Thursday, September 29, 2011

Marketing without borders

By Winston A. Marbella

Sweeping changes have so radically transformed markets, products and consumers over the past several decades that marketers have had to reinvent their approaches to meet emerging challenges.  Let's take a look at some of those revolutionary changes that are transforming our lives in subtle but permanent ways.

The market for domestic workers shrank rapidly because of much better pay abroad for essentially the same work.  Consequently, the household has had to assume some of the work that an army of domestic helpers used to do in middle-income homes.

Meanwhile, the cost of living has gone up while incomes hardly rose beyond inflation levels.  The housewife resorted to buying less of each product she needed to make the budget fit.  Portion packs in sachets proliferated: shampoo, detergent, cooking oil.

The wife also had to get employed to supplement the household income.  Then she added a sideline to her day job.  With even less time now for household chores, she embraced convenient cooking mixes for all sorts of labor-intensive kitchen chores.


To reduce costs, the family had to move to condos near the place of work.  Living space shrunk, but all to the good, because there were less maids to do the cleaning.  

The working wife also had to remove the family driver and learn how to drive the kids to school and herself to work.  Automatic transmission became standard in the family car.

The regular weekly grocery day gave way to errands done on the fly.  Gasoline stations sprouted convenience stores.  Mom and pop stores went 24 hours to serve call center workers whose shifts coincided with first-world working hours.

Fine dining restaurants closed; more fast food outlets opened.  Value meals proliferated.  The population grew more obese but less healthy.  Lifestyle-driven diseases (hypertension, diabetes, stress) joined the medical lexicon.

New lifestyles further eroded previous little time left.  The Internet and social media competed with the suddenly “old” media of print, radio and television.

Traditional planning tools like industry analysis became useless, for industry walls came tumbling down and consumers crisscrossed and merged hitherto separate product categories.  Crossover vehicles like the family van did multiple tasking for work, leisure and soccer team duties.

Air-conditioned shopping malls obsoletized public parks.  We can even go to the malls now to see our doctors and dentists, even for our regular dialysis.


Levis was one of the first companies to see the markets of the future.  It decided that they were competing not only in the standard product category of casual wear, but also in eyewear and footwear.  The money for jeans came from the same pocket.

Traditional product metrics like share of market gave way to share of stomach.  Marketers found that the money for food came from one basket.

Volvo pushed the limits of market segmentation to a segment of one. Each customer had such a bewildering array of options that the likelihood of one car being exactly the same as another in options was almost nil.

Because it took an awfully long time to learn to play the piano well, the market for pianos almost died.  Yamaha invented the self-playing piano for home entertainment.

The future

The cost of fossil-based fuels will continue to spiral, driving the car industry toward alternative energy technologies.  Already, Lexus has introduced in our market a hybrid car.  Honda and Toyota have similar models waiting in the wings for investment incentives.

Many taxicabs are already running on liquefied petroleum gas (LPG).  Experimental buses have been fielded to run on compressed natural gas.  Science students in La Salle are working on a solar-powered vehicle.

The kids are staying single longer after graduation, preferring to marry later until they have saved enough to get their own families started comfortably.

Innovation will be the currency of the New Economy, the marketing gurus predict. Here is an example:

A hotel in Canada has offered customers a tour around the city using a trusted old Labrador Retriever as walking tour guide.  Unsuspecting guests do not realize they are actually taking the dog out for a walk in exchange for a free tour, saving the hotel the cost of a dog walker.

Clever, yes?  The Labrador walks the humans. The humans get a free tour.  In both cases, the hotel takes them for a ride.

(The author is an Agora Awardee for marketing management of the Philippine Marketing Association. E-Mail Marbella International Business Consultancy, 

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Crocodile dandy

By Winston A. Marbella

The chief executive of Lacoste, the French sportswear manufacturer, came visiting recently to promote a new line of female garments and, among other things, save the endangered Philippine crocodile from extinction.  Why Lacoste would like to do the second was quite clear: the brand sports a reptilian image for its logo, although it looks more like a cute baby alligator than a crocodile.

The first objective had less to do with corporate social responsibility than business: having established a formidable mark in sportswear, the brand is ready to expand its line to feminine apparel.  

Like cold shower

Coincidentally, a team of Israeli researchers made public its findings that the scent of a woman’s tears had the same withering effect on the sexual drive of a red-hot lover as a cold shower on a wintry evening.

Here’s how the researchers at the Weizmann Institute of Science arrived at their chilling conclusions:

They collected samples of tears from women who had been shown tearjerker movies.  Then they tested the real tears against saline solutions among a group of men who were wired to various sensors that monitored physical and brain-wave activity, particularly those areas of the brain that respond to sexual stimulation.  Sensors in the mouth also monitored levels of testosterone, the male hormone responsible for the sex drive.

The results: Chemical signals in the tears, although not detectable by the nose, significantly reduced testosterone and sexual arousal levels among the male subjects.  Naturally, the media went to town over the findings.  “Tears say, ‘Not tonight, dear,’” proclaimed one headline.  “The crying game,” shouted another.

The researchers likened the chemical signals in tears to anti-pheromones, those undetectable chemical substances that arouse sexual attraction between the sexes.  

The findings provoked a flood of controversy worldwide, leading to questions over the validity of the scientific methodology to suggestions that male tears should also be tested for their chemo-signal effects on women.  The researchers said that might take a bit more time since it was more difficult to find male volunteers willing to shed tears on demand, although they have found a few who could conceivably shed tears while watching tear-jerker movies and television shows.

