Johanna Michelle Lim, Founder of Cebu-based branding agency Dual Story, talked to hundreds of creatives in Central Visayas in 2022. This article slash tirade is what she made of that experience, along with her realistic wishlist for all creators in the Philippines.

Creativity and Brain Storming

In 2022, I found myself talking to all types of Visayan creators and creatives. When I started in January, I didn’t even know there was a difference between the two. Educated now, I found out a creative is anyone who uses the dynamic of creativity to come up with an idea. Ideas, however, can be conjured by any Juan, therefore every Filipino can be considered creative. What sets a creator from a creative then is his ability to turn a seed of an idea and execute it to its tangible, full fruition–whether that’s in the form of art, design, or content. This isn’t a new argument in the usage of this jargon. More developed creative economies have been calling out the misuse since 2013.

But I digress.

When I said I’d talked to hundreds of creatives in 2022, I meant it. Through a series of serendipitous projects, I pieced together sentiments and issues, tirades and tokens, to map out what would seem to be the snail-pace growth for the Philippine creative industries.

How did this happen?

In January 2022, our agency, Dual Story, was fortunate enough to co-author the Philippine Creative City Playbook, a preparatory playbook that would help LGUs be reverse-educated on the fundaments of creativity, and how to use it as a socioeconomic development tool. This was a project under the office of ACCIB, through the leadership of Congressman Christopher “Toff” de Venecia. This then gave us a way to work with the Department of Trade and Industry, which set out to launch Creative Konnect, a fact-finding mission of sorts to learn more about the creative industries in the Visayas in April 2022. This was a timely intervention given the passing of the Creative Industries Development Act in August, which among many things, stipulated that a new Creative Industries Development Council would be formed under the auspices of the office.


By September 2021, DTI’s regional office, Region 7, reached out to me to facilitate ten stakeholders’ conversations in Cebu. Picture a room of musicians, designers, animators, game developers, dancers, theater actors, and hybrids all passionate and knowledgeable about their fields. These sessions sometimes ended in an argument or two, which to me is a testament that creators, usually shy creatures, are now ready to eke out of our three-feet wide basements and attics (or for the fortunate, out from beachfronts and co-sharing spaces) to speak about what we hold dear. Among others, these conversations were supposed to find out what the potential was of ten chosen creative subsectors which included the audiovisual, new media, creative services, performing arts, functional design, publishing, and cultural expression fields–and quite candidly, whether there was even one, to begin with.

While I’ve been a practicing creator myself–having started in the industry when I was 18–I couldn’t say that I was fully immersed in it. When I started, buzzword terms that we speak of now–terms like creative industry, intellectual property, and original content–were non-existent. They were intangible–perpetually invisible, undervalued, and unappreciated. In my 20s, when asked what I did as a starting graphic designer, my boyfriend said I laid out restaurant menus. Of course, there’ve been too many memes made from situations like these, when architects’ functions were oversimplified as “drawing-drawing,” when musicians were known only as “banda-banda,” or worse, “tig-saba saba” (noisemakers)and writers were just known to take up elbow room in coffee shops, staring at space.


I can’t blame those who aren’t ingrained in creativity to think this way

The creative process can still be a mystery even to long-time practitioners. Additionally, how are you supposed to map the value of disruption, something the creative process is supposed to do? And how do you not scare off those who made these square pegs that we know now with the idea of “out-of-the-box thinking”? Because creative practices are always at the forefront of change, it’s understandable that it’s not often given value. Not simply because we don’t want to, but because we cannot. For a time, we didn’t know how.


So, what did I learn from talking to hundreds of creators?

That while it is romantic to think of the story of the Philippine creative industries as one of revolution, a middle finger to a system that never seemed to understand, value, or even look at us, this sentiment is not entirely true.

