“I don’t understand; my FB friends are all ‘pink.’ Why did we lose?” “I don’t understand why Robin Padilla won.” These are just some of the posts that I see in my social media feeds. Most of the posters, however, are professionals living comfortable middle- to upper-class lives.
Why does understanding the Filipino masses remain an enigma to many, so much so that many national candidates and their followers failed to win their hearts? Who is the Filipino “masa?” The Filipino masses are defined in terms of their income, based on a paper by Dr. Jose Ramon G. Albert, et. al. of the Philippine Institute for Development Studies. They are composed of the “poor” — households with five members that earn less than P10,957 per month — and the “low income” — those that earn between P10,957 and P21,914 per month. At the time of the study in 2018, they comprised 55.2 percent of the total population.
They spend more than half of their income on food and other necessities and the least on education (1.4 percent and 1.3 percent of total expenditures for the poor and low income, respectively), compared to the lower middle class to rich (between 1.8 percent and 3.1 percent).
Marketing agencies and consumer goods firms, meanwhile, normally define the “masa” in terms of socioeconomic classes, i.e. those belonging to the DE class or those earning P328,000 per year or P27,000 per month. They comprise about 75 percent of the population.
In our consultancy work with consumer goods and service companies, we gathered how these organizations defined class DE. By occupation, they are lowly paid white-collar workers or skilled workers, lowland farmers, tenants, foreman, unskilled overseas workers, small business owners, or engaged in services jobs such as plumbing, repairs, masonry, etc. Their education ranges from some elementary schooling to having graduated high school. They live in informal settlements, interior districts, rural houses and houses in neighborhoods with shared facilities.
Our consultancy work even goes as far as defining DE personas. For example, one persona is “a truck driver, father of four, high school graduate, nangungupahan (renting), galing probinsya (from the province), no formal driver training, kumikita P1,000/day (earning P1,000 per day).” The media and brands used by this persona are “tabloids, Cobra, Ginebra, Emperador and 3-in-1 coffee.” The motivations of this persona are “pagkain araw-araw (food everyday), mapaaral mga bata (schooling of children). His influencers are “radio, social media, fellow truck drivers.” When we define other personas such as unskilled OFW (overseas Filipino worker), market vendor and others, we see almost the same characteristics.
This is why successful consumer good companies in the Philippines have mastered how to market to the masses. Marketing to the bottom-of-the-pyramid started the trend in the 1990s with the entry of “sachet” products ranging from telco services to shampoo, vinegar and even alcoholic drinks. This is coupled with targeted messaging, using local language and jargon, and employing local artists that appeal to the masses.
Any consumer goods company, or national candidate for that matter, needs to understand the “masa” persona by defining his or her personality, frustrations, needs and wants, and motivations, in order to win their hearts and minds. Condescending or patronizing messages will always backfire and even alienate them as proven in several marketing case studies.
Instead, when marketing to the Filipino masses, empathy should be at the core of understanding them. They should be able to relate to the product, brand and the messaging. We should put ourselves in their shoes and in their lives. The Philippines is composed not only by the class ABC but primarily by the masses. This is something that all need to understand.
The author is founder and CEO of Hungry Workhorse Consulting, a digital and culture transformation consulting firm. He is the chairman of the information and communication technology committee of the Financial Executives Institute of the Philippines. He is a fellow at the US-based Institute for Digital Transformation and teaches strategic management in the MBA Program of De La Salle University. The author may be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.