Crocodile tears

In the wild, crocodiles have been observed to shed tears as they open their jaws wide to tear their prey to pieces.  Like humans, crocodiles have tear glands, leading early naturalists to speculate that crocs shed emotional tears while consuming their dinners.  No such thing happens.

The act of opening their jaws compresses the tear lands, so the shedding of croc tears has led to the idiom, crocodile tears, meaning fake tears, or tears not provoked by emotion.  Unwittingly, crocodile tears have acquired a female bias, although males are equally adept at shedding tears, it would seem.

The legendary British Prime Minister Winston Churchill was famously known for crying in public.  So is US General Norman Swartzkoff of Gulf War fame. So is the new Speaker of the US House of Representatives, John Boehner.

This leads us back to Lacoste’s socially responsible campaign to save crocodiles worldwide.  The company estimates that there are more Philippine crocodiles in the Melbourne (Australia) zoo than can be found in the wild in the Philippines. 

Fashion statement

Aside from surviving in zoos, crocodiles are now also raised in farms for their skin, which commands a hefty price among makers of designer bags, shoes, belts, wallets, and other leather accessories.  This is one case where a fashion trend may actually save an endangered species.  Crocs would have to be grown in large numbers to feed the fashion frenzy for crocodile skin among the high-end designer labels.

And that should be enough to make environmentally conscious fashionistas cry rivers of sympathy for “Lolong,” reputedly the world's largest living crocodile at 20.1 feet, which was captured in the marshes of Mindanao after reportedly devouring a carabao and at least one fisherman.

Since being captured, Lolong has refused to eat, showing signs of stress, according to zoologists.  Animal conservation groups have demanded that it be taken back to the wild. its natural habitat, lest it die.

The local government thinks they could make a tourist attraction of Lolong and perk up economic activity.  Meanwhile, representatives from the Guinness Book of World Records are on their way to measure the world's largest croc – hopefully before it croaks.

(The author is an Agora awardee for marketing management of the Philippine Marketing Association.  E-mail Marbella Internationnal Business Consultancy, 

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Chickenjoy brainstorm

In 'Chickenjoy' lies a strategic tourism thrust
By Winston A. Marbella
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 00:31:00 09/26/2011

Acting Tourism Secretary Ramon Jimenez, an advertising genius, became the darling of headline writers when, in his first press conference, he dished out this sound bite: “It is such an obviously beautiful product, the Philippines should be as easy as selling 'Chickenjoy,' referring to the best-selling product of Jollibee, a former client.

The new secretary explained:  “So the question you have to ask yourself is, why is it so hard?  You know why is it so hard?  Because maybe our approach to it is not simple enough.  

“The best marketing communications campaign anywhere in the world … are really hinged on the simplicity of a proposition....  It's really more about a single-mindedness of image....”

Simple approach

The remark about Chickenjoy delighted journalists.  But the more meaty passages that defined the new secretary's approach came from these words:

“Tourism advertising is not just about slogans, advertising is about strategic discipline....

“What do you have to say to someone who lives about 6,000 kilometers away in Norway for him to come all the way here to see some goldfish under the sea? You have to have a very single-minded proposition that comes alive in his head, in his mind. That's what we have to look for.....

“Now the job of turning that into a simple slogan … sifting all of that and capturing it in three or four words … that's going to be very serious work.” (Transcript provided by the Malacañang Press Office.)

Management tool kit

The term strategic discipline suggested the work of management gurus Gary Hamel and C. K.  Prahalad. (Hamel was a resource person in San Miguel Corporation's strategic planning ritual in the Nineties.  Regarded as a leading expert in strategic thinking, he co-authored books with  Prahalad, another management scholar.) Their thoughts, especially on core competencies, are relevant to Secretary Jimenez's passion for strategic discipline.

First, a definition: Core competencies are those unique internal capabilities that give you a competitive edge.  The test of a core competence is if you took the capabilities away your firm (i.e., tourism) would disappear.

Core competencies must produce high performance on the critical success factors of your target market (i.e., tourists).  Any performance gaps between competencies and critical success factors must be corrected,

Critical success factors are those few areas, external to the firm, in which a company (i.e., Department of Tourism) must excel to win in its target market.  Critical success factors rarely change, no matter what you and your competitors do.  But you can do much about your core competencies.

For example, the core competencies of 3M (makers of Scotch tape and Stick-on) are innovation and product development arising from their core technologies in adhesives and films.  Those of Honda are power train engineering arising from expertise in metallurgy and combustion technologies.

Value delivery

Hamel: “Core competencies are the collective learning in the organization, especially how to coordinate diverse production skills and integrate multiple streams of technologies, it is also about the organization of work and the delivery of value.”

How to identify a core competence
  1. It provides a potential access to a wide variety of markets, not just a limited number.
  2. It makes a significant contribution to the perceived consumer benefits of the end product (“WOW Philippines!”).
  3. It should be difficult for competitors to imitate (meaning, unique).  And it will be difficult if it is a “complex harmonization” of technologies and skills.
“The critical task for management is to create an organization capable of infusing products (and services) with irresistible functionality,” Hamel says.  “Ultimately it requires radical change in the management....”


