MANILA, Philippines – Rising to the top of the L’Oreal Brandstorm marketing competition national finals last year, Team Istas’ Jackie Mañago, Samuel Santos, and Joan Hwang from the University of the Philippines speak up on pressure, pride, and their game plan for the big Paris finale this coming June.
Brandstorm is an international marketing competition that L’Oreal produces yearly to challenge business students to come up with marketing strategies to take big brands (in the past, Diesel, The Body Shop) to new levels.
YOUNG STAR: How was Team Istas formed?
TEAM ISTAS: We’ve known each other ever since our freshmen days but we really became close friends when we became part of the same group in one of our marketing classes. Through that class, we were given the chance to watch the national finals of L’Oreal Brandstorm last year. Having witnessed the victory of a UP team, we realized that it wasn’t as unreachable as we first thought so we promised each other that we would join together and pursue our dream of representing the country in Paris.
What’s your role for the group?
JOAN: I often find myself doing the research portion, which I can’t say I liked so much. But eventually, after a few competitions with them, I learned to like market research after all. It’s kind of like being an investigator and learning about the insights of people. Over the past few months, I realized that research lays the groundwork and direction of the ideas.
JACKIE: In terms of our presentation, I’m the go-to person when it comes to our marketing strategy. While it can be very challenging, it’s the part I find most interesting since it determines the direction of our entire presentation. So basically, we all brainstorm together then I check to make sure that all our ideas are clear, cohesive and compelling. At times, they probably think that it’s just me being obsessive compulsive, but I actually find it fun (weird, I know).
SAM: Joan and Jackie have always been groupmates in school and they really work well together. Being the recent addition to the team, my job is to always shake things up and inject some crazy ideas in our group. I love the challenge of coming up with a creative marketing campaign based on our research and insight. In terms of executions, I would usually be the one working on our group’s videos as well. I think throughout our entire Brandstorm experience, I’ve actually become the resident comedian as well.
What was your team’s winning pitch for the national finals?
TEAM ISTAS: The challenge was to create a breakthrough innovation for the hair care category of L’Oreal Paris that would enable it to gain new consumers in Southeast Asia and India. With this in mind, we introduced a hair care solution for an emerging market segment with the largest growth potential—men.
Through extensive research and a good understanding of our consumers, we were able to develop a product line that fits seamlessly into their current hair care regimen. For us, innovation is not just about offering something new to the market, but ensuring that it is also relevant to their needs.
How are you preparing for the finals in Paris?
TEAM ISTAS: Coming out of the national finals, we realized that we could still strengthen some of our ideas, so now we’re trying to get as much input from our peers and mentors to come up with a more solid presentation. Aside from that, we’re keeping ourselves physically and mentally prepared while brushing up on our French.
How are you dealing with the pressure of the competition?
TEAM ISTAS: While the pressure can be overwhelming, we know better than to let it get the best of us. One of our ultimate stress relievers is food. Lots and lots of food. If there’s one thing we have in common, it’s our love for food. And it’s not just about the food itself. It’s actually the bonding experience that comes with it. Eating time is when we take a break from thinking about the competition and just enjoy each other’s company.
As the Philippines’ representatives, what support are you getting from local experts?
TEAM ISTAS: We’re very fortunate to have the support of the amazing people in L’Oreal Philippines. From the organizers of the competition, to the judges and top executives, they’ve all given us insights and criticism for us to improve. They even gave us the chance to work with their partner agency, McCann Worldgroup, to help us with our visuals. We’re also blessed with the support of our college, especially our professors who go out of their way to impart their knowledge and experience. Lastly, we couldn’t have made it this far without the love and support of our family and friends. We can truly say that we joined L’Oreal Brandstorm not solely for ourselves, but to make our loved ones proud.
What can the world expect to see from Team Istas in Paris?
TEAM ISTAS: A stellar presentation, insightful research, a well-crafted marketing strategy, creative executions, amazing outfits, and a breakthrough innovation that can take the hair care industry by storm. All these make up the perfect ending to what has been an “ISTA-mazing” journey for us and (hopefully) bag another victory for the country.