We’d been talking about a visit to the Latin-American markets for a while, but the final decision to go was extremely last-minute, timed to coincide with a few other meetings and get-togethers in various cities.
First stop was the beautiful city of Buenos Aires, which really has to be the ultimate urban mash-up: ornate European architecture, a vibrant street-art scene, developing-economy sprawl to the outskirts, the world’s highest density of old Puegots, and some of the most passionate approaches to driving I’ve ever witnessed. It’s no accident (pun intended) that this is the country that gave us Juan Manuel Fangio.
The team at Ogilvy Buenos Aires did a superb job hosting and the local IBM clients really came to the party for a very lively workshop. Interestingly, there was a real willingness to use the session to cut to the heart of some of the process questions around briefing (and brief-writing), which is really important when you want to put collaboration into practice. The team were quick to grasp the importance of local insights and we moved quickly to discussions of where to find them & how to cultivate them – there was also plenty of interest in using The Bomb Squad as way to get more of the stakeholders and influencers involved in the messaging, up front.
Mexico City was the next stop, but I really can’t tell you much about this high-altitude city of over 21 million people – we spent a grand total of 13 hours in the country. Several of those hours, however, were spent with the IBM marketing team, learning about this high-growth market that is starting to detach from the US and become a major high-tech manufacturing player. Its these kind of markets – the ones in a period of change, emerging from the shadows of more powerful economies – that really do need insight-driven marketing. A global brand can only take you so far, particularly when your competitors have also recognised the growth potential of the local market.
I had been warned that the spirit of competition was alive and well amongst the people of Latin and South America, and the Mexico City edition of w2fm bore the maxim out. The game of “Features to Benefits” generated some real debate, and we even managed to squeeze in a quick game of “What’s My Motivation In This Scene?” that revealed some surprising local drivers in the server market. Again, this is the stuff that you simply can’t find in global guidance decks. We had time for a very quick sampling of the local fare before heading off to catch yet another plane.
We had a pretty big turn out for w2fm in Sao Paulo – probably as large as the crowd in Beijing – which can sometimes be a challenge in terms of generating interaction and participation. It’s a fact of human nature that it is easier to “hitch a ride” with a larger group. But the natural expressiveness and love of communication that my Brazilian friends had assured me were national traits won out and, pretty quickly, we got rolling. Some of the tools and games naturally lend themselves to a bit of friendly competition, revealing why Brazilians are world champs in so many sports – they really put everything into it.
Collaboration is something that seems to come naturally in this part of the world – it’s a very inclusive culture. Perhaps the most striking thing about this high-velocity tour of South America was the just-below-the-surface tension between the raw creativity and innovation that defines so many growth markets, and the hierarchichal, process-driven nature of so many multinational organisations.
The companies that can loosen their processes enough to let local innovation shivne – and then encourage a culture of lateral, country-to-country sharing – will find real value in emerging and growth markets, beyond the obvious attraction of selling to new markets.
I did get to visit one more city, unintentionally, on my way home: Santiago looks beautiful, in a dramatic, just beneath-the-Andes kind of way, but is very hard to recommend as a half-day trip for the international visitor.
We spent way too much time in airports and on planes, but we also spent time with so many great new friends at some fabulous places, so don’t cry for me Argentina. One of the highlights of the downtime was this organised tour of Buenos Aires Street art: