Featured: Remarkable Marketers: A CMO Series 2021 — Francis Flores on holistic marketing and connecting with consumers

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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.

Even the most iconic brands need a strong and decisive communication strategy. Especially in the time of disruption amid COVID-19, if not for anything else, businesses must be able to connect with their audiences and respond to their emerging needs and sentiments in real time.

Any update on local fast-food giant Jollibee warrants a mention in the headlines—whether it’s another branch opening abroad or a content creator doing a food review of its beloved menu. Not one to take this status for granted, however, Francis Flores, Jollibee Foods Corporation (JFC) Philippines’ Country/Regional Marketing Head continues to pave the way in truly connecting to their consumers’ needs and passions especially in the midst of the quarantine period.

The award-winning marketing whiz, who has taken home accolades from the Asia-Pacific Tambuli and Campaign Asia-Pacific, has continued to lead his team in fortifying Jollibee’s strengths and parlaying them to delight audiences who themselves were shifting in behavior during this crucial period.

Through Francis’ leadership, the Jollibee team launched holistic marketing efforts that catered to the new-normal consumer: from deepening emotional ties and showing compassion through brand love campaigns, to introducing new products and excite the market as they grind through the monotony of WFH, Jollibee has proven that bida ang saya (joy comes first) can be exhibited in several ways.

“As long as a brand is sincere and true to its identity and purpose, then we’re all better for it,” Francis tells adobo.

In this feature, Francis delves more into how bringing value and positive impact has shaped Jollibee’s messaging and direction in a time of uncertainty.

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?

What really affected our business, like most others, was the imposition of the lockdown since people can’t go out and dine-in in our stores. One of Jollibee’s strengths was our nationwide store network, but with the pandemic, we had to pivot to focus on off-premise channels and fortify our delivery service. We also introduced numerous innovations such as our Delivery App, offering more options for cashless transactions, and coming up with new services like Order and Pick-up, Joy at Home party bundle, so we can bring our food safely and more conveniently to our customers.

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?

In terms of marketing efforts, we recognized that while customers are staying at home, it should not stop us from delivering them great food and continuing to bring joy to them and their families consistent with our mission:

  • Launch and continuous improvement of Jollibee Delivery app features and exciting food promos with partner aggregators
  • Several new and exciting products to excite our market who are craving for something new to try (to help break the monotony of WFH grind)
  • Continued with our brand love campaigns to deepen emotional connection with customers; Showcased the joy of family through our Family Thanksgiving Month initiative and A Message from the Future film
  • Capitalized on the continued rise of video on demand and popularity of streaming platforms through branded entertainment and relaunch of our Jollibee Studios Channel headlined by the comeback of the country’s iconic pair John Lloyd Cruz and Bea with One True Pair the Movie that’s also tied into their ad for our best tasting perfect pair of Chickenjoy and Jollibee Spaghetti
  • Sustained our safety communications to communicate dine-in resumption in our NCR stores and adherence to safety protocols
  • In terms of media shift, the changing media landscape brought about by the pandemic and shutdown of the biggest TV network saw us shifting further our media support in favor of Digital—making our presence felt and connecting with our audience via popular and high-reach social media platforms.

During the start of the pandemic in 2020, the Jollibee Group concerted efforts in bringing aid to affected communities and medical institutions via our FoodAID program, where we donated a total of 220M to help alleviate the effects of the pandemic.

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?

When it comes to setting the bar for partner agencies, we expect all our agencies to be even more agile and flexible with our evolving business needs and marketing campaign requirements; maintain a high level of creativity and help us efficiently manage our advertising and production budget, and continue to expect our agencies to be open for collaboration.

In structuring for the uncertainties ahead, our lead creative agencies are still our trusted and long-time partners—PJB and McCann Worldgroup Philippines for most of our product and brand love campaigns. Select campaigns are also awarded to Propel Manila, Dentsu Jayme Syfu and Gigil as we continue to experiment on different ways of advertising and storytelling. Also partnered with BBH Singapore this year for important campaigns that appealed also very much to global audiences.

For PR, we continue to work with Strategic Works and Ripple 8 and they have helped us in mounting successful virtual media events and creating buzz for our product launches: and then for Digital, Dentsu Jayme Syfu and Propel Manila help us with campaign amplification and managing our social media pages.

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

Even prior to the pandemic, we have relied heavily on market intelligence and data for our marketing plans and campaigns. Aside from current trends and market behavior, we also look out for emerging global trends, new digital channels and how to maximize them, as well as product and store innovations that will help us launch effective marketing campaigns and maintain our market leadership.

Your thoughts on the surge of brand purpose and cause-related advertising to an often-skeptical consumer.

