Q&A with International Pharmaceutical (IPI) VP-Marketing Stanley Uang on Shoestring Marketing

Q1: Efficascent Oil is your single most saleable product with over P1 billion in sales from practically no advertising support. How did it reach its current legendary status?

A: E.O is a 60-year-old brand today. In its first quarter of life, popularity stems from the fact that it was able to satisfy the need of consumers that time who prefers massage rather than medications in alleviating minor pains and aches. The middle part of its life was more focused on wide distribution and availability. Since 10 years ago we have been communicating more & more its brand equity (from its longevity in the market) which differentiates it from other numerous “me-too” brands.

Q2: Another legendary product is Omega Pain Killer. Some competitors have already been entering this category. How have you defended your market leadership?

A: This category is very competitive with the many direct & indirect competitors carving their own niche with their own product positioning. Under this landscape, we must continue to clearly communicate our product usage and its distinct benefits. Product innovation will also be crucial.

Q3: Sales of your Bioderm Germicidal soap has gone up 500% the last 5 years despite the dominance of a multinational competitor. Can you share the insight that transformed the brand?

A: Again, we believe it was clear communication of the product benefit. If you are a germicidal soap and you want to reach consumers of germicidal soap (bioderm was thought to be a medicinal soap by most consumers before and we even had a campaign in the 90’s using the words “medicinal soap”), then say so and say it in a clear manner, directly and consistently. “Wala ng pa cute-cute pa”.

Q4: What was the big idea behind coming up with Casino Femme, a rubbing alcohol for women? How is it doing?

A: A lot of women uses alcohol regularly for hygienic reasons. For regular users, dryness is a real concern. Casino “ethyl” alcohol is perfect for them since ethyl is less drying than isopropyl alcohol which most brands if not all in the market use. We recently just “sweetened the pot” for women users by adding not just one but two moisturizers into our Femme variant. The Femme with dual moisturizers variant is expected to surpass the sales of its mother Femme variant by next year, 3 years only since its introduction.

Q5: You manufacture so many other products ranging from herbal, rubs, ointments, laundry care, and many others. Which product are you most excited about and why?

A: We are most excited about our herbal/natural product portfolio and ointments. The former because we have suppliers of natural ingredients with numerous clinical studies than can substantiate the product claims and they are very willing to work with us. The latter because we have a good quality product, strong brand equity, and distribution channel competence. The product I’m talking about is Efficascent Ointment. In a way we’re excited too about the planned market entry of ASEAN brands due to integration.

Q6: Many FMCG products require massive A&P budget which you don’t practice. Can you share your company’s philosophy in marketing at a shoestring budget?

A: The most central to this philosophy of allocating a shoestring budget is to make every peso count. Whether it is in negotiating with media networks in providing more spots or to include creative executions in addition to the spots, or making those few spots count with good marketing content or an endorser who fits the positioning of your product or your communication, or to be very strategic in your communication in terms of target audience. All these will make your advertising pesos go a long way.

Q7: What are the advantages and disadvantages of being a Cebu-based company?

Most of the resources of the company be they material or intellectual or commercial and communal relationship are in Cebu. Saying so, we are gradually transferring or building up these resources in Manila and the entire Luzon where we are the weakest in terms of corporate image. We also hope that the fast economic growth of Cebu will induce more suppliers to set up their plants in Cebu. The strategic location of Cebu island can be considered an advantage for us in distribution.

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