“I realized that if men practice self-care, they are kinder, more conscious and more open-minded. They eventually realize their wholeness as individuals, who need to pay attention to their health.”
There's been an unmistakable boom in the men's care sector in the recent years. No longer content with surreptitiously using women's skin care products, our guys have become bolder in demanding their grooming needs be met as well. Fortunately, Ralph Layco, SAM Holdings Chief Marketing Officer, has responded to this fast-growing clientele with his Noah Solutions for Men, currently a best seller on the shopping site Lazada.
The eight-year-old boy, who sold Power Ranger characters cards for a peso each, while perched on a steel stool outside the family home, grew up to open a modern barbershop in his hometown of General Santos City (GenSan) in South Cotabato province. “In college, I would get my hair trimmed during weekends, and it was the dullest experience,” he recalls chuckling. “White walls, middle-aged barbers, who never engaged with you…the smell of talc powder…the same old student cut even if you were already 18.” Wanting to reinvent the experience, he set up the café style barbershop Macho Mucho, targeting the middle class. Customers listened to jazz music while getting their lock s styled and snipped.
Ralph's first venture closed down, so he moved in 2011 to a better location at the SM City Gensan mall, growing to eight branches nationwide four years later. In 2016, he launched Crown & Glory and HairFood Co., a mall kiosk concept, offering hair treatment and hair loss solutions. It proved popular, expanding to 11 branches nationwide in just two years and reaching Visayas and Metro Manila.
Then, Covid-19 and its devastating aftermath hit, forcing him to cease kiosk operations and witness barbershop revenue fall significantly due to community quarantine restrictions. “We were disheartened and greatly challenged,” he admits. “We had to let go of more than 40 people.”
Nevertheless, the young professional didn't falter, taking inspiration from his father, who was relentless in the pursuit of success. He says: “My dad is the classic rag-to-riches story. He comes from a poor family in GenSan, and worked as a sorbetero (ice cream vendor), shoe shine boy, rice cake seller and the like. He tirelessly strove to build his steel company that boasts multiple branches throughout the country. His roll-up door is used in many establishments in Mindanao and Cebu.”
Ralph is now focusing all his energy on his Noah Solutions for Men brand, which he launched in January 2020. And it's no coincidence that he chose to name his latest venture, “Noah” after the Biblical father, who, with his family and selected animals, survived the Great Deluge and given a fresh start by the Lord. He says: “We had a clear slate to dream and start small again, and it's this beginner's mindset that is helping us build the brand with tenacity and passion, more humility and wisdom.”
The 33-year-old marketing graduate from the University of the Philippines Visayas, says he is his own target market. “I believe that it's important to emphasize personal care in men, just as it is in women. Originally, the big personal care brands regarded men as an afterthought, yet I have seen man of them try their girlfriends' skincare products. However, they feel shame in doing so.”
This, he believes, has led to a new thought process and a brand that has thrived during the pandemic. “The mission to push the original idea of 'personal care for men' eventually became more relevant and important. We are not only promoting our products, we are also promoting the art of self-care.”
People powered product
In its unique way, Noah Solutions for Men is trying to make the world a better place, according to its founder, who says: “I realized that if men practise self-care, they are kinder, more conscious and more open-minded. They eventually realize their wholeness as individuals, who need to pay attention to their health.
“This paves the road to a new generation of men, who are open to conversation about their struggles and solving their problems without shame of being judged. We believe this improves their quality of life.”
Ralph is proud that his brand's values have been well thought out from the start of concept. He says: We were very clear what the brand is and what we are not as a brand. First, we will always bring our values as founders, such as authenticity, love and compassion and inclusion to the products we promote.
“We are also clear that we won't prioritize fast sales over growth. We will never embarrass and shame our customers. We will never create products that are not of good quality.”
Besides making sure that Noah's offerings pass Food and Drug Administration standards for product safety, the company's R&D efforts always keep customers's needs in mind. Says Ralph: “Noah is also a people-powered brand. Our next innovations are influenced by our costumers' direct suggestions, from the actual product to the scents, the texture and how we can improve our existing products.”
This strategy has paid off with customer loyalty. Noah is currently the fourth highest ranking brand in the Personal Care for Men category in Lazada Philippines, after multinational brands such as Nivea, P&G and Unilever. It's one of Shopee's new top movers in the Health & Beauty category this October, and was the only local brand in Men Care, included in the Lazada Beauty Awards 2021.
Ralph, who has been awarded Asia's Most Outstanding Young Marketer of the Year in 2018 by the Asian Marketing Federation, has a definite idea of how to help build a kinder world. “The art of marketing and communications is about introducing utopia, and weaving it into an understandable form of communication that resonates with the audience.
“It should be unforgettable and should make people think. That for me doesn't rely on the usual game book. It should rely on a goal — how you want the world to look like and what world do you truly want to live in.”
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Elon Musk, because of his bold thinking and continuous innovation with his values intact. Second, Bjarke Ingels for his out of this world architectural ideas, and how he fearlessly and beautifully weaves ideas from different disciplines to create a new art form.
I'd like to build a life not a business. I'd like to dismantle outdated systems through great products and innovation, utmost care and concern for the future of humanity. However that looks like, that's the goal.
FIRST PAYING JOB
My first job was in Nestlé Makati for five months as an officer in the Small Stores Sales department.
I arrange my bed, work out, drink my moringa-protein smoothie, then I pray and meditate before I work. This intentional space and routine gives me a good headstart everyday.
A fearlessness to act on bold ideas, and also maybe observing people. Not creepily, but I love sitting in the park or in a mall to do so. That's where I derive curiosity.
TIME SPENT ON SOCIAL MEDIA
I live half of my waking time on my mobile phone, as much as I resent it. Social media and the internet enables me to communicate directly with our customers, my team and our suppliers.