I firmly believe that as long as a brand is sincere and true to its identity and purpose, then we’re all better for it. It’s a fact that we’re living in very challenging times, and even outside the pandemic there are a lot of varied issues and negativity around us. That’s why we at Jollibee have persevered in continuing to bring joy to our customers in our campaigns, whether it be through our product advertising or brand love initiatives. Jollibee has always been about the joy of Family, and as a proudly Filipino brand we also ensure that we do our part in helping our communities. Personally, I welcome the fact that more brands are active in CSR and cause-related campaigns. I think we need more positivity and empathy, and more people and organizations working together for a common good.

Do share some of the campaigns and case studies (one or two) to showcase your brand efforts that exemplify creative effectiveness. Please provide us with a brief description of the campaign.

For the past year and a half, these are some of the campaigns we have launched:

Joy of Family Campaign
For this one we worked with an international creative agency based in Singapore, BBH, to come up with a compelling digital video on the realities families are facing in the pandemic, and to look at it on a more positive light. That despite the challenges we are facing, there are still a lot of things to be thankful for, specifically the time we have with our families.

One True Pair the movie

We recognize the ever-growing demand of digital content, and we opted to take it a notch higher by creating our first digital short movie. And it’s not just any movie, I’m proud to share that we are the first brand to finally bring together JLC and Bea Alonzo in a new project. This is part of the relaunch of our Jollibee Studios, where we aim to continue producing exclusive and engaging content in social media.

To make the campaign even bigger and to further excite our consumers, we also launched a One True Pair Ad featuring Jollibee’s Perfect Pair meal – Chickenjoy and Jolly Spaghetti – which also served as our trailer for the One True Pair movie. In essence, we were able to fully maximize the campaign by fulfilling 2 objectives. One is to build brand love and strengthen digital leadership with the One True Pair the movie, and also effectively promote our Perfect Pair meal by enticing viewers to crave for their Jollibee favorites.

Launch of the new Chick’nwich product

This is another campaign that makes me even more proud of our team, as we were able to launch one of our biggest product innovations since the Chickenjoy was introduced. And for this campaign, we created a very different, and I have to say, innovative way to launch this product. We again tapped BBH to come up with an Ad to launch the Chick’nwich not as a food product but as a tech product. The result was a ‘Product Reveal’ film parody that puts the Chick’nwich whole new light and changes the way people think about the entire chicken sandwich category. We recently launched the Ad, so hope you enjoy watching it as much as our customers have enjoyed the Chickn’wich.

What are the greatest work and life lessons you have learned from the past year?

In terms of work, I’ve really learned the value of the people and the team, and how working together can bring great results and overcome challenges. It has always been important, but especially during the pandemic, we were able to cope, pivot and eventually thrive because we had a strong team who shares the passion and dedication of our leaders. And it’s not just the Jollibee team, it goes all the way to our partner agencies and even our endorsers and brand ambassadors. Of course, other attributes such as agility, being able to adapt, resilience and the ability to focus on the tasks at hand are equally important – but without a great team working together, with each doing their roles to heart, facing this pandemic or any challenge would be very difficult.

Personally, I appreciated my family and friends more, that the time you spend with them shouldn’t be taken for granted and that you should strive to make as many happy memories as you can. I experienced the COVID virus first-hand, and it couldn’t have come at the worst time since I had to spend the Holidays in 2020 in isolation. It was a scary, unsettling, and even depressing feeling, and what got me through was the support of my family and friends and of course with the grace and blessings of God.

How do you foresee 2022 and what do you anticipate will be the emerging trends? Do you feel ready to take it on?

I do hope and think that 2022 will be a better year for all of us. Cases have been on a downward trend, and we are starting to see a sense of normalcy bit by bit. Of course, we can never go back to the days of pre-pandemic, so we should all take the lessons learned and start building a new and better present reality. In terms of trends, I expect the shift to digital to be further accelerated. This has been happening in the past decade or so, the only difference is that the pandemic has forced everyone to really embrace it and to adapt to it fast.

Yes, I believe we are ready. Like I said we’ve been moving towards this shift in digital, and the past year and a half allowed us to pivot, plan and launch initiatives to equip us for the coming year. What’s important to note also is that despite the shift, what firmly remains is Jollibee’s brand identity and values, and our mission to bring the Joy of eating to everyone.

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 always make sure that I find time for myself despite my busy schedule. Whether it be spending time with my family, connecting with friends, and doing things that I love, or even just taking a pause or a breather to appreciate all the blessings in my life. You also need to stay positive and see the silver lining despite of everything that’s happening around you. And lastly, I make sure that I have a healthy relationship with God and a strong faith that whatever happens, He will always be there to support and guide us.

Other thoughts you would like to share that we have not covered?

Another thing I want to share is the value of doing things not just for yourself, but always be guided by these questions — will it make lives or things better? Will other people benefit from it? Or will it bring positive change and impact a wider audience? This doesn’t only apply to your career but in your personal life as well. It’s about taking full advantage of the blessings you have and sharing it with others. It’s about leaving a legacy. Now to end, the question that each of us should answer — what legacy do we want to leave behind? It’s entirely up to you.


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