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.

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