel, and behave so you can have a better understanding of their experiences. Second, be able to detect the gaps in their experiences (whether it be an empathy, experience or a relevance gap) and translate those to opportunities and solutions. And lastly, roll out and test the solutions among your target market quickly and always iterate in the process to keep improving.

Camille: One: Understand the customers. Leverage the data available about your customers, whether quantitative, or qualitative. The former can be taken from your existing data set, but the latter through what they say about their pain points, and about their experience of your product/service. Two, use these insights to come up with a key message that resonates. A good key message is one that has a very clear understanding of your customer, and the value your brand brings for them, packaged in a manner they understand, in touch points they’re present in.  Three, track and optimize. In whatever marketing initiative you do, don’t hesitate to A/B test to know which would work best, and iterate as you go. It doesn’t have to be perfect the first time around!

Gian: In formulating marketing strategies, I believe one should do the following: 1) Be very clear on your business objective. What is it really you want to do? (Do you want to recruit new users to your brand? Do you want your existing users to trade up to a new product? Do you want to add another item in the basket of your consumer? Etc.) 2) Once the business objective is set, be very clear who you want to target. What is their profile like? What is their current behavior and how do you want to change that? What is the barrier preventing them for doing the current business objective? 3) Finally, assess different solutions or “hows” and see which one best fits your business objective and target audience. Know what you will do, and more importantly – what you will NOT do.

Q2: How should marketing strategies be different during the pandemic, at a time when many customers are facing an uncertain future?

Mark: As Filipinos grapple with change and face unprecedented challenges, brands need to hit both expectations around efficiency and convenience but also address deeper human needs. With the uncertainties brought by COVID, customers expect brands to aid them in their daily life. They need a good product and service, but a seamless experience is equally important. Brands need to fulfill a wider role in our lives.

As such, brands need to go beyond Marketing to Consumers to Mattering to People. In other words, brands should let go of their own perspective on the world and use “relevance for people” as their most important objective. So for all we do, we need to help brands and businesses answer how they can be relevant and meaningful to their customers. That defines a successful company today.

Camille: Empathy is incredibly important, now more than ever, because this pandemic has been and still is tough on everyone. Empathy in a sense that we should really put the customer first above all things– to come up with solutions that really improve the lives of the customers we serve, and to always be there to provide any guidance should they need it.

Gian: Given the uncertain future and economic impact of the pandemic, consumers are looking for tried and tested, value for money offerings. They are not in the condition to try out new product offerings, especially ones that command a premium vs their current purchase. Consumers are looking for services and benefits that they have known to deliver time and time again. Hence, one should focus on doubling down on their core offering and making sure the consumer is able to access it (physical availability) and remember it (mental availability).

Q3: Where is the best source of growth for brands, pandemic or no pandemic?

Mark: At the core of it all, we must remember that it is all about the customer. We are here because we want to listen, empower, and elevate the human experience and build sustainable brands. Let your customers be your north star and sail towards that direction.

What made companies successful in the past was they made the perfect product. What drives success today is getting close to customers. And with this pandemic, brands need to stay much closer to their customers, to collaborate with them continuously to co-create a sustainable future, to always be in touch with their realities and tensions. By doing so, brands can reposition their products and services according to their customers’ evolving needs.

Camille: The best source of growth for brands, pandemic or no pandemic, is really on focusing on how to retain existing users, and make them even more loyal, because at the end of the day, you want to have a customer base that can be your brand ambassadors as well, who will then help you with acquisition of users. Word of mouth is incredibly important, and that comes from existing users having an amazing experience with your product / service.

Gian: The best source of growth for brands is always driving penetration – recruiting new users. There will always be existing users who fall out (drop the brand in their next purchase) on a normal situation, and is all the more accelerated during a pandemic due to the uncertainty and the economic crunch. Brands should always endeavor finding ways to reach new users to replace existing ones, as it will be a risky proposition to expect existing users to 1) stay day in and out and 2) keep on paying more for a similar benefit for the brand to grow

Q4: What marketing metrics do you think are overrated and underrated? Why should we use more or less of these metrics?

Mark: There are indeed several marketing metrics available to be used from awareness, consideration, purchase, and even up to loyalty and customer satisfaction. While these are available at our disposal, what’s paramount is how we intend to use these metrics to help us gauge our definitions of success, how close we are from what we’ve set as our business objectives from the start. So overall, no metric is better than the other, rather how they will serve their purpose to help you define success.

Camille: It’s easier to understand how important business metrics are as indicators of success like number of users, sales, and such, but customer sentiment and net promoter score are very important to track as well, to get a better pulse of what your customers are feeling and experiencing, which you can use as a jump off point to further improve your product / service.

Gian: I think “reach” on its own is overrated. Some marketers fall into the trap of going after reach blindly without thinking about the quality of reach – what does the consumer actually see and experience. Yes, they get hit by a digital ad, but they immediately skip the ad or don’t even remember it. Hence, one should always think about what is consumer experience behind that reach. On the other hand, I think “household penetration” is such an under rated metric – always behind market share. Market share will always fluctuate, but penetration is the key driving factor to a long-term good market share performance.


Josiah Go is chair and chief innovation strategist of Mansmith and Fielders Inc. He is also the co-founder, alongside Chiqui Escareal-Go, of the Mansmith Young Market Masters Awards (YMMA) since 2006. The search for the 19th Mansmith YMMA is currently ongoing. For more information, visit

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