Some analysts point to charisma, while others insist on the powerful message he represented. Whatever presumptive President Rodrigo Duterte did to win the 2016 poll, he certainly did it right.


But as marketers, it is not enough that we assign his victory to some mystical DU30 magic. There is always a method to the madness, and now that the campaign dust has finally settled, it is time we look back at the path his run took‚ whether deliberate or otherwise‚ perhaps apply some of the newfound tricks we can glean from the Duterte experience.


We make no bones about it: Duterte’s candidacy was really a classic case of David versus Goliath. In his case, a fight against the Goliaths. Standing in front of him were early frontrunner and perceived favorite of the masses, Vice President Jojo Binay; the caring senator and daughter of show business royalties, Senator Grace Poe; and the administration’s bet who ran on the platform of decency, Mar Roxas.


If this cast of political superstars fought Duterte, say, ten years ago, the tough-talking mayor from Davao City would have no fighting chance. A decade ago, the media had control of messages disseminated to the public.


But then again, this campaign was not waged a decade ago. Whether deliberate or by sheer providence, Duterte’s camp benefited from a period where information was no longer controlled by the traditional media. Instead, everyone had the power to inform one another, a phenomenon we all come to know as social media.


In the old days, journalists had the sole power to determine what news is and the transmission was pretty linear: Reporters cover the news, news gets published or broadcast, and people read, hear or watch the news. Wash, rinse, repeat.


Enter social media


Social media changed all that. Suddenly, everyone on Facebook or Twitter had the power to send out information to their friends and followers. Advertising power houses like Kris Aquino and Kath-Niel, by some twist of fate, found themselves losing out to social media influencers, like ‚hold your breath, Mocha Uson.


In the heat of the political war, publishing icons like the Inquirer went face to face, not with its usual competitors like the Philippine Star, but with unheard of websites like and While good‚ ‘ol Inquirer still won the battle of website traffic, these so-called ‘blog sites’ fought tooth-and-nail to arm Duterte’s followers with articles to deflect the many issues that were thrown their way.


Similarweb, an online traffic analytics tool, gives us a glimpse of the mind-blowing growth these websites registered during the campaign season.


We won’t go anymore into a deeper dive into the other factors that led to Duterte’s victory. Certainly, his digital campaign is just one of many reasons for his success. At least for now, we’d also avoid discussing the implications of news blog sites to the journalism profession — this, we think, is a matter best left to the academe.


What we are more interested to delve into are the lessons we can pick up from the Duterte experience for our marketing initiatives. Thus, we offer the three important takeaways:


The power of the digital media can no longer be ignored


For the longest time, many marketers held the false belief that digital has not yet reached the point where it could influence the majority of the Philippine market. Big mistake. Nearly half of Filipinos now have access to the internet and the sheer amount of time we spend on social media will rival our long love affair with erstwhile media kings like TV.


Everyone has the power to publish


It’s about time we take a long hard look at our reliance to third party media to help get the word out for our brands. We can now. actually, we HAVE TO …change our mindset that our website is just an online version of printed brochures. We have to transform it and make it a publishing tool. If the likes of and were able to do it, so can your brand.


Use social media to build communities


Marketing communication is no longer linear. You cannot rely on one cute ad or feel-good press release for people to love your brand. You have to go to social media and identify an audience there that is likely to relate to your brand proposition and feed them with content that will keep them loyal to you.


Do you have more ideas on what marketers can learn from Duterte’s campaign? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below.