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PepsiCo Philippines’ Mikey Rosales on staying true to a brand’s purpose

MANILA, PHILIPPINES — The COVID-19 pandemic ushered disruption within the industry—yet the most remarkable marketers are the ones leading their brands with resilience and courage, as they rise above the times and usher innovation and creativity in their strategies and decision-making.

adobo Magazine presents Meet the Remarkable Marketers: A CMO Series 2021, where we feature some of the most fearless, agile, and exemplary brand leaders as they provide inspiration, insights, and key learnings that have shaped their business —from surpassing industry benchmarks and launching creatively effective campaigns, to initiating best practices as they navigated through uncertain times.

As Marketing Director of PepsiCo Philippines, Mikey Rosales has brought with him an extensive list of accomplishments. Under his stewardship, PepsiCo garnered local and international awards for Pepsi Pinas, Liter of light, Sting Power Pacq – International in tilts such as Cannes, Clio, Ad Stars, and Effies.

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In heading the brand and marketing efforts for PepsiCo, Mikey’s mindset is focused on being different yet authentic. This is evident in some of their award-winning campaigns veers away from the usual, such as Pepsi: #StillLoveChristmas, which takes an opposite direction from the usual holiday tear-jerkers with a celebration of an imperfect Christmas—earning a spot in YouTube’s Most Engaging Ads of 2020 and a massive growth in sales.

Mikey talks to adobo about remaining true to a brand’s purpose, and being unafraid of standing out and taking risks during this time.

What has been the most disruptive part of the pandemic cycle in your role as a marketer and what did you have to immediately address to fortify your brand’s foothold in the market?

Not being able to do trade checks as regularly as I should. It’s an integral part of our work. Nothing beats seeing things with your own eyes— talking to consumers, retailers, and salesmen. Data is great, don’t get me wrong, but coupling that with firsthand experience makes it even richer. You get lots of insights just by interacting with people. At the end of the day, what we do is consumer marketing.

To address that, we fortified our insights by keeping up to date with the latest trends and closest on-ground information as possible. This has allowed us to connect with consumers despite the pandemic limitations. From there, we reviewed our communication plans to ensure that they’re rooted in these insights; attuned to the ‘pandemic needs’ of our consumers, and maximizing the trends.

In terms of marketing budgets and brand investments, what were the shifts you made in terms of marketing efforts and media channels to reach your digitally-connected, at-home customers?

We made adjustments in the portfolio, constantly evaluating which categories have tailwinds, or which ones we should pull back on. Media channels like OOH shifted to digital, especially with fewer people out and more stuck at home and glued to their phones. Although we did put up strategic billboards in Times Square, New York, and Downtown, Los Angeles recently to drive positive talk value.

We have COVID aid efforts, but did not broadcast a lot of them. I wasn’t comfortable for the brand to do that during the onset. I knew it could help the brand image, but felt it was self-serving and inauthentic at that time. Hence, we specifically pulled back on communicating our support.

To realize your need to manage this cataclysmic shift, what do you expect from your partner advertising, media, PR agencies, and how does this differ from the pre-pandemic period?  How are you structuring for the uncertainties ahead?

We’ve been working with our partners for such a long time that it feels like we’re already part of one company. They really are extensions of ours, so big briefings on changes in expectations were not necessary. We have always kept our partners to a high standard, and they do the same for us.

BBDO Guerrero handles our food and soft drink brands creatively and effectively. DDB takes good care of non-carbonated beverages. Mindshare manages the full portfolio. We are also investing more in digital and e-commerce capability and talent.

It’s great that we’re all on the same page. They are grounded and attentive to the current state of affairs, so their solutions are already very cognizant of the situation we are in.

Intelligence, insights, and real-time data gathering are essential to your marketing decisions, more so than any other time. What are you on the lookout for?

Most definitely, and that’s one of the reasons I am active on social media. I love engaging with our consumers and hearing from them: what’s trending, what they like and don’t like, how they speak, their catchphrases, the memes they share. They can be so blunt, but it comes from a place of authenticity. And sometimes, they type for you just the most beautiful words that could come out from them — “The marketing team deserves a raise!”

What are your thoughts on the surge of brand purpose and cause-related advertising to an often skeptical consumer?

