Brands in Latin America Will Try to Touch on More Politicized Topics

It’s almost impossible for them to avoid doing so

A can of Coca-Cola is being poured into a glass with ice
While the U.S. dances around polarizing topics, Latin America is confronting them head-on. Coca Cola
Headshot of Juan Isaza

For Latin America, 2019 will be a year that implicitly poses a big question. Two of the main economies of the region are taking different paths. Mexico has elected a leftist government, while Brazil, on the other hand, has gone right, called extreme by some, due to political decisions taken with a religious perspective. Time will tell which of the two countries manages to advance further with their respective opposite models.

Across the world, government adversaries and supporters have radicalized their positions. Nations are so polarized that citizens recognize, as never before, that they feel unable to agree, even on fundamental matters, with those who have a different political vision. All this will have a significant impact for brands. In the United States with the Colin Kaepernick Nike campaign and more recently with Gillette, some brands have entered into discussions that indirectly or directly touch upon political divisions and identify with either side of the political spectrum.

For instance, when Brazil was living in an atmosphere of great political discussions in regard to the rights of sexual minorities, Coca-Cola launched a campaign called “That Coke Is a Fanta,” taking an insulting term for homosexuals and converting it into a campaign to support sexual diversity. A leading brand of soft drinks in Colombia has created a special edition of clear soda to combat racism, warning about the preconceptions that colors and appearances can generate.

In 2019, many brands will be tempted to enter into political discussions, looking for a connection with their interest groups. However, it will be risky to do it without jeopardizing their equity. Many commercial activities will be criticized by many, and any decision will be controversial in an environment where polarization reaches levels never seen before.

As always, social networks will be identified as one of the main culprits responsible for polarization due to the ability to reproduce content that is considered false or manipulative. In Brazil, National Geographic launched the Microphone of Truth, a device that lights up in red or green according to whether the speaker is telling the truth or not. The device is based on analyzing the tone of voice and heart rate. As in past years, we will see innovations created to help citizens discern between what’s true and false.

Meanwhile, as in many other countries around the world, the attitude to criticize technology dependence grows, and many brands, including telcos such as Vivo Brazil, will talk about the importance of human connections and of using technology to open up to possibilities and new ideas instead of closing themselves off.

Many of the technological advances are seen through the lens of polarization. Latin America enters into discussions on whether it is convenient or not to use data as an input for artificial intelligence. Some platforms, such as Uber, are sanctioned in an exaggerated way in countries like Colombia, and those applications related to home deliveries are questioned in many countries because they do not comply with formal employment standards. The convenience of certain technological advances will be increasingly discussed, especially when these advances may be detrimental to employment.

Latin brands will have great opportunities in the creation of new and better experiences associated with the purchase. In a continent where there are more shopping centers, a space that is often the safest for families, a lot can be done so that people can live hand-in-hand with technological experiences that bring them closer to brands. As a fairly new example in the world, the metro in São Paulo has begun to experiment with a platform that detects demographic and mood characteristics of who is entering the subway and, based on this, targets messaging.

Lastly, and to mention something positive, the environmental issue has been in a prominent place in all political candidates’ agendas. The ordinary citizen, who had always prioritized the price or direct benefits of the product over environmental characteristics, is beginning to make purchasing decisions that benefit the planet. During 2018, several nations including Brazil, Mexico, Argentina, Colombia and Peru, created regulations to limit or prohibit the use of plastic straws. The most valuable takeaway was the citizens who made pressure for change and also pushed politicians to bring environmental topics to their agendas.

The new year in Latin America comes with many questions and a lot of polarization. We will see how this affects the economy, and we will see how the Latino citizen with their creativity, enthusiasm and way of life will continue to shape the region, both in their local vision and in everything they have to offer to the world.

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Juan Isaza is the strategic planning and social media vp at DDB Latina, DDB Worldwide.