Category Archives: Latin America

Miller Chill

Miller Chill I’ve seen the ad a couple of times and, obviously, the Brazilian samba (meaning the lyrics are in Portuguese, not Spanish, in case you don’t know that we speak Portuguese in Brazil, not Spanish) playing on the background is what gets my attention. Then… I remember… ahh… it’s beer and it’s ¿Se Habla Chill? campaign… for the Hispanics… the ones who speak Spanish… not Portuguese… how confusing!!! Are they trying to be global here? Appealing to “all” Hispanics? The Spanish and the Portuguese-speaking ones? If so, they still have long ways to go.

I wonder if the intended audience of this campaign is having the same confusing reaction. Can they be annoyed by the samba on the background? Ohh… yes, they can!

Shame on you Saatchi & Saatchi… I thought you had transcultural-competent people at your offices. What a lazy job, if you ask me.

Something else missing here… taste testing. I hope Miller did some taste testing before rolling it out, because I’ve already found some negative reviews of the product on this blog. To me, the whole concept of Miller Chill (like Tequiza) just does not appeal. It’s not beer (the way beer is supposed to be), no matter how golden it looks. It’s a hybrid drink… a confusing alcoholic beverage just like its confusing TV ad.

Adding a piece of lime to the beer is something that’s culturally ingrained in Latin America, mostly Mexico. Latins (Mexicans) do it because they like to add a bitter/citrusy taste to it (or whatever the reason may be)… but when they are on the beach, sun bathing, relaxing, chilling, having a good time. Mixing lime juice in the beer and buying it at the supermarket is an ENTIRE different product and experience.

Marketers, please listen… not everything can be packaged or bottled! Corona did a phenomenal job because it showed Americans how to drink beer in the Latin style… by just adding a piece of lime. Corona did not invent a lime-beer. Very different approaches.

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Paper or Plastic? Thanks, I’ve ALWAYS got my own

Paper or Plastic? How many times have we heard this before on the check out line of the grocery shopping? I have to say that I’ve heard it countless times for about 8 years now since I’ve been in the US. Before that, I did not.

And I didn’t hear it before not because we were ahead of the environmentalism curve some 20 years or so ago, but because we have always brought our own grocery bag to the market, that’s just how we have always gone shopping for fresh fruits and vegetables in Brazil and Latin America. One thing to understand first is that, most consumers in Latin America are used to making a two-stop or even three-stop shopping at the local market – usually very small – for fresh fruits, vegetables, and sometimes fresh meat, otherwise a third stop at the meat place is needed, and another at the supermarket to buy the other things on the list, usually non-food items. Food items have always been purchased at these local small markets or flea markets, where fruits and vegetables (and meat, where is available) is much fresher than at the supermarkets.

Here I’m thinking about this the other day when I went to Whole Foods and decided to get one of their canvas totes to continue my shopping “tradition” of always having my own bag. It occurred to me that we, in Latin America, have been doing the “right thing” of not wasting paper or plastic on grocery bags all along, but the same “tradition” was not shared by consumers in the US and probably some other first world nations as well ONLY until now, we it became a trend.

I’m fairly confident – although without evidence – that the availability of grocery bags at US checkout lines stemmed from marketing and the savvy businessman who wanted to deliver to a convenience-minded-population exactly what it wanted, convenience. Who would, after all, remember to bring his/her own bag to shop for food?

I have researched on this topic but could not find anything to back me up, but my theory is that with advancement of machinery and the manufacturing boom in the US after WWII, manufacturers were able to produce mass quantities of raw goods very cheaply, which in turn enabled retailers to offer an array of “incentives” to attract consumers, such as the case of paper or plastic bags. I don’t know when supermarkets and grocery shops started offering paper or plastic bags, nor do I know how consumers did their shopping before these grocery bags were available. (I think Keith could help me with that). I just find interesting how different societies develop its habits around its own environmental and socio-economic conditions.

For one, the US became a very rich country due to the manufacturing boom and that has enable US consumers a lifestyle of abundance and waste. Two, has this manufacturing boom also made people less conscious of its actions, or have Americans inherently been like that? That’s a chicken and the egg question, and I think it’s a bit of both. In Brazil and Latin America, abundance and waste in most people’s daily lives is minimized to the teeth – it’s a sacrilege to even think about wasting – and abundance, it’s stuff that we see in the American movies. Again, it’s the chicken and the egg question: did our scarce environment taught us not to waste or were we “raised” like that already? Again, a bit of both.

