Last December 8, Mariel Chavez was awarded Brand Builder of the Year in the annual PANAta Awards, the hallmark PANA celebration for the country’s most effective and creative brand campaigns.
Mariel is currently a Brand Director at P&G and has handled challenger brands (Tide), category captains (Downy), and whitespace entrants (Fabric Refreshers/Sprays). Her current portfolio includes a $200mn business, a group of 3 senior brand managers, and a multifunctional team from product supply, finance, market research, sales, R&D, and packaging design.
Let us get to know her on a deeper level, appreciating how she emerged a cut above the rest.
Asked what she loves best about brand building, she has this to say: “I love that it is a balanced exercise of art and science. As marketers, we are often hardwired to solve problems logically. However, we are also expected to synthesize patterns across our own consumer experiences in order o deliver output that cuts through the noise of an already bustling market. This is where the art comes in. Ultimately, brand building is not formulaic – it will always be a combination of data and informed instincts. The daily challenge to strike that balance keeps me excited in the work we do.”
With a mindset like this, it is no surprise that one of her lead Downy campaigns last year, “Bye Bye Bahayrus”, won gold for Excellence in Brand Positioning, as voted in the People’s Choice Award, as well as bronze for Excellence in Marketing Innovation. Her strategic brand partnership with K-pop giant, BTS, also drove Downy’s growth and penetration despite a challenging period for the category, deservedly winning a bronze Gawad Pandayon for Creative Effectiveness. These reflect how connected she is to her market, continuously delighting consumers in ways that keep the brand relevant to their changing needs.
Mariel’s business leadership has brought sustainable s-curves for her brands, which have overdelivered on sales, shares, and profitability targets across the years. Beyond her brand work, Mariel strongly advocates organization and people-building, which she is proudest of. She is also currently the Director of P&G Philippines Brand Capability, an internal training program for ~60 junior marketers. In this role, she spearheaded a local capability pillar that provides both soft skills and technical mastery trainings for her organization. This was a challenging undertaking for her given the young talent pool that needs to grow on a steep learning curve, especially with today’s unique virtual setting. Her efforts are helping new hires get a fast start, while also equipping junior marketers with updated tools to continue growing themselves and their brands. “It is a work-in-progress as we continue to learn through this work-from-home set-up, but it has been a critical foundation for our young brand builders who are amazingly sharp, creative, and inspiring,” she says.
On the future of marketing, she says “We are in a time when consumers are more discerning about what matters and what doesn’t. This common, shared experience that the world is going through has given us all a masterclass in empathy. I’m optimistic that we will continue to be better at this. As brand builders, we will only win if we meet the consumers’ real needs in a relevant and superior way and empathy is key in understanding those needs.”
On how she sees the direction of marketing, “My push is for us to lessen the clutter, not only to protect the integrity of our brands, but to also protect the brand promise we made to our consumers. With the plethora of data we have access to, numerous new touchpoints to deliver different messages, and unprecedented weightage given to hype and virality (vs brand purpose and equity), there is an increasing tendency for brands to be too reactive.”
To our Brand Builder of the Year, forging meaningful relationships, be it deepening ties with family, sustaining lasting friendships, cultivating new connections, or even leaving a small positive impact in casual day-to-day engagements, takes most importance. “As a teenager, I moved overseas for university and living alone in a foreign country, one of the earlier lessons I’ve learned is that a strong network of people goes a long way. For relationships to be meaningful, it requires an investment of time and effort – so, I’m very intentional with initiating catch-ups, spending quality engagement, or exercising active listening even in casual conversations. I have realized this to be true in my career as well, as the journey of providing solutions for consumers’ needs will always require a lot of help from others. They say identifying problems can be a solo sport, but finding a solution rarely is.”
Apparently, it was never only about the numbers. Mariel Chavez’ remarkable achievements were the natural outcomes of the meaningful connections she has created. She never lost sight that the most important yardstick of impact is how you treat and relate to people – your family, friends, colleagues, and even the consumers you meet along the way.