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INNOVATORS VS COVID 19

Evidence-Based Creativity at Brand-Y

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JEDD ILAGAN, Brand-Y

We talked to Jedd Ilagan, founder of Brand-Y, about market research, and this is what he said about it.

First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times? 

Jedd Ilagan: We’re doing great. Considering we’ve been under a pandemic for more than a year already, being safe and free of the virus is something to be really thankful for. 

Tell us about you, your career, and how you founded Brand-Y.

Jedd Ilagan: The company started just as an initiative to help support the creative materials, then boutique agency IXM, puts to the table. And then we soon realized how research played an important role in the creation of every campaign. It always starts with an insight that is compelling enough to get people to act after seeing your ad and you’re only able to find that out if you take the time to sit down and talk to the consumers. 

Brand-Y Marketing and Communications Intelligence became a full-fledged market research and strategy company in 2018. Since then, we have been the IDEASXMACHINA Group of Hakuhodo’s think-tank. 

How does Brand-Y innovate? 

Jedd Ilagan: We’re very ingenious in our ways. I guess that’s a result of being the underdog for a while. We tend to make do with what we have and just work from there. Just with any kind of innovation, you always have to keep your mind open to possibilities. We try and see what’s out there and redefine it – make it our own. The field of research is a field of innovation. There are tools that are available but none of it is permanent. You have to always be on your toes to find out a way of how these tools can be adapted to the modern world. Say focus group discussions, no one ever thought we can really do that via Zoom meetings, right? But now, it’s standard. 

We make sure there’s a real forum within the firm. Ideas can really come anywhere – even in our creative teams. To us, it’s all about the overall orchestration, and everyone plays a vital role in that. 

How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business and how are you coping?

Jedd Ilagan: Isolation is the most difficult thing to tackle. When you’re in the business of regularly engaging with people for insights, it’s really a big adjustment. Right now, everything has to be done online. And you really have to be flexible. 

We’re also blessed to have the support of the Hakuhodo network in the country and that has allowed us to come up with breakthrough benefits that help keep our employees inspired even during a global depression. We also try and have fun in everything that we do. 

Did you have to make difficult choices and what are the lessons learned?

Jedd Ilagan: I think we all did. If there’s one important lesson I learned, that is there’s really no fail-proofing companies. What would spell out the difference between good companies and great ones is their ability to quickly adjust and redefine themselves constantly. The goal can remain the same, but the approach can vary. That’s how you thrive. 

What specific tools, software, and management skills are you using to navigate this crisis?

Jedd Ilagan: We approach this in a more personal manner. We do climate checks with our employees to see where we can add value and make their lives easier. Retention is important. At a time like this, you have to focus on keeping your strong players in because they’re your best shot in weathering this storm. 

We strengthened our benefits. We created The Better Normal Fund to subsidize the creation/renovation of their home offices and even pay for some gym equipment and vitamins and supplements to keep them healthy. We have the Undertime Pay that incentivizes finishing work before the end of a business day. We also have Mental Strength Benefits that allows each employee to have one-on-ones with licensed psychiatrists for support during this time. Manpower is our greatest resource and we are fortunate we have the right people in our fold. We want to keep it that way. 

Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?

Jedd Ilagan: We scope our competition based on the industry we’re in, so I’d say both advertising and research companies. What sets us apart is how we keep our approach fresh. Presenting data and research almost always entails long PowerPoint decks, but we try and veer away from that. 

Brand-Y prides itself on how it is able to look for invisible links that are otherwise ignored by other people. We try to always find a connection that would link how we can get brands from their current situation to their desired destination. Of course, those lengthy manuscripts would still be provided but we make sure that our discussions with our clients are always pointed. We stick only with what matters so that we’d have time during meetings to discuss them and come up with an efficient plan. 

Your final thoughts?

Jedd Ilagan: The pandemic brought about massive changes in the way we do advertising, but it also shone a light on the role and nature of Research, Data, and Communications Strategy. We at Brand-Y did not only live up to this in 2020 but also redefined how our agency works for its own sake and the industry at large. 

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