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What’s in a box?

Santiago Araneta of LBC Express plans to go global
By Devi de Veyra |




A carton box was at the center of a national drama that played out on various media platforms late last year. The box would triumph in the end, with the customs chief issuing an apology, and the former president himself ordering a retraction of the directive that would have subjected balikbayan boxes sent by OFWs to random inspection. If you’ve received a carton box filled with goodies sent by relatives living abroad, you’ll understand what all the brouhaha is all about.



LBC Express CEO Santiago “Santi” Araneta has a deep understanding of the emotions inextricably attached to the balikbayan box. The company, which was founded by Santi’s father, Carlos Araneta, more than half a century ago, is a major player in the logistics industry, handling a huge chunk of an estimated 7.2 million balikbayan boxes processed yearly. Santi exemplifies the ideal second-generation business manager – one who is attuned to the present while remaining anchored to the relevant values of the past.


“My father gave me the option to cash in and live a life of comfort, or join the company,” Santi recalls. During that father-and-son conversation, Carlos explained that managing the family-owned business was not just a game of numbers: “He told me that it was about the people”—their employees, along with the customers they served.


His father would drive the point home, explaining to his son that running the company would mean giving livelihood to people. And that convinced Santi to join his father’s business in 1994, rising in rank through the years before assuming the post of CEO.



The younger Araneta would expertly usher the family-owned business into a rapidly changing environment, with his first major move ruffling a few feathers. He thought of professionalizing the business early on by changing the old guards with new hires who he deemed could bring something fresh to the table. He would also upgrade the systems and introduce various products that tapped their core strengths while addressing the needs of a new generation of customers such as the burgeoning online entrepreneurs and other commercial accounts, a growth sector that contributed substantially to LBC Express’ revenues.


It is in the last couple of years that Santi would make the big moves that would catapult the company to new heights. The company announced an ambitious expansion plan that aims at harnessing the vast ASEAN market. But before that, LBC Express underwent a logo redesign in the hands of Singapore-based consultants Tangible: the logo’s signature red color is retained, but the lines are now smoother and easier on the eyes. The company also dropped its decade-old Tagalog tagline “Hari ng padala” and gives way to the universally appealing “We like to move it.” The new look feels more sophisticated, it’s as if it got dressed up to meet its new customers.



Though the changes seem subtle and simple, the rebranding is a complicated and meticulously thought-out process. The new logo expresses the brand value of delivering emotions and not just objects to its customers, while the three-sided smiling symbol also reminds the company’s frontliners and backend personnel of the company’s service attributes, or the 3Cs which stand for certainty, clarity and convenience.


Santi set a brisk pace, quietly introducing the logo and a new video to launch the second phase of his marketing plan in late 2013. The poignant video put across the company’s manifesto – LBC isn’t just about moving stuff, filling shelves or filling inventory. It is in the business of moving spaces and fulfilling dreams. There would be no let up from there on.


With its major competitors relatively quiet, LBC Express would continue to dominate advertising space and social media platforms. The company launched an online campaign in support of Manny Pacquiao during his rematch with Timothy Bradley in April 2014, and this proved to be a phenomenal success. The hashtag #MoveItForManny galvanized the social media crowd who would post their pics with fist over their hearts as a sign of support for the boxing champ. The hashtag would exceed their target of 17 million impressions and would dramatically increase traffic for the brand’s Facebook page. The campaign not only increased awareness for the brand’s new identity, more importantly, it left an emotional impact on its audience, which is the driving force for LBC Express’ advertising campaign.



Santi isn’t done. He signed on the country’s power endorser, Kris Aquino, and every seasoned ad-man knows the magnitude of her clout.


The success of the rebrand and the succeeding campaigns says a lot about LBC Express’ top honcho. Though he seems fearless, his vision isn’t quixotic at all. Santi is keenly aware of the emotional values behind each box, and shrewdly capitalized on those values in a campaign to capture hearts and minds, eventually gaining a stronghold on its market.


As the company lays the groundwork for its international expansion, his father, Carlos, could rest easy with the thought that he has groomed an able leader that can expertly steer the family business to greater heights.





This article originally appeared in the November 2015 issue of Entrepreneur Philippines magazine. Minor edits have been done by

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