On strategy, Hamel writes: “Companies (countries) that have risen to global leadership … began with ambitions that were out of all proportion to their resources and capabilities

“But they created an obsession with winning at all levels and sustained that obsession over the 10 or 20-year quest for global leadership, this obsession is called strategic intent.”

Sounding as if he is addressing Philippine tourism, Hamel continues:

“In the end, an organization’s capacity to improve existing skills and learn new ones is the most defensible competitive advantage of all.

“The essence of strategy lies in creating tomorrow's competitive advantages faster than competitors can mimic the ones you have today.”


(Clearly not the late, lamented “Pilipinas Kay Ganda” campaign.)  More Hamel:

“Strategic intent implies a sizeable stretch for an organization.  Current capabilities and resources are not enough. This forces the company to be more inventive to make the most of limited resources. 

“Whereas the traditional view of strategy focuses on the degree of fit between existing resources and current opportunities, strategic intent creates an extreme misfit between resources and ambitions....

“The important question is not: 'How will next year be different from this year?' but 'What must we do differently next year to get closer to our strategic intent?'”

Translated to the nuts and bolts of the daily grind, this means Secretary Jimenez, by his own definition, will need all his advertising savvy – and then some.  He needs to be a transformational leader as well.  And he needs to produce a blockbuster breakthrough idea – something  the Aquino administration needs for a host of other problems – garbage, traffic, schools, jobs, rice, highways, trees, floods, drainage, energy, water, technology, law and order....

(The author is chief executive of a management consulting firm. E-mail 

Sunday, September 25, 2011

The tsunami maker

By Winston A. Marbella

If Helen of Troy had a face that could launch a thousand ships, Shamcey Supsup has hips that can launch a thousand tsunamis.

She came home from the Miss Universe pageant in Brazil with a third runner-up finish. But she was received just as well as if she had won the crown.

Adoring fans welcomed her at the airport.  During a motorcade that stopped by her alma mater, classes were suspended and no less than the president of the University of the Philippines extolled her as the epitome of beauty and brains.

Then on to Makati where she was honored with a ticker tape parade along Ayala Avenue that stopped traffic, recalling the heady days of Cory Aquino's Yellow Revolution.

At the Makati High School, she regaled schoolmates with her signature tsunami walk.

Shamcey's now world-renowned tsunami walk, launched during the Miss Universe pageant in Sao Paolo, Brazil, was the handiwork of several trainers.

The float

“There will be 89 beauties competing,” Shamcey recalls a trainer telling her.  “You must walk as if you can float on top of them.”

She worked with several trainers perfecting that walk for months.  In the end she put all of their tips together and perambulated a unique kind of walking.

“She walks in beauty like the night,” the poet would have exclaimed.

The hips roll. The shapely legs take long strides.  And she glides.

She is a delight to see – and she knows it.  At brief stops during the motorcade that honored her on her return, she gamely demonstrated the walk.

It didn't matter that she did not win the crown; she was received just as warmly by a nation that delights in beauty.

But for all its grace, the walk is not her defining talent.

Tuna sashimi

Asked if she would go into show biz, she said:  “Acting?  Maybe not.  Maybe modeling.  I also like to practice my profession.”

Shamcey is a licensed architect.  She topped the government exams for architects after graduating from the University of the Philippines with high honors and nearly at the top of her class.

Smitten by her prodigious talent, Secretary Mar Roxas has asked her to join the team to design a new international airport.  There is talk of making her a tourism ambassador of goodwill.

Think of the possibilities: she could gather celebrities in a fun run with her at the head, doing her tsunami walk.  That could easily raise millions of pesos for charity.

In the whirlwind of events that led to Brazil, she forgot to tell her dad in General Santos City that she had given her heart away to a La Salle boy.  But that's a minor matter, Papa said.  He would still give her a big hug, and her boy friend, too.

General Santos (also the hometown of Manny Pacquiao) seems to be on a roll, a television reporter observed.  What else will the city be famous for?

“Tuna?” Shamsey replied.

They should build her a beach house there, so that when she wants to walk to the sea on her morning stroll, they could play the famous song that made “The Girl from Ipanema” almost the national anthem of Brazil:

“When she walks she's like a samba that swings so cool and sways so gentle
That when she passes each one she passes goes --- ooh.”

Saturday, September 24, 2011

A world of pure imagination

By Winston A. Marbella

If we go by cutting-edge management thinking, the strategy gurus are unanimous in proclaiming that innovation is the currency of the New Economy.  That is not as easy as it sounds.  Innovation comes from creativity, and creativity results from imagination.

“Does anyone know what it means to manage the human imagination?” the best-selling management guru Tom Peters asks hypothetically.

Apparently,  Napoleon knew.  “Imagination rules the world,” he said   His audacious military victories were classic examples of excellent strategic thinking executed well.  

Imagination was also second nature to Bobby Fischer; his brilliant chess games are masterpieces of masterful strategy.


How does one cultivate imagination, which spawns creativity, which in turn propels innovation?    

Another management guru, Gary Hamel, reputedly the foremost strategic thinker since Peter Drucker, has several ideas:
  1. Create a sense of urgency.
  2. Develop a competitor focus at every level of the organization.
  3. Provide employees with skills they need to succeed.
  4. Establish clear milestones and review mechanisms to track progress.
  5. Ensure that internal recognition and rewards reinforce desired behavior.
The drill

If you watched the bio-movie of Napoleon, all of the above seemed instinctive to him. For us less-endowed mortals, we have to do the drill.  Some ideas from the best Fortune 500 companies:

By definition, excellent companies are a “perpetually growing reservoir of ideas.”