Brand purpose is part of a brand’s DNA which should be clear and unwavering regardless of the times. It’s good to see that companies are more active in sharing their different causes as it feels like brands are generally moving in the right direction. Cause-related advertising can be very tricky, but if it comes from a place of goodness and authenticity, and is linked to the brand purpose, then it seamlessly works in the comms.

That’s why it’s important to be differentiated and to remain true to your purpose. And it doesn’t always have to be so serious. In the case of Pepsi, for example, it’s bringing joy and fun to the otherwise mundane lives of teens nowadays. At the core, it needs to be genuine and from the heart.

Do share some of the campaigns and case studies to showcase you brand efforts that exemplify creative effectiveness. 

The parody series “Mountain Dew Ice: Mas Cool ‘Pag May Ice” is deeply rooted in the modern Filipino meme-culture—from angry profs, bowl-cut oppas, to cheesy jowas. We’re very thrilled by the massive reception, as these are now the highest-viewed and most engaging content in Mountain Dew Philippines history.

It’s been more than a year in the pandemic, so we wanted to quench the Gen Z’s thirst for adventure with an exhilarating spot with “Mountain Dew: Bangis ng Tropa.” Fans went wild to see their dream collab between James Reid, Cong, and Junnie Boy coming true, which solidified our tropa community online.

What are the greatest work and life lessons you have learned from the past year? 
Not learned in the last year, but reinforced. In no particular order:
  • Be kind. Be kind. Be kind. Everyone is going through something which we likely do not know about. Very difficult to do sometimes, and quite easy to forget, but it can have a significant impact on the people we deal with.
  • Everyone is replaceable at work, which is not the case for the home.
  • Live in the moment. We may be dealt with unfortunate cards right now, but it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t play it. Play it the best way possible, because life is still happening right now, and things may be like this for a while. So it’s really about how we live with it.
  • Tell people you love them. We’ve lost so many loved ones.
  • Be grateful. Our circumstances aren’t perfect, but being thankful just makes everything feel lighter. 
  • With the WFH situation, there is no better time to trust your team than now.
How do you foresee 2022 and what do you anticipate will be the emerging trends? Do you feel ready to take it on?
It has been bleak, but we need to remain hopeful and work together in moving towards a positive direction. I believe our brands have the ability and responsibility to drive positive change, whether in economics, politics, or culture. Our role in the lives of Filipinos can be big or small, depending on how we want it to be. We all have voices that matter.
In terms of trends, here are some of the things I do see:
  • Value-conscious consumers: While Pinoys remain optimistic, financial matters remain an issue for many.
  • The home being a hub: Even if things open up or lockdowns loosen, there are new habits that people have already formed at home.
  • Overall wellness and the heightened importance of mental health: People would want to prioritize taking care of their bodies and minds more.
  • Hybrid working environment
On wellness, how do you take care of yourself and find that white space in this all-consuming, digitally-connected new world? Give us a few tips.
I’m the one who needs tips! But I do have a few.
  • Lunch and dinner are blocked-out times for me. Playtime with family is a blessing, especially with my 4-year-old. Imagine playing hide-and-seek during lunch break, then getting into a mancom meeting (slightly sweaty) right after—I consider that a luxury.
  • Get eight hours of sleep. Planning ahead and not cramming things is the key.
  • Push back on work. Work is never going to stop especially with the work-life integration in a WFH set-up.
  • Set aside time for exercise. I try to exercise daily—not vigorously, but I get some movement done.
  • Clear your mind by going on walks and drives alone.
  • Revenge online shopping—yes, I’ve done it (online shopping is far too convenient)—but don’t do it.
  • Reach out to family, friends, and loved ones.
  • Talk to God. Keep him in the loop, always.
Other thoughts you would like to share that we have not covered?
Repeatedly said but could not be truer: be kind. At the end of it all, how do you want to be remembered? 
No one will remember you as a remarkable marketer; people will remember you as a remarkable person. If we can do both—in the words of Russell Westbrook—WHY NOT?

Related articles:

https://adobomagazine.com/featured/featured-remarkable-marketers-kathy-carag-on-building-platforms-and-strengthening-brands-in-times-of-crisis/
https://adobomagazine.com/featured/featured-remarkable-marketers-a-cmo-series-2021-melissa-henson-on-brand-relevance-and-timely-content/
https://adobomagazine.com/featured/featured-remarkable-marketers-a-cmo-series-2021-oliver-rabatan-on-how-brands-must-not-quarantine-creativity/

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