Top COVID-19 Strategies From Brands in the Philippines

As brands struggle to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic, we took a deep dive into how brands in the Philippines are coming up on top despite facing greater economic challenges than the rest of Southeast Asia. We found these three strategies that Southeast Asian marketers can adopt:

  1. Don’t go dark.
  2. Speak your customers’ language.
  3. Lean into the data.

Philippines is one of the most impacted countries in Southeast Asia by the COVID-19 pandemic. They were poorly prepared, and their healthcare system had just suffered a USD$197million budget cut, resulting in overworked healthcare workers only had 2,000 Coronavirus testing kits to serve over a population of 100 million. This put them on the map with the highest number of deaths in Southeast Asia, and were the first to report a death outside of China.

Forecasts estimate that the COVID-19 pandemic will cost the country’s economy about USD$2.3 billion and over 7,000 Filipinos may lose their jobs by the first half of 2020. The hardest hit industries in the Philippines are travel and retail.

It’s estimated that the Philippines will lose about 1.42 million tourists and USD$450 million monthly in revenue. Philippine Airlines has laid off 300 employees and AirAsia Philippines has postponed its IPO with a 30% drop in business looming on the horizon. Even prior to mall closures, the cancellation of its nationwide retail sale caused a 30% to 50% dip in retail.

We looked to our XACT data, with over 375 million attributes, and observed that shortly after the first death in the Philippines, there was a steep drop in traffic to airports and malls. However, as the initial panic wore off, footfall traffic gradually returned to normal. This suggests that there are consumers who want to purchase products, so you just need to know how to reach them.

A graph for marketing for brands on airport and mall
Fig. 1: Airport and Mall footfall returns to normal after initial shock wears off.

Brands Here are Winning

Brands across Asia are suffering from the same dilemma – how to navigate through a world that has changed almost overnight. They may want to take a page from brands in the Philippines that have managed to fare better despite the circumstances.

Using our social media listening tools, we managed to confirm that brands in the Philippines are doing better than their Southeast Asian counterparts. For example, against other national carriers in Malaysia, Singapore, and Thailand, Philippine Airlines still comes up top in terms of positive sentiment.

Watsons, Asia’s leading health and beauty store, has the highest positive sentiment in the Philippines.

A graph for marketing for brands on Positive sentiment for Watsons
Fig. 3: Positive sentiment for Watsons in the Philippines.
A graph for marketing for brands on Positive sentiment for Watsons
Fig. 3: Positive sentiment for Watsons in the Philippines.

Surprisingly, despite its shortcomings in handling the pandemic, the Department of Health for the Philippines also ranks the highest compared to other Southeast Asian countries.

A graph for marketing for brands on positive sentiment peaks for the Ministry of Health
Fig. 4: Positive sentiment peaks for the Ministry of Health in different countries.

Communication Strategies 

Using our social media listening tools and the Video Analytics and Creation Engine, we’ve uncovered three strategies Southeast Asian marketers can learn from brands in the archipelago.

1. Don’t go dark

Philippines has the highest number of videos created in comparison to other Southeast Asian countries.

A graph for marketing for brands on number of videos created
Fig. 5: Number of videos created by country vs the number of reported cases.

This has helped brands retain top-of-mind over brands that have gone dark. AirAsia and Clorox maintained a high level of mentions over brands like Slumberland and Mr Muscle.

A graph for marketing for brands on media mentions of brands
Fig. 6 – Media mentions of brands in the Philippines

Why does this matter?  Studies have found that while brand love increases the willingness for customers to pay a premium for your product when times are good, it also makes them more willing to forgive you when times are tough.

A figure of watsons out of stock announcement
Pic. 1: Watsons out of stock announcement is greeted positively by netizens.

2. Speak your customers’ language

We looked into videos being created on Coronavirus and found that Tagalog videos get 59% more views and 36% more comments compared to English videos.

A graph of marketing for brands on average views and comment of videos
Fig. 7: Average views and comments of English videos vs Tagalog Videos.

That doesn’t mean there isn’t room for videos in both languages. Brands just need to pay attention to their preferences. In the Philippines, English videos in the ‘News and Politics’ category performed the best, compared to ‘Comedy’ which performed better globally. This demonstrates that audiences still trust English news channels like ABS-CBN News and CNN Philippines.

A graph of marketing for brands on average views and comment of english videos
Fig. 8: Average views of English videos by category.

When it comes to videos in Tagalog, people tend to seek out educational videos instead, mainly videos with advice from local doctors.

A graph of marketing for brands on average views and comment of tagalog videos
Fig. 9: Average views of Tagalog videos by category.

3. Lean into data

Look into the data that you own to uncover data-driven solutions, by filling those gaps and pivoting opportunities. If you’re in F&B, retail, or FMCG it’s time to explore different audiences and hit the reset button on your marketing strategies. You may even find different personas who you have never considered targeting before – such as Crisis Personas that have emerged during the COVID-19 pandemic.

A picture of two crisis personas
Pic. 2: Two crisis personas emerging in the Philippines.

It’s also an opportunity to diversify your sales channels and meet customers where they are. For example, Angkas, a bike-hailing app, launched Angkas Food and started delivering food to people for free.

A picture of the launch of Angkas Food
Pic. 3: Angkas announcing the launch of Angkas Food.

Jollibee started selling ready-to-cook items including its famous Chicken Joy. Even the local province of Guimaras, which had to cancel their annual mango festival, started selling their mangoes on Facebook instead.

The COVID-19 pandemic represents a time of unprecedented challenge for countries and brands alike. But it also presents an opportunity for us to reset and change the way we operate, the way we think, and the way we communicate. Most importantly, what we’ve seen from the Philippines, is that those that who act fast will be favoured by consumers, and those who fail to act will be punished.


Looking for data-driven digital marketing solutions?

Our marketing experts are ready to customise end-to-end digital marketing solutions that drive growth and continuous optimisation for your business.

Anurag Gupta

Chief of Agency

Anurag Gupta, COO of ADA

Anurag Gupta

With more than 25 years of experience in building integrated regional and global teams, managing agencies and large and global clients, Anurag is a marketing solutions champion, extremely skilled in building deep client relationships and unlocking new growth opportunities. Throughout his decorated journey, he has been in leadership roles across some of the best integrated communication agencies, such as Wunderman, WPP Team P&G, DDB, Geometry India, and Draft Worldwide East Africa, where he managed blue chip clients across industry sectors.

He is currently the COO of ADA, leading ADA’s country teams in major markets and regional marketing and ecommerce solutions teams based in Singapore and Kuala Lumpur. He is responsible for rapidly expanding the company’s portfolio in Asia with over 1,200+ brands in total.

More than 300 international, regional, and local awards have been credited to his work.

He is passionate about Bollywood and cooking and serving authentic Indian food

He mixes his passion for Bollywood and cooking to serve up explosive unique Indian flavors.