They generate most of the breakthrough ideas, they take action on them quicker than competition, and they spread feedback to everyone to generate even more ideas.

It seems creativity feeds on itself.  By repeating this cycle over and over, the organization grows its creativity index:  It becomes more efficient and even more creative.

In fact, says Fortune, a company's capacity to generate a continuous stream of ideas is the best predictor of future earnings.

Fortune must know whereof it speaks.  They have been tracking companies for years.

Culture of curiosity

Because the New Economy will be brain-based, it will require brain-based organizations.  To paraphrase Churchill, the empires of the future will be the empires of the mind,

In nurturing creative organizations, companies need to create centers of innovation and make ideas flow and grow freely.  Seven requisites for growth:
  1. Spread information quickly. 
  2. Continually challenge “sacred cows,” or existing processes and long-held beliefs, in order to get leaps in performance and new product ideas.
  3. Encourage “Why?” questions like, “Why are we doing things this way?” or “Why are we doing this at all?”
  4. Encourage the smooth flow of information and expertise across organizational boundaries.
  5. Flatten the organizational structure.  Crush functional turfs with interdisciplinary task forces.
  6. Talk to your customers for fresh ideas.
  7. Cultivate a culture of curiosity.  The absence of meaningful mistakes means the organization is not innovating enough and has begun to play safe.
Just do it

In an age when today's competitive advantage may disappear with the next technological breakthrough, the “ability to learn faster than competition may be the only sustainable advantage,” the management gurus say.

Good examples are 3M's Post-It notes, the wonder drug Tagamet, which virtually eliminated surgery to cure ulcers, Toyota's car supermarket concept, Sony's Walkman, which launched the earphone age, the microwave oven, which revolutionized cooking, Federal Express, the parcel service. and Apple's iPod, iPhone and iPad.

Apple's retired co-founder Steve Jobs is credited with much of Apple's recent successes.  But it was Apple Fellow Allan Kay who best articulated Apple's gospel: “The best way to predict the future is to invent it.”

Shanghai moment

While on a side trip to Shanghai during a state visit to China, President Aquino saw highways that cut across the city in several layers from street level.  He pointed it out to his companions: Maybe this is the solution to the traffic problem on EDSA – several levels of highways, one on top of another,

It was an “Aha! Moment” – a leap of the imagination, a burst of creativity. Now, the Metro Manila Development Authority is making plans for a second level together with other government agencies.

We need more Aha! Moments like this to solve a host of other problems: garbage, energy, fuel, rice, jobs, schools, tourism, law and order.  But we cannot wait for Aha! Moments that are few and far between.  We need to make a cottage industry of breakthrough ideas from a wellspring of imaginative solutions, a cornucopia, as it were, of creative innovations.

That should not be very difficult.  We have always taken pride in Filipino ingenuity.  Until graft and corruption sucked dry all our creativity.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

The paper in your face

By Winston A. Marbella

Judging by its market leadership, it would seem that the Inquirer has figured out what appeals to its readers.  

From the sleuthing prowess of Fernando del Mundo’s i-Team to the award-winning reportage of its investigative reporters, from Letty Magsanoc’s catchy headlines to Joey Nolasco’s astute news evaluation, from the acerbic commentaries of Jorge V. Aruta’s opinion pages to the perceptive analyses of Juan V. Sarmiento Jr.’s Talk of the Town, from the erudition of Chelo Banal Formoso’s Learning to the insights of Margie Quimpo Espino’s Business features, from the ritz of Abelardo Ulanday’s Metro to the nuts and bolts of Raul Marcelo’s Business, from the glitz of Thelma Sioson San Juan’s Lifestyle to the glam of Emmie Velarde’s Entertainment, from Jun Engracia’s racy Second Front Page to Nilo Paurom’s eye-popping Page One, from Gani Yambot’s lively self-appraisal sessions to Ben Alabastro’s frenetic Day Desk all the way to Cesar Mangawang's Sections---the Inquirer sizzles, titillates, infuriates.  

Its readers just love it.  

In a media landscape dominated by radio and television, the Inquirer has carved out a niche that radio and TV could not dominate.

The Inquirer looks for the not-so-obvious news, the meaning of seemingly insignificant events, the story buried beneath layers of bias, prejudice, and spin.


Like the things that matter in this world, the Inquirer evokes passion: you either like it or hate it. That's because the Inquirer seeks to make a difference every day – like all good newspapers.  Its competitors are great, too, but in other ways.  

The Inquirer is outstanding in the things that matter most to its readers.  It takes a position – and is not shy about it.  Sometimes it makes mistakes – and there have been horrendous ones – but it is quick to acknowledge them.  

Then it rises from its own embarrassment and behaves exactly the way it did: pugnacious, frank, in your face.  It just cannot help it.  It is built that way -- born to be tough -- as a newspaper worth its salt should be.  

It is hard to describe this brand of journalism; “journalism with an attitude” comes close.


As you ascend the spiral stairs from the lobby of the Philippine Daily Inquirer, you can literally feel the building throbbing.  

The building pulsates not only with the excitement of the day’s news but also with the anticipation of how the Inquirer would treat it – for no other newspaper in the nation’s history has managed to grab so much attention, or generate so much controversy.  

