Q&A with P&G VP Kristine Tang Chan on Insighting and Big Idea

Kristine Tang Chan is vice president of marketing and the commercial leader for fabric & home care at Procter and Gamble Philippines. She was awarded the Mansmith Young Market Masters Awards (YMMA) in 2012. In this interview, she shares her thoughts about insighting and converting them to big ideas. 

Q1: What are the typical challenges related to gathering consumer insights? What about the challenges to gaining big ideas?

A1: An insight is described as a “Eureka” or AHA moment—the moment when you realize that THIS is what you have been looking for.  In marketing, insights can be all around us because insights are consumer truths or needs which sometimes have not been articulated yet or are taken for granted because the people who experience them do not necessarily realize that the truth or need is more common than they think.  The main challenge when it comes to gathering insight is when we focus on what a consumer is saying versus watching the consumer and observing his/her actual actions.  When we just follow what they are saying versus observing them, we typically miss out on certain activities/habits that they themselves are sometimes not even aware of.  A brand insight is one that meets the cross-section of the following—a clear need or desire (what does the person want), an understanding of motivation/why this need or desire is difficult to address (what is the context that drives the difficulty) and how can the brand address the need or desire.  When the insight is generic or does not get into the core of the motivation/why, that is when big ideas become difficult. 

Q2: In your experience, how many ways can insights be sourced? Which ones are more effective ? 

A2: In my experience, insights are everywhere but the most effective way to have a good insight is when we observe consumers in their natural environment.  This is the reason why I am a huge fan of consumer in-home qualitatives for my categories.  I can understand their context and motivation/why better when I visit their home, see how they interact with their family and how they interact with our products.  I am not fond of focused group discussions (FGDs).  FGDs are not natural and there is always someone in the group (sometimes even the moderator) who swings the opinion of the group.  In the event that I want validation for how big an insight or idea is, I find it better to do a quantitative test (with the right base size) instead.  I am also huge fan of personally or one of my team members doing the interviews ourselves for the in-home qualitatives (assuming we speak the language).  This is because we know our consumers best and we know our categories/products best.  

Q3: How can new marketers be better trained to see what others don’t see in  sensing new opportunities from consumer insighting?

A3: New marketers are best trained via experience and constant exposure.  Experience in this case does not necessarily mean only doing it for the brand/product you are handling.  When I was younger in P&G, I was highly encouraged to back translate an insight from an advertisement or key visual I saw.  Malcolm Gladwell purports in his book, The Outliers, that it takes 10,000 hours to master a skill; it’s the same also when it comes to crafting insights, practice and experience helps one get better at it.

Q4: What new attitudes and behaviors have you uncovered with consumers of fast moving consumer products (FMCG) nowadays? 

A4: Consumers now expect more from brands, including FMCG brands, in how their brands can help them make a difference.  Consumers now expect brands to go beyond providing a superior product and to also do good in the world.  For P&G, which touches the lives of millions of Filipinos, we understand that we have the power to make a difference and this is why we are transforming the company into “a force for good and a force for growth,” by leveraging our scale and iconic brands to make a positive impact.  We have become deliberate not only in making sure that our products are available for our everyday consumers but also in working with the right partners to champion causes.  An example of this was how during the height of the pandemic, P&G became the biggest private company partner of the DoH for the nationwide prevention campaign “BIDA Solusyon sa COVID-19.” We lent our manufacturing, marketing and advertising expertise and resources to produce educational materials to teach the right hygiene habits. 

Q5: What is the process on coming up with compelling big ideas? 

A5: A compelling big idea is one that connects (make the target audience FEEL something strong), is simple (can be articulated succinctly) and is ownable/rooted on the brand promise (stays true to the brand equity).  A big idea comes from a partnership between the brand team and creative agency—both are owners of the brand with deep rooted understanding of the brand promise and who have the experience to sharpen a good idea.   

Q6: If there are several big ideas, how do you shortlist and choose one? How would you know it’s the right choice?

A6: Depending on the materiality of the business challenge and on how massive the impact of a big idea is to a brand promise, I leverage either qualitative or quantitative approaches. If the business challenge is a rearticulation of a benefit the brand already owns, then the selection of the big idea can be done within the brand team itself through combination of gut and experience.  However, if the business challenge is a material change to the brand benefit or a new territory, this is when it is more prudent to do a quantitative test.   For instance, for Downy Fabric Enhancer, deciding on the big idea articulation of the seasonal promise of “freshness even when dried indoors” during rainy season was simpler than when we first launched the Downy Perfume Collection and embarked on the big idea of “as if wearing perfume everyday.”

Q7: What have been some of your proudest insights that have come to life in the marketplace?

A7: Some examples of insight work I led are below:

  1. The launch of Philippine laundry’s Dual Chamber sachet (Jumbo) in Ariel and Tide in 2008 which continues to be the biggest SKU in the laundry category:  This product was born during the 2008 inflationary period when consumers were looking for better value and we wanted to provide an offering where consumers can get the superior product experience from Ariel and Tide while enabling them to have better control and dosage of their product use. 
  2. Launch of Downy as a Challenger Brand in Indonesia in 2011: With many similarities to markets like Philippines, Indonesian moms were most concerned about their children, especially their son, who is so active and ends up sweating a lot.  However, while the basic motivation was the same, what was different was that she needed more reassurance when trying a new product as her fear of failure and dissatisfaction from her family was stronger than the consumers in the other markets. Hence, the team created the brand’s launch around a very strong credentialing message—”Downy, the World’s #1 Fabric Conditioner is now in Indonesia” and sharpened the brand benefit to be “freshness even when you sweat.”
  3. Japan Joy’s Campaign on Sharing of Dishwashing Duty between Couples in 2018:  Context was in Japan, more and more Japanese couples have dual-careers but majority of the responsibility for housework was still on the female. Among all the housework, doing the dishwashing was the least favorite one because it takes physical effort and time.  During our dish care consumer research, many Japanese wives shared their thoughts on “how I wish my husband does more housework” but the real motivation stems from a desire to feel supported.  With this insight in mind, we crafted a ‘husband and wife’ campaign around how Joy’s superior product enables anyone to be a better qualified dishwasher


Kristine Tang Chan will speak at the 14th Mansmith Market Masters Conference on May 17, 2023. Registration is available at https://marketmastersconference.com


Josiah Go is Chairman and Chief Innovation Strategist of Mansmith and Fielders Inc. 

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