Qué Pasa con Marketing? 6 Lessons I Learned in Argentina

One of my favorite parts of being a marketing strategy consultant is getting to work with brands in different industries, stages of growth, and geographies.

I recently had the opportunity to spend time in South America, including Argentina, Chile, Brazil, and Uruguay. Traveling abroad is a particular source of inspiration for me, because what works in other regions can often inform our campaigns back home in the U.S.

Unlike in London and Amsterdam, where everything seemed innovative and fresh, many of the campaigns I saw in South America employed common U.S. tactics – though the marketers south of the Equator often took these tactics to an extreme. Here were six of the most interesting, along with expert tips to make them your own:

1. Know Your Audience – Speak to Them (and Only Them)

This store on the main street in Argentina’s Bariloche really believes in the power of Twitter. It’s gone so far as to actually name its store “#YOLO.” The nod to social media makes sense for this retailer, an apparel and accessories company geared toward teenage girls. But remember, we’re in Argentina, where “YOLO” has no inherent Spanish meaning; rather, it’s an acronym of an English phrase (you only live once). Talk about meta!

Throughout South America, more so than in Europe or even parts of Asia, there seemed to be a fascination with all things English-language and American (including, of course, the U.S. dollar). The teens inside this store were quick to tell me what “YOLO” meant; when I asked adults on the street outside the store what “YOLO” meant, they didn’t have a clue.

yolo-argentina

Expert tip: If you’re going to go after a narrow audience with a hyper-specific message, be comfortable with the fact that you may alienate other audience segments.

2. Sponsor Relevant Lifestyles

Just as Red Bull and Lululemon have championed the adventurous Millennial lifestyle, Uruguay today supports a different cultural segment: fine artists. These buildings in downtown Montevideo, Uruguay’s capital city, were derelict squatter pads just a few years ago. To help improve the community and boost safety in the neighborhood, the government stepped in and began offering grants to fine artists, allowing them to use these buildings as free studios in exchange for decorating them and beautifying the community. Additional underwriters of the program? Regional paint companies, who provide the materials. It’s a classic win-win. Bien hecho.

artist-houses

Expert tip: Think about which lifestyles and activities fit with your brand. Enlist leaders in those fields as brand ambassadors.

3. Test First, Then Expand

Coca-Cola has a long and rich history in South America, but I was surprised to see a relatively new flavor heavily advertised in and around the Buenos Aires airports: Coca-Cola Life. The ads read “New recipe, more delicious,” and they introduce a decidedly non-Coke color: green, likely a nod to the Stevia used in its production. As I’ve discussed in the past, there are a number of best practices to follow when localizing a global product launch, and one is using pilot markets to test offerings before rolling them out more broadly. Though the product launched in Argentina in 2013, it has since rolled out to Chile, the U.K., and to some retailers in the U.S.

coke-argentina

Expert tip: Set test markets with benchmark goals for new product launches. Use the findings from those pilot campaigns to improve performance in larger-scale rollouts.

4. Don’t Let Your Sponsorship Overcloud the Thing You’re Sponsoring

On the flip side, many kiosks and storefronts in Buenos Aires are branded beyond recognition. For example, is the photo below of a Coke store? Or is it the well-regarded Ovieto restaurant in Palermo? (Clue: Look up top.) I even saw a beachfront club in Punta Del Este, Uruguay, that I thought actually was a Citibank branch because it was so heavily branded!

As marketers we are trained to negotiate for bigger, better logo placement, brand integrations, and homepage skins and takeovers. But remember that, at least in this country, sponsorship should support, not overwhelm, the thing you wanted to sponsor in the first place.

ovieto

Expert tip: Be authentic and supportive, not overbearing, to foster goodwill through sponsorships and product placements here in the U.S.

5. Things That Make You Go Hmm: Printed QR Codes

QR codes came, QR codes went, QR codes are back again…in print? More and more frequently, QR codes are finding their home in mobile ticketing. This makes sense – QR codes hold loads of information, are easy to display from a mobile device, easy to read from a scanner, and help the environment by eliminating the waste of paper tickets. But at Montevideo’s historic Teatro Solis, I received a QR code on my printed ticket, which the ushers then collected instead of scanning. Hmm. A nice idea, but remember that there has to be a reason behind using new technology – ideally its use delivers greater value to the customer, to the brand, or both.

qr-code-argentina

Expert tip: QR codes are great for delivering additional information to customers. Be sure they are accessible and seamless!

6. Look for Natural Product Extensions

OK, I admit it. I’m a total gringa and went to an overpriced tango show at a known tourist trap in San Telmo. You know what? It was wonderful. Of course they were looking to squeeze more money from the patrons at every turn (Would you like a photo with the tango dancer? Would you like to upgrade your seat for a better view?), but this branded wine extension felt right and smart. After all, tango and wine are to Argentina what baseball and apple pie are to the United States. What’s more, the Malbec was delicious and fairly priced.

tango-wine

Expert tip: Think about what natural extensions exist for your brand, both digitally and physically, and go explore.

Have you seen any other wacky or wonderful campaigns south of the Equator? Send them my way @kristinkovner.

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