The State Of Branding In Latin America
By: Luis Bartolomei
When we first opened our office in Sao Paulo in 2014, we quickly noticed a surprising paradox that extended across Latin America- a multitude of mainstream brands that lacked personality and soul in an otherwise optimistic, lively, and economically-emerging continent. The previous two decades have seen branding progressively become a repetition of over-used methodologies that have been copied by countless branding agencies around the world, leading to cliched thinking, copy-cat brand identities, and uninspired agencies and designers.
Over the past 4 years, I’ve seen this landscape begin to change. The relationship between global and local branding has finally been cracked by the “glocal” alternative, where being a global brand is no longer as appealing as it used to be and the aspirational focus has turned to local brands instead, spearheaded by the influence of a millennial mindset.
Consumers in Latin America (LatAm) are digitally immersed and very active on social media, and the region has become a hotbed of entrepreneurialism, where a powerful start-up ecosystem has emerged, enabling smaller brands to be seen and respected globally. Some of the well-established local companies are expanding across the region, sometimes even globally. These local brands are leading the way and creating a great formula for how brands can connect with consumers throughout the region.
Here are some of the observations we've discovered along the way.
Locally Rooted, Globally Appealing
Like many light beers, Corona occupies the "party" sphere, but it’s managed to carve out a unique, authentic niche for itself. Its ethos of relaxation is rooted in the Mexican ideal of spring-break, which not only resonates with Americans but celebrates the Mexican way of enjoying life that differentiates it from competitors.
Another good example of a roots-based approach to branding is Brugal from the Dominican Republic. This Caribbean variety of rums uses exuberant imagery of the island and captures its own local language and visual vocabulary. Ultimately, the brand is distinct from other production sites like Cuba or Jamaica, and they've carved out a unique place for themselves on the regional and global stage.
Meanwhile the tagline of Cachafaz, an Argentinian brand of alfajores (a regional sweet biscuit), proudly announces what the brand stands for—responsablimente rico (responsible rich). Cachafaz has become a national icon as well as a phenomenon that grew largely by word of mouth. The brand is a symbol of a humble, but powerful story, the kind that carries huge currency in the LatAm region. The Alcaraz family started making their biscuits at home before jumping to kiosks and supermarket shelves where they began to compete with major Argentinian players like Arcor, Mondelez, and Mars.
A Human Approach
Beyond brands and companies, LatAm is a place where a more humanized touch always wins.
When Brazil-based organic brand Mãe Terra started, they created a very Brazilian tone of voice with humor, warmth, and simplicity. This differed from other organic brands in Brazil that often used language conventions from other markets, particularly Europe, and this gave them a more humanistic feel within the market. Bolstered by their broader communications, which focus more on people than products, they talked about their vision to democratize organic food so they can improve people’s lives.
Braskem, a Latin-American petrochemical leader, redefined their positioning within a very distant, industrial category to try and express what makes them so unique—a human-centered approach, an ability to challenge the status-quo in the business realm, and putting its people first by decentralizing decision making and stimulating an entrepreneurial attitude among all team members. This is a completely different point of view in a sector typically fuelled by hierarchy, power, and investments.
Purpose Without Complexity, Please?
Purpose is everything, right?
But from the LatAm perspective, the purpose must also be uncomplicated. Latin Americans love stories, but they are currently passing through storytelling fatigue due to branding overload.
Bachoco, a poultry company in Mexico, decided to connect with consumers by telling them the truth about their products in a very clear, humorous way. They talk about their production process by opening up their kitchen to show consumers their business from the inside while also discussing myths about food, food production, and food habits. This way of communicating to consumers, combining humor with real facts, is based on their purpose - Alimentando de Verdad - feeding for real.
Born in the world's third largest cosmetic market, the recently created Natura&Co has emerged from the same beliefs and foundations that made the Natura brand (from Brazil) one of the most respected essential-based brands in the continent. They embrace their purpose, “bem estar bem” (well-being-well) in so many different ways, starting from the door-to-door business model that not only helps people to improve their family income but also focuses on quality and purposeful products that make consumer’s lives better.
To Latin-Americanize branding is to embrace the mindset behind any other glocal opportunity around the world, but with a bit more intuition and sensibility. Brands looking to grow or expand in the region need to look at reshaping outdated, established concepts and challenge conventions while respecting the LatAm culture.
Ultimately, they need to create brand personalities that have a soul and to do it with their eyes, ears, minds, and hearts wide open.
Luis Bartolomei is partner and co-founder of CBA B+G. With 25 years of experience in brand creative design and market positioning, he has developed innovative branding and design projects in Brazil, Central America, Venezuela, Colombia, Mexico, Argentina, Ecuador and Chile. Besides overseeing local and regional strategic projects, Luis leads a multidisciplinary team and drives the agency's ambition and vision.