It is always good to be mindful of mass-based consumers and the poor and marginalized. It's even better to stay with them to watch what they do and why.

A.  Working Student

My elder brother and I were required to work part-time to earn our allowance starting age 15. We both worked in a small machine shop, which was really more like a sweat shop in Caloocan city where we grew up. This was until the shop transferred to a new location.

B. Public Transportation

I took the jeep and the bus for two years to and from De La Salle University and Project 8, where we used to live. One time it was raining hard and I was reviewing while commuting. I forgot to close my attache case and when I alighted from the vehicle, the contents of my attache case went straight to the flood water. My heart dropped and I have become more alert since then.

Like me, my twin boys Chase and Juju were required to take the public transport in college. I wanted them to be exposed to commuting and being simple. It only ended when a bomb exploded in the MRT and my wife and I started to worry for their safety.

C. Working from the ground up

After graduation, I started as a rank and file employee in 1982 and had to fall in line to get my salary. Good thing RFM promoted me after only 9 months to be associate manager in the brand marketing division.

There, I was first assigned to launch various new products under the RICA brand, targeting the middle class before being transferred to Swifts. This was the time RFM was still market leader in processed meats but they eventually lost to Purefoods by default due to a 6-month strike by militant factory workers. When the workers returned, we got some complaints from housewives showing us broken glasses inside canned corned beef and production had to slow down for greater quality inspection.

While at RFM, I remember going out on field work every week with different salesmen and eating inside different wet markets or nearby eateries. I had to accelerate my weekly field work in different channels, after realizing the salesforce were paid a straight salary plus commission with no product quota breakdown - a disastrous consequence for a brandman launching new products badly needing placement. My close relationship with the salesforce paid off as they eagerly supported me on a personal level.

When Senator Benigno Aquino Jr. was assassinated in 1983, the peso shot up from P26 to over P40 in no time. Industries had a hard time and in addition to brand work, I accepted an additional role every afternoon to sell to hotels, restaurants, and institutional accounts to help build up volume and save jobs in the factory. I welcomed the challenge and the trust given to me, even if I had to do the job of three people.

Because of my own experience as an employee, I readily allowed my then 20-year old youngest son Calel to work in the restaurant of Four Seasons Hotel in Wyoming, USA for a year. It was hard work in snowland but I am glad he learned the value of earning his keep, away from his family and returning home with substantial savings as part of his capital for his future start-up.

I also remember Tricia participating in a street sweeping program of Ateneo but many men started to approach her in disbelief as she did not look like the other sweepers. Today, Tricia is partial to the poor, the marginalized, and the start-up entrepreneurs. At a young age of 26, she has donated substantial amounts to over a dozen charities.

D. Masa Housewives

Working with distributors of Waters Philippines, I gained insight as to their typical day - waking up at 5am and then sleeping just before midnight. I was blessed as they shared their aspirations and fears with me. Their lives revolved around their school-aged children. They usually left the house after the kids went to school and returned home in time to join the kids for dinner. Sometimes they missed dinner because of a customer's appointment.

I also discovered two insights why they work, beyond helping their husbands. First, the women like working because they like to buy clothes without asking their husbands' permission. Second, many of them like to help their siblings or give something to the parents without being chastised by their husbands.



Josiah Go is the Chairman of marketing training firm Mansmith and Fielders Inc. He is set to speak about Strategic Marketing on Feb. 26-27, 2015. Follow his Q&A blog at www.josiahgo.com