Are our markets cheap for not offering us grocery bags? Probably yes. Are we miserable because of that? No. Do they offer it these days? Probably yes, after all, they have to catch up with the first world.

One thing that’s apparent and somewhat bothersome to me is that if the media and marketers don’t get involved in propagating “causes” such as this one, US consumers would never think of doing it on their own. Causes need to become trends, with a lot of celebrity involvement and the whole nine yards, otherwise American consumers don’t pay attention to it. Has life become so automated that people are even told what to think and do? Huh…. I think I know the answer to this question.

In the end again, we just think differently and have had different life experiences that have shaped our lives.

I learned how to plumb!

plumbing.gif This is exciting… I did a plumbing job yesterday! Might not sound that exciting to most of you, but I’m a woman and never thought I could plumb. My husband is a big DIY guy and he was trying to fix a leak in the sink. After all the back and forth to the hardware store, he decided to ask for help… my help. He couldn’t reach the hoses underneath, and given that I’m petite, he thought I could reach there just fine… and I did. I changed the hoses, tighten the screws and the leak was gone. I was so proud of myself! As the adage goes… if you want a job well done, do it yourself. I find that to be true in most instances. My husband even got a kick out of my “plumber’s moon” (butt crack…).

February 22, 2008 is the 8th anniversary of my arrival in the US, and plumbing yesterday was my very first DIY project. A bit of an embarrassment, I know, but DIY is not as popular in Latin America as it is here in the US. I didn’t grow up doing projects around the house (most Latin Americans don’t), and I always called for outside help.

I won’t generalize here… some Latin Americans do DIY projects. Mexicans, for example, are Latins who are into DIY. Big-box retailers such as Home Depot and Sears are well established in Mexico. I believe that the proximity of the two countries have influenced the adoption of many Anglo-Saxon “DIY” values by Mexicans – English (and their underlying American value system) are often tossed around in everyday Mexican conversation. However, this is not the case in other Latin American countries further away from the US than Mexico. Sears, for instance, wasn’t successful in Brazil, Argentina or Chile. (Boy… to take a DIY store to countries that have NO DIY culture and expect it to succeed? That should have been a predictable outcome… but that’s a topic for another post.)

DIY is a 100% American custom, it’s ingrained in the American culture. Kids grow up doing DIY, Americans take pride in DIY. Why not? It’s totally consistent with “the almighty Individual” mindset. There are even TV channels just for DIY (DIY Channel) and sitcoms about DIY (Home Improvement). DIY is an all-American thing… It reinforces what Americans are all about… the drive to do things for oneself; the individualism of doing things as one pleases; the ingenuity of doing things differently. This mindset is purely American, no other country ever had the pioneer experience, population-wide capitalism and the marketing environment combining at the same time, in the same intensity as the US. And that is, quite frankly, the charm and appeal of the US and its way of life.

Most of would never think of DIY in Latin America. We have more important – usually social – things to do. Besides, one has to get the tools, get in grubby clothes and get into positions that do not necessarily look “cool.” Worse, you might even get your hands dirty. And “dirty hands” are not what prestigious people do! At least those of us Latins who live in the Big City and have to project a Big City image 24/7. Phew! It’s not only exhausting… but that’s why you don’t have the time and energy to do DIY!

I had a great experience yesterday learning about plumbing and I felt a sense of accomplishment. I should really try DIY more often and get my hands dirty around the house. But again… maybe not… my back was hurting afterwards… I’d rather spend my time reading… or writing another post here…

PS: Happy New Year!

Latin America Bloggers… Listen Up!

latinamerica.jpg My fellow Latin American bloggers… whether you’re a Latin American blogging about Latin American topics, or from another part of the world, but still blogging about Latin America, I have a place where you might want to visit. A friend of mine, Ricardo, together with another friend, Keith, are putting a special blogroll just for blogs on Latin American.

They do have special rules to even consider adding your blog on the blogroll; so please visit the post and submit yours! 😀

Looking forward to seeing a vast list of blogs there!