The Inquirer moves with the vibrancy of its reportage, the vigor of its opinions, and the sheer virility of its approach to journalism.  

Like all dynamic companies, it is alive.  For all of its bravado, the Inquirer reminds you of Nike – no, not the shoes, but where they take you. 

The Inquirer takes you on a rollercoaster ride everyday; it is dizzying and sometimes you want to throw up, but it is an exciting ride.  The Inquirer is so up-close-and-personal, even so in-your-face, much like Michael Jordan.

Low key

For all of its audacity, the Inquirer is led by a group of mild-mannered women and their equally bland Band of Brothers: its key executives are unassuming and almost self-effacing: board chair Marixi R. Prieto, president Alexandra Prieto-Romualdez, publisher Isagani Yambot, editor-in-chief Letty Jimenez-Magsanoc, and managing editor Jose Ma. D. Nolasco.  

But wait till you hear Sandy Romualdez talk about her vision for the company: she is intense, passionate,  charismatic, and burns with a laser-like enthusiasm about the future.  

You know that the Inquirer is going places.  You don’t know exactly where – you just know.  

You also know it will be a thrilling ride, and as a faithful reader you are willing to go for the vicarious ride of your ordinary and uneventful life.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Children of the dew

'The Media: Children of the dew'
By Winston  A. Marbella
Business World Online
First Posted: 09/27/2011 21:33:12

Whoever called television the boob tube must have been referring to the kind of mind-dumbing programs one found there in its early days.  The observation applies to this day, largely.  But by the sheer law of averages, and considering the amount of time we watch TV (3.5 hours daily, according to media data), we are bound to find some programs that trigger food for thought, if we are lucky.

I seem to have been lucky last week, for I found, within 24 hours, several glimpses of life on this planet that make you reconsider the boob tube as both a numbing and dumbing experience.

Over in Russia, two rich businessmen were debating what to do with the Russian economy at a talk show.  Economics being one of those things that apparently make Russian passions flare; one panelist stood up and delivered a one-two combination on the other panelist, causing him to fall from his swivel chair.  Russia reputedly has the highest level of alcoholism in the world, so it is not farfetched to suspect the talk show was actually called “The Booze Tube.”

Trash talk

But one doesn't need to go to Russia to watch this kind of boxing bout.  Over in Las Vegas, Nevada, Floyd Mayweather was at a press conference ranting and raving why the media always needle him about evading a fight with Manny Pacquiao.  Talk like that always infuriates Floyd, especially after he has just demolished Victor Ortiz with a fourth-round sucker punch delivered while Ortiz was talking to the referee.

In so many words, Floyd said something like:  People come here to make millions of dollars to bring back to their country.  There's nothing wrong with that.  Every time I fight, I make 70 million dollars here.  I don't need Pacquiao to make that.

Of course, the long peroration did not answer why Floyd has not signed up for a bout with Manny; that is what rankles him.  Next time, if we want to hear Mayweather trash talk, we mention Pacquiao.  That will get him going, much more than an economics debate on Russian TV.

A day in the city

From the glitz of Vegas, my channel surfing brought me back home.  A cab driver had left his taxi in the middle of EDSA to chase three kids not yet in their teens, who escaped easily by jumping across commuter train tracks.  Marauding gangs have been doing this while taxicabs are stuck in traffic:  they open doors to distract the driver while a companion steals the cash on the dashboard.

A documentary later that evening, masterfully done by Kara David on GMA 7's “I-Witness,” examined the face of crime and poverty in the city.

It turns out that the boys who steal from cab drivers start out with petty crimes like these.  In their teens, they form gangs to burglarize houses. And then on to more serious crimes. I will now paraphrase snatches of David's perceptive reporting:

Q. “Ano ang mga pangarap ninyo sa buhay?”  (What are your dreams?)

A, “Wala po.”  (None, ma'am.)

Q. “Hindi ba kayo natatakot mahuli?”  (Are you not afraid of being caught?)

A.  “Hindi po.  Hindi naman kami puedeng ikulong habang bata pa kami.  Pinawawalan naman kami  pagkatapos sa DSWD.”  (No, ma'am.  They cannot jail us while we are minors.  They take us to the Department of Social Welfare.  Then they let us go.)

Q, “Papano pagka umabot na kayo sa tamang edad na maikukulong na kayo?”  (What will happen when you reach legal age?)

A.  “Dadalhin na po kami sa city jail.”  (They will detain us at the city jail.)

Q. “Wala ba kayong plano sa buhay?”  (Don't you have any plans for the future?)

A. “Hindi na po ako siguro aabot ng isa pang taon.”  (I may not live for another year.)

Q. “Ano ang ibig mong sabihin?”  (What do you mean?)

A. “Mamamatay na po ako sa isang taon.”  (I will die before the year is over.)

In another episode, David interviewed a mother.  After her husband died, she made ends meet washing clothes.  One day, her preteen son said he was going out in the streets to beg: he had no more money to buy food at school.

His mother sobbed.  She told David she could not stop him.  One day he did not come home after dark.  

His mother rushed to the place where he usually begged for alms.  He was beside the gutter asleep.  She asked why.  He said he had gotten so tired he fell asleep. 

She took him in her arms and hugged him.