Instead of revolution, creators want inclusion. We want social integration. We want the Philippine government to finally recognize what the economic figures have said all along, that we contribute 7% to the Philippine economy–and that should garner us a seat at the table. It is not by accident, after all. Many have had to fight tooth and nail just to produce creative output even when the existing system has put all the red tape in the way, and even when the snickers of our product–poetry, Youtube videos, illustrations–have been reduced time and time again. How many times have we been told, for example, that anyone can do what we do? Except you can’t. Except you don’t.


While the reports have already been prompted of the output of my conversations, which I will leave to academics, administrators, and city councils to prompt the next output, I’d like to share my personal wishlist, something I hope to see happen in 2023, finally, for Philippine creators:

1. Include the Creative Industries in BIR’s 2023 Industrial/Occupational Code

Have you tried registering your creative business, only to find out that it doesn’t specifically belong anywhere in the Philippine Standard Industrial Classification Code? You might be lumped together with IT, Professional Services, Marketing, Consultancy, or Manufacturing, but there isn’t exactly a specific Occupational Code for Creative Industries, and their subcategories. This makes it difficult for BIR to quantify how much tax the creative industries are contributing. So, include it in your dropdown list, BIR. We’d love to recategorize ourselves.

2. Strengthen the HUMSS Strand

Yes, we know there’s a shortage of everything in our education sector. Lack of classrooms, teachers, and learning materials. But since you’ve included it is already in the K to 12 Program, DepEd, can you please try to strengthen the HUMSS strand as well? Incentivizing practitioners to educate talent early on, in basic education, not only helps in the creative economy’s talent acquisition but also in the appreciation of creative output and our cultural expressions.

3. Creative City Councils in LGUs

While some LGUs have culture and heritage councils, this doesn’t entirely address the need for creatives to be represented. The culture and heritage council’s agenda are mostly focused on the preservation of the past. Creativity is more focused on shaping the value of a city’s future. Shaping images, places, objects, and systems consciously is an act of creativity, and therefore, should have a creator at the table when decisions are made, not just as consultants, but as sitting council members. Or better yet, have a separate department for the Creative Sector (it’s a wishlist so I’m asking high.)

4. Create a Tourism Circuit for Creative Spots

The Visayas does not have a deficiency of creative output and creators, but thus far, there doesn’t seem to be a directory of places to visit when you’re a creative tourist wanting to visit spots in Cebu, or Negros, Siquijor, or Bohol. This opens up our tours to more than just place as product, but people as experiences. Imagine visiting and learning from a favorite poet in Bohol, a sculptor in Cebu, a weaver in Negros, or a gastronomist in Siquijor. High-value experiences over kitschy souvenirs any day, please.

5. Hire a city secretariat to document collective creative output. 

A lot of creative output is ephemeral–graffiti, hole-in-the-walls, limited theater runs–and yet they contribute much to the locality’s flavor and color. Having a repository for these initiatives track output, and show creativity’s impact over the long run, so a committed secretariat whose main job it is to do so will help. But that said, this is where the citizenry can come in. Tracking creative output is a citizen engagement initiative. Take lots of photos when you witness something awesome. Share an artwork on your newsfeed. Even if you’re not the main consumer, you can be an enabler, and help a local artist or designer reach the proper consumption channels.

In the past few months, creativity has been met with unmitigated risks of disruption from the likes of Chat GPT and machine learning. Will it disrupt the economy, other countries ask? But conversations like these, while exciting, seem like a far-off conversation, even a distraction, especially when creators in the Philippines seem to be still waiting for the other shoe to drop when it comes to the sector’s potential.

Will we finally get a return this year in what would seem like a decades-long version of a passion project?

This is my way of asking, how do we disrupt a creative economy that hasn’t even been formally established yet? So I say, let me earn from laying out menus first.

In Crisis, Brandstand Instead of Grandstand

Since the pandemic hijacked our 2020, we’ve seen a slew of polarized comments from keyboard warriors attacking companies and brands that are aiming to stay relevant in this new normal.

