Marketing in the 3rd World: Losing the battle against clipart

It goes without saying that marketing and communications in one of the poorest islands of the developing world is very different to pitching in the air-conditioned comfort of Sydney.

For starters I’m wearing flip-flops and shorts and can feel the beads of sweat form on my shoulder blades race down my back. And occasionally my pitch is interrupted by the blood curdling death squeals of a pig, toddlers wandering in and receiving ‘blessings’ from the staff or the power disappearing for no apparent reason.

I’m a flexible individual and take these factors on board, but it’s the Filipino aesthetic that can be the real issue in my work.

sppi-lowresOur logo that the wonderfully talented Tim Neve assisted me with is clean and simple. For starters the name of my organisation is a challenge, its in Waray, the local language, not Tagalog, the national language and after 5 months of being here I still can’t say it without it being written in front of me – Sentro ha Pagpauswag ha Panginabuhi, Inc. Our acronym when googled comes up with Spectrum Pharmaceuticals, Inc. (SPPI) among other companies that are not us.

When I was presenting to the Board of Trustees they were highly concerned that the logo had no picture, “there should be hands holding fish and crabs,” “and root crops”, “and seaweed…” Explaining that would be visually confusing and distracting from the message of local economy development and in our campaigns we would have supporting photos took a lot of explaining, but I stood my ground that day.

With my counterpart I am organising the Mud Crab (Kinis) Festival with our local mud crab farmers of the Mangrove Crab Producer Association of Rosario (MCPAR). He has a natural business mind and over the 5 months I have seen his confidence grow and very critically for marketing, he is a natural networker with an ability to relate to farmers and managers alike.

I will use one word to describe the festival logo – clipart. Now one can assume my opinion so it need not be said, but our co-workers, who essentially represent our target market, love it. It’s colourful, it’s fun; it’s what it is. Am I consumer focused or am I imposing an ideal like a neo-colonialist font-Nazi (Well we could use Comic Sans, what about Calibri?)

But it’s not just our NGO on an impoverished island, all of Philippines marketing appears to be trapped in an early 90’s time capsule. You just need to see the national tourism website to see that.

All marketers and creatives have to pick their battles and use the gentle art of persuasion, that’s part of the job. I think my greatest achievement here has not been a logo, a brochure, the blog  or marketing workshops. It’s planting the seed of how critical networking is at a grass-roots level for any organisation to be viable and sustainable.

Meat and greet

Working with sustainable farmers and fishermen I have developed a mild obsession with food production. Which has lead me to a logical conclusion – today I met the pig that I will buy for my fiesta ‘blowout’.

In the Philippines the lechon (roasted whole pig) takes centre stage at the most culturally significant time for every town, the Fiesta. Families will literally starve themselves so they can afford to buy a lechon for major events.
At the end of the month is Catarman’s Fiesta, my family is coming to visit me and it is also my father’s birthday, no better time to buy a lechon.

One of our model farmers, using one of SPPI’s Local Economy Development Program loans has been fattening hogs.  I will be buying a pig from Nini and her husband at a very reasonable price. Her husband will slaughter the pig at the farm, bring the carcass to my house then slow roast it for around three hours, laboriously turning it by hand over charcoal until the flesh is golden.

I am a coward though, the slaughter could have occurred at my house but I said no. I have always been a committed carnivore and was profoundly moved when Jamie Oliver killed a goat in Italy, then helped skin it and cooked it,  “A chef who’s cooked 2,000 sheep should kill at least one; otherwise you’re a fake … It’s a beautiful creature but it is tasty and we are the top of the food chain.”

Although I will never make it as a butcher I believe meat, and food in general, is overly sanitised in Australia. Carrots should be odd shapes and who cares if it still has dirt on it? Why are all of our tomatoes perfectly round and red? Where was that fish caught and how many are left? If it’s not the season for apples, eat something else. We should make it our business to know where our meat comes from and what conditions it was raised and killed in.

‘Porky’ (tip: don’t anamorphize your food, it doesn’t help) has lead a healthy life: raised on rice and is fat with a perfect coat. The payment for the pig and labour will equate to two months income for Nini and her family.

I love meat but I have seriously trimmed down my consumption in one of the most carnivorous countries in the world. The labour, resources and environmental impact of production has made me realise what a treat meat is and that I don’t need to eat it every day.

Don't amamorphize your food

Don't anamorphize your food

Different Different but Same

A few hours in a plane from Manila and you are transported to another world.

Although both Asian countries Japan is pretty much the polar opposite of the Philippines: transport runs to the second, nothing is dirty or out of place and there is a stillness.

Even in cities there is a calm, soft voices, an order, a system to adhere to. From a plate of sashimi to a temple rock garden, everything is a work of art, meticulously placed in the correct position.

In the Philippines everything is a heady, crazy mixture of clashing ideas and aesthetics for an example simply look at the garish and menacing look of the pimped up Jeepneys that run whenever they are full of passengers (walang timetable). The Philippines is like one of its favourite desserts, halo halo (mixed mixed): colourful, loud, a combination of whatever is at hand.

And not only could I flush my toilet paper in Japan, there was a NASA-like control panel on the side for splashing sounds (to cover the real splash), volume of splash, temperature control for bidet, water location and blast strength and of course a flush button (never to be assumed in the Philippines!)

One thing Japan and the Philippines has in common is warm hospitality and a willingness to help a stranger in their land. If you know me personally you know I have travelled South America, Europe, Turkey, India and of course my homeland Australia, but never have I encountered so many people to help me along my way as I have in Japan and the Philippines.

There is also a respect for elders that is lacking in my culture back home. Perhaps because Australia is such a halo halo country we have no established culture of hierarchy, if anything we rebel against it. Or perhaps we have no linguistic tools to articulate respect like Japanese and Tagalog. Either way I will miss being ma’am, ate (pronounced ar-te), and my personal favourite, Miss Jenny when I return home.

Every dish is a work of art

Every dish is a work of art