Kara David's documentary called them “Anak ng Kalsada” (Children of the Street).  The police and social workers call them simply “batang hamog” (children of the dew).
Story location:

Monday, September 19, 2011

Husbands who shop

By Winston A. Marbella

More husbands are now shopping to help busy wives with their grocery chores, but she does not always welcome him with a hug.  It all depends on whether or not he follows her instructions to the letter.

A tracking study of consumer buying habits in supermarkets and grocery stores finds husbands are more prone to impulse buys, especially when prodded by promotional sales ladies.  So he buys these things on top of the grocery list he got from the wife, ending up with a bigger bill.

But the wife is not exactly blameless on impulse purchases.  Three out of four brands she buys are decided in the store, although she generally keeps within her grocery shopping list.  She lets her husband shop for groceries when she is too tired to do it after work.

Lifestyle driven

Lifestyle changes are driving the trend for husbands to do more shopping for the family.  Higher consumer expectations are also driving retailers to innovate and push quality standards even higher.

Stores have stopped being mere warehouses of goods but are designing environments where shoppers can experience an ambiance conducive to buying more, the study found.

One-stop shopping in gasoline stations is increasing because of the rising cost of gasoline.  Convenience stores open 24 hours are also enjoying more business.

Shoppers like the easy access provided by convenience stores, their being “always cool and well-lit,” their faster checkouts, and their “helpful and friendly staff.”

Of the in-store advertising activities, three out of ten shoppers notice promo girls and almost the same number go for taste samplers.  Close to half do not notice any advertising at all.  Almost two out of ten pick up small items near the cashier.

Of the product promotions offered on site, almost four out of ten shoppers like additional grams.  More than a third likes product giveaways and price reductions.  Almost one in four prefers raffles and free samples.  Barely one percent participates in point accumulation and rewards programs, preferring instant gratification here and now.
Moment of truth

Because the buying decision---the marketing moment of truth---happens at the store, grocers are competing in creating the right shopping experience, outstanding customer service, product availability at all times, wider choices, creative merchandising, and persuasive special events marketing like the use of pretty promo girls.

But these can go overboard.  The wife may just decide to send the maid to the neighborhood sari-store store—there are over 200,000 of these nationwide—to buy regular household items for daily use.

The prices may be a bit higher in mom and pop stores, but the total cost comes out cheaper, because the husband does not get the chance to indulge his urge to splurge.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Dispassionate housewives

By Winston A. Marbella

The continuing erosion of the purchasing power of middle-income families is evolving a take-charge super mom whose accumulation of vast decision-making powers in the home is reshaping the dynamic of managing the family finances and running the household.  Mothers are now responsible for more than half of all household purchases and their single-minded passion is the kids’ education.

Over the past decade, demographers and marketing researchers have noted the continuing shrinkage of the middle class and the emergence of a “practical” and “resourceful” wife and mother who has had to supplement the family income without letting go of her traditional role as home-maker.

Compared to their own mothers, these modern moms see themselves as “better providers, materially and emotionally,” “more understanding of their children,” “more liberal-minded,” and “always looking out for the children’s welfare.”

Education first

What has this done to the traditional father’s role in the home?  Dads have become “less important,” the moms say.  “They don’t do very much housework, but they provide the money.  I have to do more of the house chores.”

But dad has not lost all his clout.  “They still discipline the kids who are hard to control,” the moms say.  “The kids fear them more because the kids rarely see them.”

But budgeting the household’s expenses is definitely mother’s turf.  They also think of themselves as “self-sacrificing” and willing to forego their own needs for their kids’.  They consider thrift and ingenuity in making ends meet as among their more important “virtues.”

These modern moms now seek fulfilment for themselves through their kids: “I hope they finish their education.”  Thus they show high involvement in their kids’ schooling and homework and personally see to their studies and school projects.

The moms consider themselves “traditional.”  They go with the family to church on weekends, eat out at the mall, and shop for groceries with their kids, which they consider “a treat.”  Then they return home and buckle down to more housework.

Compensating for guilt

On weekdays, mom “steals” time for herself.  “After sending them off to school, I take my beauty nap”, she says.  “I make sure I have time for myself.  I exercise for about an hour, and after that I rest and then watch TV or read.”

Working moms have no guilt feelings about having to work: “We need both incomes.”  They compensate by helping the kids with their homework and cooking for them.  They do not see themselves as “working for themselves but working for their children.”

Since assuming a bigger role in providing for the kids’ material and emotional needs, they now defer less to their husbands and have become less self-effacing.  They keep a little of their income for spending on personal items.

Working moms call from work to check on the kids.  The kids are their first priority.  They see themselves as indispensable to the survival of the family.

More and more, they see themselves as the “moving force” of the home.    They “hold everything together: the rational, emotional, and functional.”  

They are the glue that binds the family and home together.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Just an old fashioned love song

By Winston A. Marbella

The boob tube is not exactly the best place for surfing breakthrough ideas, but perseverance gets its just rewards – eventually – if you persist long enough, and you get lucky.  Last weekend was my lucky day, it seems.

First, I caught Matteo Guidicelli, the heartthrob actor, on Boy Abunda's “The Buzz,” breaking silence on the Pacquiao punch that another heartthrob actor, Coco Martin, threw his way at a recent party at the Manila Peninsula.  Although the punch caught him flush in the face, Matteo apologized profusely for the incident and said he might have caused it by being misunderstood by Coco.