When only months ago (was it only months ago?), you can effortlessly win hearts p foodstagrams, get a #lifegoal comment for a “look away” pose in Siargao, or groan at a “Sana all” ribbing for flexing your love life, now, what seems like safe, wholesome content, are unpredictably met with a “Sensitivity, please,” clapback from well-meaning citizens.

Businesses are having a hard time dealing with this market shift. In a tooth and nail scrimmage to not be forgotten, companies are thanking frontliners left and right, trying to create buzz whether it’s through publicity, a CSR overload, or if you’re especially daring, through a piggyback on the political climate to win some woke hearts. The risk, as many have learned, is to be branded the “opportunistic” card prematurely.

So, what changed?
Well, your audience did.

Faced with more important survival issues like food security, family detachment, and a slow slide into an unprecedented existential crisis, a small misstep from brands that seem like Goliaths to everyone else’s Davids can bring a normally enthusiastic, observing, or passive audience into an uproar. It doesn’t help that everyone has more time to spend nitpicking. Facebook recently reported a 40% spike on their app’s use.

As a company then, what do you do? Should you remain quiet until you fall into oblivion? Should you self-promote at the risk of being called opportunistic or without a clear direction? Should you use your voice to shed light on half-baked efforts and advocacies? What is the right path when, clearly, there isn’t a crisis management benchmark to follow before all this?

Well, since this crisis requires some form of innovation from all of us, we at Dual Story have also fashioned a word that sums up our answer to all these questions: Brandstand.

As opposed to grandstand which means to speak on something that you don’t or can’t really uphold, Brandstand, for us, means digging deep into the very core of what you are as a business and asking yourself these questions (and yes, this crisis is the right time to ask):

Do I Really Need to Say This Now?

Timeliness is, and has always been, key to messaging. While the urgency of the situation grabs hold of everyone, you must also ask if there are other more important issues internally that need to be prioritized. Issues like if you’ve created a support system for human capital, or whether you’ve navigated a stopgap mechanism to continue on with operations. All these come way before image building.

Is It Really My Stance, Or am I Just Jumping Into the Bandwagon?

Other than timeliness, you’ll also have to stop yourself from giving in to FOMO. It’s tempting to create campaigns, shotgun into a cause, or collaborate with an iffy partner for content. But ask yourself, is this purpose, cause, or belief true to my DNA? Does it support my “Why” even if my “How” has changed? Take time to fall in love with the new you, folks, before sharing it to the rest of the world world. And if a concept’s not true to you, then find an idea or initiative that is, even if it takes you a little while more to get there.

Is What I’m Saying Consistent With My Tone? Or Can I Justify the Shift of Tone if Necessary?

While it’s organic to shift your brand message during these times, the manner by which you say them (by that, we mean the tone and language of your brand) should still be consistent with how you’ve always talked pre-crisis. If you’ve always had a funny and irreverent tone, go with that, inserting your personality even when giving inspirational news. A consistent brand tone is comforting in these unstable times. If you have to change your voice, explain the transition clearly so your audience won’t give in to brand shock, but instead, engage, and shift with you.

Can I Sustain This Even After the Pandemic?

Even if we have a visible finish line to the crisis already, consumer behavior has already been altered indefinitely. How they interact with your brand will continue to shift for years to come. So, instead of thinking of one-hit wonders in terms of action frames and messaging, try to think of a sustainable, long-term intention for your brand and your customers. Instead of exit points, think of an impressive entrance to a new normal.


While everyone is scrambling to pivot and find their place in this pandemic-ridden society, Brandstanding lends itself to the idea that even as transformation is inevitable, one should do so with a firm stance to your company and brand purpose. This means that pre-crisis, you should already have had one to begin with. And will continue to stand on that intention long after we’ve seen what’s on the other side.

Have a question about branding? Send us a message at dualstoryph@gmail.com, and let’s start a story together.

