Marketing as a way of life
By Josiah Go


MANNY Blas II is vice president of Ayala Land Inc. in strategic landbank management group. He is concurrent head of commercial operations of Fort Bonifacio Development Corp./Bonifacio Global City and managing director of The Mind Museum. He also oversees Bonifacio Estate Services Corp., Bonifacio Transport Corp., Bonifacio Gas Corp. and Bonifacio Water Corp.

He shares his thoughts about the universal use of marketing in categories like religious services, communities, fund raising and the running of a museum.

Question: You were a La Salle brother for 5 years but decided to be a marketer of P&G, Citibank, Pepsi and Sara Lee. What attracted you to marketing that made you give up a vocation?

Answer: I did not leave the La Salle Brothers to pursue a marketing career; the latter was coincidental. In 1977, after four years of formation in the Congregation and one year as a full-time teacher in La Salle Green Hills, I discerned that being a Brother was not my vocation. I continue to regard it as a very enriching phase of my life for which I am grateful. The dedication to educate, develop and train others are a part of my life to this day.

I was looking for a job and ended up in P&G. I’m glad I pursued marketing because it is an exciting field which constantly challenges your mind: You analyze a situation, develop the appropriate strategies and, if successful, be able to fulfill a customer need while making money to serve other customer needs, and so on.

Somehow, I did well. And I don’t think it is because I analyzed things better, but because I heeded what Bill Bernbach (of the former Doyle Dane Bernbach Advertising Agency) said is required of a marketing person—“the desire to gain insight into human nature.”

I think that simply means being sensitive to others and listening to what they are not saying.

I probably could trace that to my training as a La Salle Brother. Teaching grade school and high school kids is no easy task. And a good teacher is one who can understand and empathize with what would drive the curiosity of the students.

Those skills—and am referring to serving a need, the passion for education, and insight to the other person’s point of view—carried me through the marketing ladder, and to bigger responsibilities in corporate leadership, as well as in the church ministries that I later undertook.

I am disappointed that some people trivialize marketing as simply developing gimmicks or cute slogans to make someone buy something.

Q: In 1999, when you were already regional president of Sara Lee, you took a 7-year sabbatical to pursue a postgraduate degree in religious studies at Maryhill School of Theology. Then you started a single’s ministry in Saint James Church at Alabang. Please share with us this 360-degree journey in your life that started from being a religious to a marketer and then to lay ministry. How did you use marketing in starting and growing your ministry?

A: The decision to take a Sabbatical leave was the result of several factors. One, is the invitation by our parish’s charismatic community for my wife and I to start and lead a Singles ministry that will address the needs of the 22-year-old and above single person. I thought that my experience as a La Salle Brother and my wife Rowena’s natural rapport with the youth were going to be assets for this assignment.

Second, the demands of my job as Sara Lee’s regional president was beginning to take its toll on myself and our marriage. Combine that with the demands on Rowena who also worked in a multinational company. Both our jobs required much foreign travel and there were several occasions when I was flying in and she was flying out the next day. It did not take much insight to see where we were headed in our relationship and our own personal well being if we persisted.

And third, we did not have kids of our own, which allowed us the recklessness, if you will, to take a leave from corporate life. And so in 2000, at age 45, I started what would turn out to be a seven-year sabbatical leave. My wife joined me in one of those years. I completed a masteral degree in Religious Studies at the Maryhill School of Theology. I became an assistant professor in the Religious Education department of De La Salle University-Dasmariñas; and I spent the rest of the time nurturing the Singles Apostolate in our parish. (In 2007, I landed a job in Ayala Land to start The Mind Museum project).

Starting the Singles Apostolate involved the marketing basics. We dialogued with them to gain insight on the type of organization they were looking for. The Singles did need, and want, an organized peer group with whom they can know, grow and share their faith, but they wanted a ministry with a clear purpose and program, and designed specifically for their segment. The Singles also wanted a collaborative role and creative approach in developing the ministry, rather than simply adapting and repeating activities based on previous templates.

Based on what we learned, we developed the “four Ps” of marketing for the ministry:

Product. The Singles Apostolate had its own vision and mission, organizational structure, cadre of leaders, and a program of activities developed by core teams in teaching, worship, service and fellowship.

Price. Members “pay” by contributing time and talent. We guarantee that they get full value by running our meetings efficiently and conducting activities that address their needs.

