July 28, 2020

By Pablo Carpintero

During this quarantine we’ve been naming new products, creating new campaigns, doing planning and/or resetting objectives for clients and business prospects because we’re certainly in uncharted territory. It’s like playing a game while the rules are changing (We play to set the new rules.) I’d like to share some thoughts that I’ve identified as a result of this process.

One important aspect is that language is not the most important element in communicating with Hispanic consumers. (That is like thinking that your kitchen faucet is a water factory.) While there still is a substantial Spanish-preferred population, taking culture into account and making it part of our communication tool kit is increasingly more important, and making good use of those insights is even more important. Language definitely serves a purpose when we wish to communicate with a certain segment of the population.

But it should not be a shortcut. A brand advertising in Spanish is not an end in itself. If anything, it is just the beginning. Consumers are looking for the “reason why” to interact with brands – and communicating in a way that is culturally relevant will impact the broader market as well.

So don’t get me wrong. Nobody is going to call a cat by whistling (I don’t understand why but that’s for dogs). But at the same time, nobody thinks his dog loves him because he can whistle.

Language is not the most important part in the communication process, because the massification of the resource depreciates it. (It’s the old economic law.) If tomorrow every human wakes up and finds a pound of gold on the kitchen table, the price will plummet.

What is more important then? Well, to begin with the beginning (apologies for the obvious), empathy. Because if I don’t care about you, I will not even try to communicate. And now this is different because every brand can speak different languages, but not everybody can be empathetic or find a way to be empathetic.
Particularly during these hard times, empathy is the main differentiator. Brands are recognizing their customers and more importantly, their front-line employees working retail and working the factory floors. Brands must continue advertising and, must find a way to be empathetic, insightful/in culture and express that in a personalized/original way.

Empathy is achieved by personality. That's why the old advertising saying goes, Product + Personality = Branding.

There is a risk of coming across as a “cookie cutter” brand with a “me too” message. In the middle of the quarantine for the COVID-19 pandemic many consumer brands have been saying the same thing: “We are all in this together” (or something of this sort). Not only was nobody able to differentiate between brands (a wasted budget), but in a worse way, many of us felt that the “this” we all were in was “boredom” of being stuck at home, more than fear to get infected. Many of these ads morphed together into “invisible advertising” (as they usually do).

Now, we all know that developing and/or keeping an interesting brand personality is not easy. But doing it by corporate consensus is like having a village raise a kid but with no parents to keep an eye on the kid, and where everyone in the village is just trying to impress the chief rather than take care of the infant.

If this sounds familiar, the good news is that most of the brands active today seem to be taking the same approach. The bad news is that your competitors may have been using the quarantine to do something that in soccer we call “stop the ball and lift your head” to look down the field and get a read on what’s going on. It can change the whole nature of the game because everybody stops reacting to the moving ball and begins to pay attention to the players and, in our current environment, to the new rules/field. And here is where things can change, because we are all in this together but some brands are moving faster than others, discovering and maximizing their own game instead of playing the old media game (I invest $10 to win $12).

But, as the old saying goes, wherever you go, there you are. And since

you are already here, we need to play by the rules of these turbulent times to set the new rules. (Please don’t let a good crisis go to
waste.) And just by chance it turns out that I’m an expert in dealing with crises. (I was born and raised in Argentina: Two hyperinflation, five presidents in a week, etc.)

Here are some bullet points on how we are looking to market in this new reality:

  1. Get all the decision-makers together to build all the potential scenarios and possible answers to each one of those scenarios. The answer to a crisis is necessarily tactical (short-term) but that doesn’t necessarily mean rushed or shallow.
  2. If you have nothing to say, say nothing. But remember, the real crisis could start if people forget your brand and your competitors fill that gap. If you are the decision-maker, you should be proposing to everybody to “Stop the ball and lift your head to see down the field” to reimagine and reorganize your game and how to play it.
  3. Rethink your media strategies and their respective messages. Do you need to keep using media as you did four months ago? What can you change to adapt it to this moment?
  4. Think and rethink how to reinforce your online presence. During this global quarantine we are all spending more time than ever with social and digital media and we’ve bonded with our tablets and smartphones. (The symbiosis process has just started.)
  5. ”The more things change, the more they stay the same” works in the long term. But until then people with experience are priceless because they can see small deviations/changes/abnormalities that can predict big new trends or, as some people call it, "the new normal".


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