The cause of the rhubarb apparently was Maja Salvador, Matteo's girlfriend, and Coco's co-star in a highly successful television drama series.  Appearing the previous week in Abunda's program the day after the incident, Maja had broken into tears and wondered what was to happen to her relationship with Matteo after the incident put it in jeopardy.

Patchwork solution

What Matteo did to repair the relationship is actually the point of this narrative, for it shows us how a breakthrough idea can be put together using something as old fashioned as flowers but reinvented with something as mundane as Post-It notes.

As Matteo retold it, he had something like P4,000 in his pocket when he set out to woo back Maja,  He went to the flower market in Dangwa and splurged on flowers worth P2,000. Then he bought hundreds of Post-It notes.

Next, Matteo borrowed the key to Maja’s place from her mother.  He arranged the flowers himself and plastered the walls with hundreds of Post-It notes, each one telling her why he loves her.  To make a mushy story short, “It worked!” – Mateo cried triumphantly in Abunda's show.

Flowers and Post-It notes, that's all it took.  Plus, of course, Matteo's charm and sincerity.

A traffic scheme

Surfing to another channel, I caught one of the government officials President Aquino had taken with him to China on a state visit recently.  While on a stopover in Shanghai, the President called the official's attention to what could be a solution to Manila's chronic traffic problem.

The President pointed to skyways that cut across the city in several layers over street level.  This could be done over EDSA, the official said, rather than widening the thoroughfare that connects 18 municipalities one lane at a time.

Moving on to another channel, a talk show was at full throttle dissecting whether incinerators, as proposed by the Metro Manila Development Authority, were safe to use as a stopgap measure to the mounting garbage problem.  The consensus: Incinerators produce highly toxic by-products and cost too much.  Public education and waste segregation were still the sustainable long-term solutions.

More recently, a business group asked the Department of Energy to defer pushing incentives for wind and solar power and instead support biomass projects as an alternative source of sustainable energy.  The alternatives will be debated extensively, as we are wont to do, but maybe there is a breakthrough idea lurking somewhere in the garbage dump: biomass uses waste organic material for producing energy.

If the scientists at the Department of Science and Technology can link up garbage disposal with energy generation, we may have something going to reduce the cost of electricity – the world's highest, by some accounts – a hindrance to development.  A wild idea, maybe. But so was Matteo’s “Aha! Moment.”

Enter the gurus

The world's leading management thinkers have long pushed imagination as a driving force of innovation, which in turn propels the winning strategies of successful companies they have studied.  Says Gary Hamel:

“Strategy has to be subversive.  If it is not challenging internal company rules or industry rules, it is NOT strategy.... The goal is to cause earthquakes.”

The master guru, Peter Drucker, says, “Every organization needs one core competence:  Innovation.”

Explains Tom Peters: “Innovation is the main source of value in the New Economy.  Does anyone know what it means to manage the human imagination?  The problem is not how to get innovative ideas into your head, but how to get obsolete ideas out.”

Hamel agrees, “We must reverse a paradigm drummed into us from business school to the grave:  What worked in the past will work in the future.”

And from an innovating company, Hewlett-Packard: “Whatever made you successful in the past is not going to make you successful in the future.”

All well said, and no doubt our government planners can learn a lot from these tested approaches from the business world.  For me, I like best the Matteo Solution: It's simple, elegant, cost-efficient, and – best of all – it works.

(Comments welcome at Marbella International Business Consultancy,

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Hacienda summer interlude

By Winston A. Marbella

The sons of the landed gentry always came home in the summer from their exclusive Catholic schools in the city.  The fertile haciendas of their fathers welcomed them with the bounty of their colonial paradise: rice, corn, and sugarcane.  

It had been like this since the Spaniards arrived centuries earlier with their science, technology and knowhow.  And so it goes on to this day, transforming the verdant fields into the immense wealth of the hacendado families, passing on from father to eldest son.

El Senor Don Fabian  was of the landed gentry, and he had married a fragile Chinese heiress with small feet who had been christened, quite appropriately, Soledad Zapata, which meant “shoe.”    She bore him two daughters and two sons, one of whom became a priest as the family’s tribute to God.  

The other son they named Hidalgo, whom Don Fabian, as he was reverentially called, had sent to matriculate at the old Colegio de San Juan de Letran in Intramuros (literally, “winthin the walls”), easily the finest boys school of the time.

Don Fabian had brought up Hidalgo in the rigorous traditions of the Old Spanish families; he had trained him as an apprentice in all the aspects of running an encomienda, as well the gentlemanly arts of fencing and horsemanship.  If Don Fabian had his way, he would make of him a fine son, schooled in the way of aristocrats, but capable of working just as hard as the peones and carrying his own weight without depending on his inheritance.  Thus did Don Fabian introduce Hidalgo to the skills of a baker at the family store in the poblacion.

First blush

It was at the bakery that Maria Consolacion had first laid eyes on Hidalgo, but very discreetly, of course, since it was considered quite forward of virginal maidens to look at a man’s eyes directly lest they be smitten instantly.  

Hidalgo was tall for his age and, although his long bones had not yet filled out with the rippling muscles that would give him a Castilian air, he was a already a stunning foreshadowing of the grown man he would become.  He stood tall in his riding ensemble of a loose white cotton shirt with ruffled collar and sleeves, stretch pants that hugged his powerful loins, and polished black riding boots that outlined every curve of his muscled legs sculpted by long hours of riding.  