COVID-19: A Professional’s Guide to Working From Home

In light of current developments surrounding the coronavirus, various companies and organizations have enforced a Work from Home policy for their workers. If at all possible, we encourage you to avoid going out into public spaces for now as we try to #FlattenTheCurve together. However, staying at home doesn’t have to mean not staying productive. Here are a few ways you can maximize working from home:

Focus on Communication

Working remotely when you have other team members or bosses to take into consideration can be quite a challenge. Establish a proper system of communication between yourself and those you work with so that everyone remains in sync. Don’t be afraid to make use of messaging apps like WhatsApp, Zoom, Google Hangouts, or Telegram to communicate with workmates.

Treat It Like a Real Job

When you’re working from home, it can be very tempting to just work on your laptop while you’re laying in bed in your pajamas all day. Avoid that. Get dressed as you would for your real job and find a table or a workstation that can function as your temporary office. This will help get you in the mood to work.

Stick to Your Daily Routine

Follow your daily routine as much as possible. So, if you regularly exercise before or after your work day, find some time to do so at home as well. If you do meditation, stretching, or light reading on a consistent basis, then incorporate that into your Work From Home schedule.

Eat and Drink Healthy

Now, more than ever, it’s important that you practice healthy habits. Load up on food and drinks that you know can help boost your immune system. Take care of your body and it will take care of you.

Clean Your Work Station Regularly

Cleanliness is key right now. Aside from disinfecting your hands and body with soap and alcohol, you should also be cleaning the items that you regularly come into contact with. So, regularly clean your desk, keyboards, mouse pads, and everything that you touch while you work.

Don’t Isolate Yourself

Lastly, don’t isolate yourself. Even if you’re just working from home, know that you are still a member of a larger community. Stay updated on the latest developments that are taking place in the world around you. Knowledge and awareness are the best possible ways you can arm yourself while you’re in a self-imposed quarantine.

Why More Companies Are Investing in Branding

It’s always tough whenever anyone tries to start a new business. There are just too many variables to keep track of and details that require thorough attention. Entrepreneurs are forced to wear many hats as they do market research, study organizational framework, analyze cash flow, do product development, and initiate proper resource allocation to name a few. It’s not rare for having at least one of these aspects of business get left behind. More often than not, consumers would be able to tell which aspects of a business certain organizations will favor at the expense of others. Some businesses will invest heavily in product development while they lag behind in customer support. Others devote most of their resources to doing market research without paying much attention to the organizational makeup of their company. And while all these things are vital cogs in the wheel of business, it’s imperative that companies cover themselves on all fronts.

It’s always tough whenever anyone tries to start a new business. There are just too many variables to keep track of and details that require thorough attention. Entrepreneurs are forced to wear many hats as they do market research, study organizational framework, analyze cash flow, do product development, and initiate proper resource allocation to name a few. It’s not rare for having at least one of these aspects of business get left behind. More often than not, consumers would be able to tell which aspects of a business certain organizations will favor at the expense of others. Some businesses will invest heavily in product development while they lag behind in customer support. Others devote most of their resources to doing market research without paying much attention to the organizational makeup of their company. And while all these things are vital cogs in the wheel of business, it’s imperative that companies cover themselves on all fronts.

Naturally, a company with limited resources, especially start-ups, will have to cut corners and compromise certain aspects of running their business. That’s only normal. This is why companies will tend to focus more on certain aspects of running a business depending on their specific needs. It’s a matter of prioritization and understanding the needs of a business in order for it to be competitive. And yet, current trends show that more companies are investing heavily in their brand development and strategy. Even start-ups that are running on financial fumes are keen on pooling limited resources for the purpose of branding.

To the uninitiated, branding might seem like it should place lower on the list of priorities in running a business. After all, isn’t branding practically just coming up with a logo and a slogan? Why would you need to allocate so much of your limited resources to these things? Well, it turns out that the case for branding is more compelling than you think. More than anything, branding is perception. It’s the way consumers perceive the brand itself and the company behind it. It doesn’t matter how skilled a company’s staff is or how ingenious their products are. Without proper branding, these things will not register in the minds and hearts of the consumer. Proper branding gives a sense of personality and character to the corporate structures on which they are built. Branding has always been a very important aspect of running a business. But in this age of digital transformation and mass media consumption, branding has become the main battlefield on which business wars are either lost or won.

