Nearshore Americas

In Latin America, Microsoft, Others Build Brands with Different Strategies

Source: WorldCity

To boost sales in Colombia, the Oster line of home appliances came up with a unique idea: Invite beauty queen contestants in the popular Miss Colombia contest to compete in cooking with the appliances in stores, use social media to promote the events, and then, broadcast the segments on YouTube. Thousands tuned in, helping market the brand at a fraction of the cost of traditional TV.

That’s just one example shared at WorldCity’s Global Connections panel April 29 on ways to reach the fast-growing ranks of the Latin American consumer and to leverage the power of brands.

Panelists sliced and diced Latin America’s expanding consumer market in varied ways: by buying power as in A, B and C classes; by country; by generation; by those who most influences purchase decisions; and even by how consumers use social media, depending on the stage of the buying process, from researching to purchasing.

“The power of the brand is more important than in the developed world, where things are getting more commoditized,” said Lovina McMurchy, general manager for Microsoft Latin America’s consumer and online division.

Latin American consumers also are more driven by consumption, status and emotional connections to brands than buyers elsewhere. Asian consumers, in contrast, tend to be more fashion-conscious and U.S. consumers more motivated by the experience or rationale of using a product, McMurchy said.

Yet, as in the United States and worldwide, new media plays a growing role in marketing. Discovery Networks, for example, is “all over Facebook and social media” building ties in Latin America, even though many fans and followers on its sites may not yet be able to afford the company’s pay TV channels or may be too young to buy them now, said Ivan Bargueiras, senior vice president for advertising sales for Discovery Networks Latin America/U.S. Hispanic.

Smart-phones also are an increasingly important channel to reach consumers, especially moms on the go who use the web for product information and referrals from friends and family. For brands like Oster appliances that cater to moms, “If we’re not part of (mobilemedia), we’re going to be losing our customers,” said Patricia Madueno, vice president of branding communications and licensing for Jarden Consumer Solutions Latin America, which handles Oster, Sunbeam, Crockpot and other brands.

Attendees asked panelists for tips on selling U.S. mass-market products, which with transport, duties and more limited buying power in Latin America, become premium goods there. That’s a challenge for some items sold by ConAgra, said Guillermo Solar, ConAgra Foods marketing manager for the Caribbean.

One tip: Create different price points for a single brand, such as simpler Oster blenders sold at a lower price and more sophisticated ones sold for more. The same ConAgra food item, for instance, might use plain packaging and a fancy box. Use an aspirational message for the entire brand but a range of prices for different consumer segments within Latin America, suggested Jarden’s Madueno.

It also pays to identify “influencers” in each Latin American nation, to understand how to reach that leading group of people and to get them to adopt your product. Their behavior then can expand out to others, partly through marketing on social media such as Microsoft Messenger, Hotmail, Facebook and Twitter, said Microsoft’s McMurchy.

Discovery’s Ivan Bargueiras talked about social media’s importance for the company’s branding

Smart marketing matters, because Latin America’s weight is growing in global terms. Brazil next year will become the No. 2 sales market in the world for Discovery Networks, surpassing the United Kingdom, China and other nations and trailing only the United States, said Discovery’s Bargueiras.

How might companies adapt to the different markets within Latin America and localize their marketing?, asked Richard Gibbs, senior director of communications for the Everglades Foundation.

Start by knowing your customers, panelists said. For example, Oster realized that in many Latin American nations, cooks don’t make rice the way Asians do by merely boiling the grains. They first sauté garlic and seasonings in oil, then stir in the rice and later, add water to the mix. So, Oster made an appliance that lets you sauté and boil in one pot, saving cooks from using a pan and a cooker to make rice, Madueno said.

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Recognize too that the influencers and competitors vary. In Mexico, for example, the U.S. influence is crucial and consumers very status conscious, so Microsoft faces tough rivalry from Apple. But in Brazil, where the market is more self-contained and there’s more influence from “democratizing” forces favoring free technology, Microsoft worries more about competing with Google, McMurchy said.

Understand too that the trend to multi-media and multi-tasking is expanding globally, as consumers use a variety of media at the same time, maybe surfing the web or monitoring social media as they watch TV, panelists said.

“The reality is the consumer is bending time,” said Bargueiras, “and consuming more.”

Global Connections is one of seven event series organized by WorldCity to bring together executives on international business topics. The Global series is sponsored by Florida International University’s School of Business, real estate company Waterford at Blue Lagoon and by telecom provider Comcast Business Class. The next Global Connections event is set for May 27 to spotlight Mexico.


Kirk Laughlin

Kirk Laughlin is an award-winning editor and subject expert in information technology and offshore BPO/ contact center strategies.

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