Maria had but a fleeting moment to spy on him and the voice in her head had instantly told her that this was the man she would marry, but on that first meeting Hipolito had given her no more than a passing glance because, at fourteen, Maria had not yet blossomed into the beautiful lass she would be in another summer or two.  

The voice in her head had never failed her, and so Maria knew in her heart of hearts that this was the man she would marry, and even if on this first encounter he was still a gangling adolescent hovering awkwardly between boyhood and manhood, she could already see in her mind’s eye what a handsome young man he would be when she finally married him.  But he had gone on to the big city to study in the old college within the walls and she had been betrothed by her parents to an equally dashing young man who had gone to the same school with the man of her dreams.

The days of youth are brief and fleeting and before anybody noticed it the young boys were back in the haciendas where the wild summer winds were beginning to murmur odes to romance and soft moonlit nights caressed carefree hearts with hymns of love.


IN THE SUMMER it was customary for the young men home from school to visit their fiancée when the sun had gone down long enough to allow the evenings to cool down sufficiently for marauding bachelors to roam the streets with their guitars to serenade the objects of their desire.  

It did not surprise Maria that her fiancé had come to sing her love songs on the very first night he arrived from the city; what surprised her was that her betrothed had brought with him a friend from school to play second fiddle to his guitar.  It was Hidalgo and Maria’s heart skipped a beat when she first recognized him, but she quickly perished the thought that he was the man she would marry although the voice in her head was seldom wrong.  

Enough of this nonsense, she rebuked herself, but on that evening sleep would not come to her as nonchalantly as it had done these past summer nights.  Hidalgo occupied her thoughts and her dreams until the sun banished the dawn, and even then he was still on her mind and would not depart from her until she gave her heart away. 

Saturday, September 10, 2011

The dog on Hemingway's mountain

By Winston A. Marbella

Mount Kilimanjaro is the highest peak in Africa.  It soars majestically in north-eastern Tanzania on the Indian Ocean coast of central Africa.  It dominates memory mainly because of Ernest Hemingway's 1936 masterpiece, “The Snows of Kilimanjaro.”

Hemingway began that story with a haunting introduction:

“Kilimanjaro is a snow-covered mountain 19,710 feet high, and is said to be the highest mountain in Africa.  Its western summit is called the Masai “Ngaje Ngai,” the House of God.  Close to the western summit is the dried and frozen carcass of a leopard.  No one has explained what the leopard was seeking at that altitude.”

In 2009 Kilimanjaro figured prominently in the news after scientists warned its famous snows may be gone within five to six decades because of climate change.

More recently, a group of tourists climbing to the summit spotted a dog and took cell phone photos of it, a Tanzania newspaper reported.

After reaching the summit, four climbers needed to heed the call of nature.  They spotted the dog perched on a rock about a meter away.  They took pictures and showed these to their guide, who remarked a similar dog had been sighted ten years ago at one of the camps on the way up.

The trek to the summit takes five to six days.  If this is the same dog, the mystery is how it has survived the freezing temperatures.

Rodents who have adapted to the thin air are said to abound near the summit.  The dog may also have survived foraging for scraps in the camp sites.

Nobody has explained what the dog is seeking at that altitude.  If Hemingway were alive, he might be inspired to write a sequel, this time about the dog.

The climb up Kilimanjaro is considered one of the best treks still available on this planet, snow or no snow.

I had an urge to book the next tour.  The snows may soon be gone.  The leopard carcass may have blown with the wind.  But I may still find the dog, and--who knows--the spirit of Ernest Hemingway?

I called my travel agent.

A bubbly voice answered the phone.  “Serendipity Travel, may I help you?”

'“Oh, yes.  Do you have tours in Africa?”

“Yes, sir.  We just booked a group for the Serengeti Safari.  But they do this all the time this time of year, so we can put you on the next one.”

“I had something else in mind, you know, something off the beaten track?”

“What did you have in mind, sir?”

“A trek up Kilimanjaro?”

A pause.  Then a deep breath.

“I heard that,” I said.

“Sorry, sir, we don't have that.  But the Serengeti Safari is really a lot of fun ... lions, elephants, giraffe...”

“But that's like going to the zoo ... kid stuff.”

“The lions, sir, they're a lot of fun.  Sometimes, they chase after your Land Rover.”

“Have they caught any people lately?

“Oh, no, sir.  The Land Rovers are much faster.  But it's a wild ride.  Takes your breath away.”

“How about if I took the Serengeti Safari and leased the Land Rover for the trek up Kilimanjaro?  Can you arrange that for me?”

“I'm afraid that's not possible, sir.  But what would you be doing up Kilimanjaro, if you don't mind my asking, sir?”

“You see, there's this dog they spotted recently near the summit ...”

“Oh, that!” 

“Yes, that.” 

“Not much in that, sir.  Just looks like an overgrown Chihuahua,”

“How did you know that?”

“Facebook, sir.”

“I still like to see the dog.  It might be an Azkal.”

“I understand the dog is gone, sir.  They're blaming some Filipino tourists who went up the summit...”

I took a deep breath.   


“I'm here.”

“They have found the dried leopard carcass, and the climate scientists have revised their forecast about the snow disappearing.  The Safari is still the better buy, if you ask me, sir.”

I paused to catch my breath.

“I heard that, sir!  Sir…?

“Okay, then.  I'll skip the dog and take my chances with the lions.”

She started to say something, but I did nor hear her for the beating of my heart.