Branding Develops Perception

Again, branding is all about perception.

You might feel safe and sound in the knowledge that you are an honest entrepreneur who has a solid set of products or services that any customer would love to pay good money for. But what you believe about yourself isn’t necessarily what is going to translate to customers. How you see your own business isn’t always the same as how customers will see you too. A lot of the time, there is a serious disconnect between how entrepreneurs and customers will perceive a company. This is why branding is so important. Branding allows a company to solidify certain communication and perception pillars that will help develop their own recognition among the masses. A solid brand strategy and communications plan will allow companies to be more methodical in its approach to conversing and interacting with its customers. All of these things serve as foundational elements to how customers perceive brands and the companies behind them.

Branding Benefits Internal Stakeholders

Having good branding isn’t just about building your perception for the outside world.

It also plays a vital role in the dynamics and development of your workplace as well. Proper branding can have your employees feeling like they work for a great company for a number of reasons. Branding can leave the impression that your company fosters a family environment or that it is geared towards social good and community development. These are all great motivators when it comes to securing and keeping quality talent. But more than that, having proper branding will have your employees feeling like they are a part of something that is more than just a job or a place for them to earn their salaries.

Branding Breeds Customer Loyalty

Next, branding has a lot to do with customer acquisition.

Sure, it’s all about getting people to visit your store or to browse your website. However, it’s also just as much about getting the RIGHT people to start paying attention to your brand. As a business owner or entrepreneur, you must have done your due diligence in researching your target market. With proper branding mechanisms in place, you can position your brand in such a way that directly influences your target consumer base.

For example, if you are a company that thrives on B2B transactions, then you need a brand strategy in place that helps you reach potential businesses that might be interested in your services or products. This means that you have to tailor your brand’s voice and messaging in a manner that directly caters to businesses and not individual consumers.

More than that, it all circles back to the point of how branding gives a corporate structure its personality. It’s this personality that customers are able to relate to and connect with. When you craft a perfect brand personality, you are further enticing your customer base to trust and rely on your brand.

Branding Builds Credibility and Trust

When it comes to building your brand’s credibility, there are two audiences you need to be mindful of: your internal stakeholders and your external stakeholders.

For your internal stakeholders such as employees, shareholders, and senior management officers, it’s important that everyone understands the ins and outs of your brand. This is crucial to fostering a culturally relevant and synchronized working environment. For your external stakeholders like your customers and potential investors, branding is key in whether or not they develop a sense of trust for your business. The more your customers trust you, then the more that it will translate to sales and acquisitions. The more investors trust you, the higher your business’s potential for growth and development.

It boils down to familiarity. Human beings are wired to be more receptive toward things that we are familiar with. Conversely, we are inherently inclined to hate or fear the things that we don’t understand. That’s why branding is crucial in establishing trust. Having a well-structured and well-communicated brand builds that crucial sense of familiarity between a company and its stakeholders. And it’s through having that familiarity wherein trust will begin to form and only grow stronger over time.


Whether you like it or not, brand strategy and development are very crucial aspects to finding success as an entrepreneur. Of course, you can always choose to work on these aspects of business on your own. However, more and more companies are seeking the professional expertise of specialists in the field of branding and communications. This can be manifested through in-house brand strategy teams or outsourced services from third parties. Whatever the case, your business has much to gain from adopting a solid and effective brand strategy. In contrast, you also put yourself at a disadvantage when your competitors beat you to the punch in their brand positioning efforts.

For your brand strategy and development needs, feel free to shoot us a message at hello@dualstory.com. We’re ready to talk and help you tell your brand’s story.