As many brands struggle to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic, we took a deep dive into how brands in the Philippines are coming up on top despite facing greater economic challenges than the rest of Southeast Asia. We found these three strategies that Southeast Asian marketers can adopt:

  1. Don’t go dark.
  2. Speak your customers’ language.
  3. Lean into the data.

Philippines is one of the most impacted countries in Southeast Asia by the COVID-19 pandemic. They were poorly prepared, and their healthcare system had just suffered a USD$197million budget cut, resulting in overworked healthcare workers only had 2,000 Coronavirus testing kits to serve over a population of 100 million. This put them on the map with the highest number of deaths in Southeast Asia, and were the first to report a death outside of China.

Forecasts estimate that the COVID-19 pandemic will cost the country’s economy about USD$2.3 billion and over 7,000 Filipinos may lose their jobs by the first half of 2020. The hardest hit industries in the Philippines are travel and retail.

It’s estimated that the Philippines will lose about 1.42 million tourists and USD$450 million monthly in revenue. Philippine Airlines has laid off 300 employees and AirAsia Philippines has postponed its IPO with a 30% drop in business looming on the horizon. Even prior to mall closures, the cancellation of its nationwide retail sale caused a 30% to 50% dip in retail.

We looked to our XACT data, with over 375 million attributes, and observed that shortly after the first death in the Philippines, there was a steep drop in traffic to airports and malls. However, as the initial panic wore off, footfall traffic gradually returned to normal. This suggests that there are consumers who want to purchase products, so you just need to know how to reach them.

Fig. 1: Airport and Mall footfall returns to normal after initial shock wears off.

Brands Here are Winning

Brands across Asia are suffering from the same dilemma – how to navigate through a world that has changed almost overnight. They may want to take a page from brands in the Philippines that have managed to fare better despite the circumstances.

Using our social media listening tools, we managed to confirm that brands in the Philippines are doing better than their Southeast Asian counterparts. For example, against other national carriers in Malaysia, Singapore, and Thailand, Philippine Airlines still comes up top in terms of positive sentiment.

Fig. 2: Positive sentiment peaks for national carriers across Southeast Asia.

Watsons, Asia’s leading health and beauty store, has the highest positive sentiment in the Philippines.

Fig. 3: Positive sentiment for Watsons in the Philippines.

Surprisingly, despite its shortcomings in handling the pandemic, the Department of Health for the Philippines also ranks the highest compared to other Southeast Asian countries.

Fig. 4: Positive sentiment peaks for the Ministry of Health in different countries.

Communication Strategies from Brands in the Philippines

Using our social media listening tools and the Video Analytics and Creation Engine, we’ve uncovered three strategies Southeast Asian marketers can learn from brands in the archipelago.

1. Don’t go dark

Philippines has the highest number of videos created in comparison to other Southeast Asian countries.

Fig. 5: Number of videos created by country vs the number of reported cases.

This has helped brands retain top-of-mind over brands that have gone dark. AirAsia and Clorox maintained a high level of mentions over brands like Slumberland and Mr Muscle.

Fig. 6 – Media mentions of brands in the Philippines

Why does this matter?  Studies have found that while brand love increases the willingness for customers to pay a premium for your product when times are good, it also makes them more willing to forgive you when times are tough.

Pic. 1: Watsons out of stock announcement is greeted positively by netizens.

Vid. 1: Watsons used their logo in creative ways to convey support for its consumers during a difficult time.

This also makes good business sense, as consumer trust studies have found that 33% have stopped using brands that reacted poorly during the Coronavirus outbreak. While 37% have started purchasing from brands that have reacted well, and 65% say how brands react during this time will affect how they purchase in the future.


2. Speak your customers’ language

We looked into videos being created on Coronavirus and found that Tagalog videos get 59% more views and 36% more comments compared to English videos.

Fig. 7: Average views and comments of English videos vs Tagalog Videos.

That doesn’t mean there isn’t room for videos in both languages. Brands just need to pay attention to their preferences. In the Philippines, English videos in the ‘News and Politics’ category performed the best, compared to ‘Comedy’ which performed better globally. This demonstrates that audiences still trust English news channels like ABS-CBN News and CNN Philippines.

Fig. 8: Average views of English videos by category.

When it comes to videos in Tagalog, people tend to seek out educational videos instead, mainly videos with advice from local doctors.

Fig. 9: Average views of Tagalog videos by category.

3. Lean into the data

Look into the data that you own to uncover data-driven solutions, by filling those gaps and pivoting opportunities. If you’re in F&B, retail, or FMCG it’s time to explore different audiences and hit the reset button on your marketing strategies. You may even find different personas who you have never considered targeting before – such as Crisis Personas that have emerged during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Pic. 2: Two crisis personas emerging in the Philippines.

It’s also an opportunity to diversify your sales channels and meet customers where they are. For example, Angkas, a bike-hailing app, launched Angkas Food and started delivering food to people for free.

Pic. 3: Angkas announcing the launch of Angkas Food.

Jollibee started selling ready-to-cook items including its famous Chicken Joy. Even the local province of Guimaras, which had to cancel their annual mango festival, started selling their mangoes on Facebook instead.


The COVID-19 pandemic represents a time of unprecedented challenge for countries and brands alike. But it also presents an opportunity for us to reset and change the way we operate, the way we think, and the way we communicate. Most importantly, what we’ve seen from the Philippines, is that those that who act fast will be favoured by consumers, and those who fail to act will be punished.

Not sure where to start?

Our data shows that your audiences still want to hear from you. With the restricted movement imposed in most countries, and with shooting and production coming to a complete halt, we understand that it won’t be easy to create content pieces that are relevant.

We can help you turn the old into new.

We can rework your old videos for new audiences or cut your video into multiple short blurbs to reach different personas. Whatever works for your brand, we can provide from as low as US$108.