Profiles, Stories

Donald Lim: Being the giant of digital marketing

In our fast-paced global world today, almost everything has gone digital. There is no denying that the virtual world has changed how society works, most especially when it comes to business.

With digital technology being the norm in this 21st century, it seems so long ago when companies and businesses would shrug at investing in their digital marketing, saying it’s “unnecessary” and “impractical”.

Without a doubt, there was a time when, ironically, digital marketing was hard to market to entrepreneurs and business owners. They would rather focus on operations and sales rather than invest in marketing in a digital environment where there were only minimal audiences. Nevertheless, Chinoy entrepreneur Donald Lim was among the first to envision the fusion of business and technology in the Philippines and successfully pioneer the practice of digital marketing, earning him the title of ‘Father of Digital Marketing’.

Growing up in a typical Chinoy family

Lim is already accustomed to the traditional Chinoy ways as he was born and raised in a stereotypical Chinoy family. His mother is a disciplinarian who made sure that Donald and his siblings are well-disciplined and grounded with their Chinoy values.

“No TV, no games from Monday to Friday. On Saturday, just watch TV. On Sunday, that’s family time. So it’s a very tightly run household for us. We’re extremely disciplined. We followed all the rules, even the time we have to be really sleeping by 9:30 then we have to be up by 6 AM. So things like that, it’s very tightly run by my mom,” he shared.

Lim’s father was a businessman in the hardware industry. He remembers his father’s office situated at the ground floor of their house, which opened his eyes to business at a young age and led to Lim’s belief that like his dad, he is also destined to become an entrepreneur. His father never really pushed him to take part in the family business and would have supported Lim should he have chosen another path to take.

“I was the eldest. I was really primed to take over the family business and yet my dad initially said that ‘You’re not pressured to take on the family business but if you want, I suggest you go out and get experience first and learn from other corporations to get that corporate experience’”. Lim said.

He took his father’s advice, printed a hundred copies of his resume and walked around the streets of Ortigas, Ayala and Makati, dropping his resume in every mailbox and submitting it at every office he passed by, in the hopes of kickstarting his corporate experience.

Humble marketing beginnings

Like any other successful business figure, Lim did not begin at the top of his career. Although he graduated from Ateneo with a business degree, he started out as an operations employee before doing marketing at a Burger King branch and it was an experience he was truly thankful for.

“So my first job is cooking burgers, being a cashier and understanding the store operations. But that was a very good experience because even up to now, I’ve always been very adamant that all my marketing trained under me has to undergo operations experience, because you cannot strategize if you have never been on ground with any of your business,” he shared.

After staying at Burger King, his marketing career deliberately took off. He also worked for news company Inquirer, which allowed him to drastically increase his network and connection, an important asset in marketing.

After years of hard work and experience as a marketing employee, Lim was appointed CEO of Yehey Corporation, a marketing agency where Lim was able to dive into the world of e-marketing and finance. 

Pioneering the practice of digital marketing

Despite being one of the greatest marketing minds in the country, it is funny that marketing was not what Lim wanted in the first place. When he was asked to pick a minor in Ateneo, his first choice was finance, but it was his mom who encouraged him to change this decision– a decision that will also change the course of his life.

“I don’t understand what marketing is, I want to avoid it. But my mom was very insistent. She said ‘If you don’t know how to market anything, that doesn’t make sense’. So she really forced me. She said go [for] marketing and again, being the obedient son, I went to marketing. And again, lo and behold, I actually enjoyed the course,” he said.

He did not become a digital marketing giant overnight as during his time, the digital world is not as huge as it is today.

“It was the early days of digital. And so we were like prophets in the desert. We were preaching that everyone should go digital and no one would. They know that it’s important but they would say it’s not not a priority,” he shared. 

Nevertheless, Lim persisted. He gathered all the digital players in the industry and started the Internet and Mobile Marketing Association of the Philippines (IMMAP), where he was chosen as president. With Lim at the helm, the group was able to successfully grow the industry of digital marketing in the Philippines.

“Fast forward to 15 years, we really saw a digital springboard. A lot of the mainstream companies, Unilever, Nestlé, Procter & Gamble, Colgate have really gotten into the digital bandwagon already and are really creating a lot of digital marketing campaigns,” he shared.

Lim’s hard work and determination eventually bore fruit as he received numerous awards and recognitions for championing digital marketing in the country. With his success, he is currently the Chief Innovation Officer of the Udenna Corporation and the Chief Operating Officer of DITO CME Holdings.

Embracing his Chinoy roots

Despite achieving great heights and even being hailed as the Father of Digital Marketing in the Philippines, Lim always keeps himself grounded to his Chinoy roots. 

One of the most important Chinoy values that has always been apparent in everything that Lim does is the value of conquering hardships and not shying away from them.

“Life has a way of throwing curveballs to you and you just take it as it is. What is more important is that day in and day out, you try to give your best in everything that you do,” he shared.

Another essential Chinoy value that Lim embodies is, of course, good ol’ hard work and dedication. Nothing is impossible to achieve as long as you work long and hard for it.

“You don’t have to be the best and the brightest, but to be successful in life, you just have to work the hardest because that is a choice,” he said.

With this, there is no doubt that Donald Lim is an epitome of the modern Chinoy who can overcome stereotypes and reach new heights. His achievements in digital marketing are a testament to the potential of the Chinoy community to create remarkable contributions in our modern and digital world today.

Be sure to catch Chinoy marketing guru Donald Lim on Chinese by Blood, Filipino by Heart on CNN Philippines! The series airs every Sunday at 8PM. Stay tuned on CHiNOY TV’s and CNN Philippines’ Facebook pages for further updates.

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