Promotion. We promote the apostolate through annual Single Encounter Weekends (which we present as the “best weekend of your life”) and through the year-round program of activities. In terms of growing the apostolate, we felt that the best “advertising” we can have is the joyful way of life of each member, which will attract other people.

Place/Distribution. We started by recruiting our parishioners and then expanded to friends of parishioners.

The Singles Apostolate was started in 1999 and continues to influence the lives of many singles 15 years later.

Q: Ayala Land’s Mind Museum raised P1 billion via private donation, and you had a high 80-percent success rate. How did you apply marketing in fund raising?

A: The Mind Museum is the first world-class science museum in the country, located at Bonifacio Global City. It was built purely from private donations of companies and individuals.

The fundraising for The Mind Museum is an example of where one’s ignorance becomes an advantage. Not knowing the field of fundraising emboldened us to test the boundaries of the value of building such a facility.

My inspiration is the book “Made in America” by Peter Ueberroth, head of the organizing committee of the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics. It was the first Olympics that ever made money. When Los Angeles won the bid to host the Olympics, the organizing committee was mandated to do so without spending a single dollar of taxpayers’ money. Ueberroth did it by raising money through corporate sponsorship—Coke, Mars, Anheuser Busch, and many others paid millions of dollars to earn the right to be associated with the Olympics.

Thus, the first decision was to choose between a science museum that would be the “top” such facility in the country, which would require huge amounts of donations; or, a more modest one in case we can raise only a more modest amount. I believe this was a chicken and egg situation. Our board of trustees opted for the first.

Our strategies were:

Position it as a world-class science museum which provides an extraordinary educational experience. It will combine art and science to make science interesting and beautiful. It will harness the Filipino talent to design and fabricate the exhibits in the museum (95 percent of our exhibits are Filipino designed and made).

Once built, it will generate its own revenue to fund its operations. Pricing will be premium versus other facilities, but will provide subsidies for public school students and all teachers.

We will hire the best staff with a passion for science and compensate competitively.

We will run the museum with a focus on operational efficiencies, organizational and exhibition development, while ensuring funds cover our expenses.

I was convinced that having a world-class science museum was an idea shared by many of our countrymen. The project would impact on education and resonate with all Filipinos.

True enough, as we began to solicit donations to build the museum, most of the private companies and individuals we approached remarked: “It’s about time we build our own science museum,” “our company cannot afford not to be part of this undertaking,” “being associated with a world-class science museum is highly consistent with our company values and strategies,” and many other encouraging words. It reflected the words of Victor Hugo, “nothing is more powerful than an idea whose time has come.”

While all the companies supported us because they believed in the idea, it was also important that the museum provided them marketing values to help justify the significant donations we were requesting. These we did through naming rights of galleries and exhibits of the museum, a special Founders’ Place dedicated to our donors within the facility, and through our several advertising and merchandising efforts. But the best mileage we promised, and are providing them, are the more than 200,000 visitors that we get every year, who visit the museum and come out knowing a little bit more about the world around them.

The marketing insight?

We were a team of two (the science curator and myself) who made face-to-face presentations with our potential donors. We only had a laptop, a powerpoint file, and the passion and enthusiasm behind a project that was long overdue.

At the end, I believe our sponsors supported the project because The Mind Museum became THEIR project, too. It was no longer the project of the foundation. The story of fulfilling the curiosity of our country’s youth through a science museum became each sponsor’s story as well.

When you tap into a story that resonates with your prospect, when that story serves a need in a manner that is credible, impactful and sustainable, and when that story becomes everyone’s collective endeavor, then there’s no telling the results that such an idea can achieve.

Q: You are also VP of Ayala Land in charge of the operations of Fort Bonifacio, can you share how you have applied marketing at BGC.

A: Just like in marketing, we developed a value proposition, ensuring that everything we do in Bonifacio Global City is based on being the “home of passionate minds.” This consists of three elements:

Accessibility (that we are easy to reach);

We have the infrastructure required by a central business district (not just roads and utilities, but also public transportation, security, grounds keeping and traffic management); and,

It is a city with a soul (hence our public art program, science museum, and soon, a performing arts center).

Additionally, we need an attitude of listening and taking the point of view of the many stakeholders in BGC. BGC is fast developing into a dense and diverse community, and our priorities are no longer building structures, but building a community spirit. That means BGC is no longer just the responsibility of the developer, but of as many of its BGCitizens who live, work and “play” here. Looking at the customers’ points of views is critical.

(The author is chair of marketing training firm Mansmith and Fielders Inc. For complete interview, as well as his interview with other thought leaders, visit

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