By Brian James Lu

No shortcuts to becoming a successful entrepreneur

A total disaster. This will happen if a planned social media marketing strategy begins on the wrong footing.

The owner of a Takoyaki store who wanted to promote his product by challenging its followers on April 1 to have its logo tattooed on their foreheads in exchange for PHP100,000 is now in deep trouble. The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) is looking at the possibility of suspending or revoking its business name registration because “the Facebook post was irresponsible.” The DTI also plans to refer the matter to the office of the mayor, where the business is located, to revoke its business permit. And to make matters worse, the DTI has reported the incident to the Cybercrime Investigation and Coordinating Center (CICC) to charge the owner of the business with possible violations and to Meta, the parent company of Facebook, for violating the social media platform’s community standards.

The April Fool’s Day social media marketing backfired when one netizen supposedly tattooed the logo on his forehead. The owner purportedly paid the netizen a PHP100,000 prize. Reports indicate that the netizen faced pressure to accept the challenge for his Down syndrome-stricken son. The viral April Fool’s Day turns out to be scripted.

I pity the store owner for his failed marketing stunt. Instead of promoting his business, the storeowner now faces the possibility of having his business permit revoked and facing appropriate charges.

I understand the struggle that business owners must undergo to promote their products. Social media technology has leveled the playing field when it comes to product promotion. Micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs) can now promote their products and services for free or with minimal expenses. However, I consistently emphasize that we should hold entrepreneurs accountable for the content of their social media marketing. Marketing is not just doing it with common sense. There is even a course that teaches students the skills and strategies to help identify customers’ needs and wants, among others.

In the age of social media technology, marketing based on pranks is dangerous to businesses. The sustainability of a business is not solely based on social media promotions but also the quality of the products to increase return customers. MSMEs need to seriously consider social media responsibility and accountability when posting about their products.

There are thousands of scammers out there that affect legitimate businesses. I urge legitimate businesses and serious entrepreneurs not to contribute to polluting the social media universe by promoting unnecessary and irresponsible marketing promotions. No amount of apology can restore the integrity of the storeowner and his business as soon as the prank is discovered to have been scripted. Using a prank for business promotion is a no-no. It will surely backfire and cause the business irreparable damage or, worse, to fold up.

The supposed netizen who tattooed his forehead agreed to the scripted prank for the benefit of his special child. We can just commiserate with the situation of the father, who is a fish ball vendor. The father's courage to take any action for his son, who suffers from Down syndrome, deeply touches me. We know that tattoos are permanent. Removing tattoos can be challenging, costly, and may not yield complete removal. Moreover, the family has been exposed, and we don’t know the effects of such exposure on the children and the family.

Desperate individuals are vulnerable to exploitation. Having the father tattooed with a logo and becoming an accessory to an elaborate stunt indeed reeks of desperation. Never mind the humiliation, as long as it has become beneficial. Reports have it that the father had already received more than PHP200,000 in gifts and donations from concerned citizens before it was discovered that the tattoo drama was a mere stunt.

I always emphasize that entrepreneurs, especially those at the start-up level, need to seriously market their products and services without resorting to stunts. Of course, there is the use of social media such as Facebook, Instagram, and X for marketing campaigns. Filipinos are the top users of social media applications, which are a cost-effective platform that reaches a wide audience.

There is also a need to engage in community events. Entrepreneurs who participate in local events, festivals, and community gatherings get a lot more attention from customers or their target markets. They can build relationships and create brand awareness.

The Quezon City government provides a venue in city hall where entrepreneurs can showcase their products. This gives them more exposure to customers who can buy their products. They maintain a close relationship with their customers, extending their reach to online marketing through various delivery platforms. The Quezon City Hall grounds also provide an opportunity for entrepreneurs from other cities and provinces. I laud Quezon City Mayor Joy Belmonte for her initiatives to give non-QC entrepreneurs the opportunity to sell their products at the city hall grounds.

Entrepreneurs can also consider utilizing localized content that reflects Filipino culture and raising awareness to patronize locally-made products. Despite the constant influx of imported products, entrepreneurs must persist in showcasing Filipino ingenuity and productivity through the sale of locally produced commodities. We should not tire ourselves from promoting our products, and we can compete with imported ones in terms of quality.

Indeed, there is no shortcut in product promotion. Successful entrepreneurs took several years of failure before they were able to secure a foothold in their businesses. Patience, failure, networking, and seeking their niche in the business world are the ingredients to becoming a successful entrepreneur.

Editor’s note: The opinions expressed in the foregoing article are solely the author’s and do not reflect the opinions and beliefs of the Philippine News Agency (PNA) or any other office under the Presidential Communications Office.


About the Columnist

Image of Brian James Lu

BRIAN JAMES J. LU, MMgt, is an entrepreneur, business adviser, government consultant, and is deeply involve in civil society organizations. He advocates good governance, ethical business practices, and social responsibilities. He is the President of the National Economic Protectionism Association (NEPA) and Chairman of the Foundation for National Development (Fonad). His broad experiences in the private and public sectors give him a unique perspective to advance his advocacies.