I-van Policarpo shares his vast experience and personal insights from the world of brand strategy, having worked with some of the best-known brands in the world.
I-van Policarpo is a Cum Laude degree holder in Psychology from the University of the Philippines. “Strategically Creative, Creatively Strategic” is his approach to working on brand strategy, having worked with the likes of Saatchi & Saatchi and Grey Group for Pantene, Olay, Rejoice, etc.
Please tell us about your journey of being a Brand Strategist.
I-van Policarpo: I started in tri-media, activation, packaging, shopper marketing, direct mail, and ethical communications. Further, I did events, stage, fashion show direction, and magazine creative direction throughout my early career.
Notably, though, I’ve created social campaigns that hit 1M views in less than a day, one of which won a finalist award at the Cannes Lions.
I’ve also successfully led Grey Group’s Global Business Unit based in Kuala Lumpur from 2014 to 2017 and once again from 2019 to 2021 at Grey Group Indonesia, handling P&G’s Pantene business in some of its biggest markets. During my time at Saatchi & Saatchi Singapore (2017 to 2019), I immersed myself in SEA regional accounts like Head & Shoulders, Rejoice, Olay and others. I was also the creative lead for the global group handling Safeguard.
Please tell us about Hyphenate. How did you come up with the venture and what is it currently engaged in?
I-van Policarpo: This is simply my online portfolio – the name of which is derived from the fact that my version of ‘Ivan’ is spelled ‘I-van’ which is hyphenated. I thought “Hyphenate” is a good handle for my portfolio because I am a combination of many different skills and talents as reflected in my work that is manifested through many different media.
What are the main ingredients that go into setting the strategic directions for the brands?
I-van: It’s the intersection among the brand’s personality traits; the product’s characteristics and the consumers’ psyche that I consider the main ingredients.
Please elaborate on your business units in McCann and the Alignment Meeting you institutionalized.
I-van: It’s an efficient way to navigate the strategy of a given brand or project, making sure that strategies pave the way for creativity, not hinder it unnecessarily.
Likewise, what is the 1P Document all about and how did you come up with its contents and structure?
I-van: This is the most effective and efficient way to bridge the gap between a technical strategic mind and a chaotic, creative mind. It contains elements of the emotional and functional aspects of a project and the role of the brand/product, making the process of ideation and approvals more sustainable in a faster-paced, more agile digital, and meta space.
What’s your method to create story-driven content and how do you collaborate on the design aspect?
I-van Policarpo: I always start with data to gather insights, whatever the project or objective. This ensures that the solution or end product either solves a problem or is relevant to people.
Could you delve into the fundamentals of brand psychology that come into play when formulating creative strategy?
I-van Policarpo: In a nutshell, brand psychology defines how a brand behaves based on the following: people, platform, and sustainability (as opposed to the old way of looking at aspects of an enterprise which are consumer, product, and business).
What challenges do brands generally come to you with and what kind of an approach do you apply? Could you highlight a project or two in that regard?
I-van Policarpo: Always, people first and insights regarding these people. Some of my most notable projects that manifest this people-first philosophy are the following: a mobile-based learning tool for healthcare workers with no access to educational institutions; social campaigns that hit 1M views in less than a day and a hair torture demo that utilizes the biggest “blow-dryer” in the world – an airplane’s turbine.
How do you achieve a balance and sync between the creative and practical aspects while finding solutions?
I-van Policarpo: I think, as creatives, we should not lose focus of our objectives – the reason why we need to be creative. That way, our creative output will always be a solution to something – hopefully always to better lives – and not just beauty for the sake of beauty.
What’s your word of advice to those looking to make a mark in brand strategy?
I-van Policarpo: Stay true to your core – your values; beliefs; your experiences as a human being. Your core is your differentiator.