Saturday, November 28, 2020

Man of many hats


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“I’d like to break the misconception…that marketing is only about the cute stuff…Marketing is a serious job that requires a lot of numbers, a lot of insighting, [bringing understanding to others], both internally and externally.”

From a young age, Kenneth “Ken” Lerona nurtured fervent dreams of becoming a priest. In his lola’s (grandmother’s) house in Iloilo, where he was born and raised, he never failed to genuflect before the altar — where figurines of Jesus, the Virgin Mary and several saints were lovingly arranged — whenever he passed it.

His lola eagerly supported those yearnings. She volunteered his services as an altar boy to the parish when he was seven years old, except that the head priest turned down the offer, saying Ken was too short to help out during Mass. Determined that her grandson would still prove useful to the Church, Ken’s grandmother accompanied him to the seminary.

Ken with members of his team, whom he calls his “peers,“ Camille Villonco (left) and Patricia
Bigas (below); and looking back on a life full of learning. CONTRIBUTED PHOTOS

Ken’s career, however, was not destined for the orders. “When I was about to take the college entrance examinations [at the University of the Philippines (UP) in Iloilo], I was still undecided on what course to take,” he narrates. “But I remember imagining myself to be in the boardroom talking to smart and well-dressed people. I thought maybe I should take up philosophy or the arts, or maybe become a scientist. I also wanted to be a radio announcer. I recorded my own radio show using my brother’s Walkman.

“I wanted to be a lot of things.”

He continues: “I thought at that time, I wanted to work in advertising, but I took a meandering path until I reached the point where I am now,” he says. “When I filled out my Upcat (UP Collge Admission Test) application form, I wrote ‘Molecular Biology’ and ‘Biotechnology’ as my first priority, followed by ‘Psychology.’ But my mother changed this second option to Business Administration ‘because money is there,’ she said. If I did not pass UP, I would have taken Mass Communications to pursue my ambition of producing my own love-advice show on radio.

“Thankfully, I believe my mother made the right decision for me. Marketing became my passion.”

Ken is the eldest of the three children of Sancha, a public school teacher, and Danilo, a jack-of-all-trades. “One of father’s most memorable stints was as a market vendor,” his son remarks. “I think he was also one of the most influential people [in my life] when it comes to marketing.”

Ken’s brother, Emmanuel, who came next, is a multimedia specialist. He enjoyed his directorial break earlier this year with the documentary “Patok: The Mountain Carvers.”“He worked on that project for two years, after he discovered that the widest rice terraces, outside of Luzon, was found in San Remegio, Antique,” Ken says. “My sister, Laurice, the youngest, works as a nurse in the UK. She took up sociology at UP Visayas before she shifted to nursing.”

Ken entered the field of marketing through several opportunities — an online property listing portal, the telecommunications industry during its sunshine years, and the country’s largest mall developer and operator in the country (which he declines to name) — saying: “I learned a lot in the retail space working with that group. That’s where I learned discipline and prudence.”

Ken joined Entrego, a company committed to deliver fast, safe and reliable logistics
services around the Philippines, a year and a half ago, “just a few months before its public launch,” he says. Introducing the brand, he adds, was “so much fun.”

From experience, Ken usually does not know much about the fields he chooses to enter. The same applied to the logistics and fulfillment solutions arena. “I am a very slow learner,” Ken admits with refreshing candor.

“To me, learning is deliberate and it requires a lot of asking questions. I am glad I’ve met mentors along the way, people who are not selfish with ideas and insights, and even with technical knowledge. This is how I survived and thrived in the industries I’ve joined.”

As Entrego’s head of marketing and corporate communications, Ken wears several hats. He works at proposing strategies to help define the company’s market position and response to customer requirements and make a name in the “competitive, highly fragmented and highly segmented logistics and fulfillment industry.”

He explains: “I’d like to break the misconception and stereotype that marketing is only about the cute stuff, that it’s only advertising and social media — no! Marketing is a serious job that requires a lot of numbers, a lot of insighting, [bringing understanding to others], both internally and externally. This is why I talk to a lot of people within our organization. Thankfully, I get a lot of support.

“We are a technology-driven company, so I spend a lot of time talking to our tech head. I work with different business units too. I collaborate with the operations people. I go on-ground to our hubs across key regions to understand what they do, and I am very hands-on in customer service to help improve our customer experience.”

In corporate communication, Ken deals with a lot of stakeholders, both internal and external. “I work with our very able legal group to ensure that we are aligned. I deal also with the media.

But his favorite role is to wear the “storyteller hat,” which, according to him, is one of his most important jobs. “Today, people buy stories, not brands. But how relatable are these stories to them? How will these stories solve their concerns? How will these stories change their lives? This is what I enjoy most — telling our brand story, and how it can impact our customers’ own personal stories.”

Ken also enjoys immensely coaching his team, composed of Gen Zs (those born after 1997 and described as digitally savvy, self-aware and eager to improve the world), fresh off the campus. “To many managers, this can be a headache,” Ken points out. “To me, it’s an opportunity to learn and to share. I am always a believer of inter-generational reciprocity, where people from different generations complement each other. I may have experience in doing marketing gathered from the past, but these young people have fresher insights, fresher take on marketing. I am learning a lot from them.”

He confides that nothing is really difficult in the job, but quickly adds with a grin: “Please don’t tell my boss!”

In helping to fulfill others’ needs, Ken finds himself fulfilled. “Sounds cheesy, but when I actually speak with customers and help address their problems, I’m happy, too. We help our clients move not only products but also joy and satisfaction.

“We help deliver delight to their doorsteps. That is what I’m proud of most.”

About me

My mom, Sancha Lerona

To touch as many lives as I can with the knowledge shared with me by my mentors

I received P8,000 gross as an area development supervisor for a multinational consumer company’s promotions agency

I take time to meditate before  having coffee

Cooking lutong bahay (comfort food) meals

About 12 hours or more in a day

I like browsing through the supermarket shelves, just gazing at the product packaging as a form of entertainment.



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