We’ve stopped what we are doing and creating your personalized BrandZ™ report, which will appear in your inbox soon.

COLOMBIA 2017 | Colombia: Where the unpredictable happens

Nine years ago, during my  rst job interview I was asked which was the agency of the year according to Advertising Age. My answer was obviously not correct because the agency of the year was no agency, it was in fact “the Consumer”. Despite the fact that I gave the wrong answer, I got the job and my career began with this valuable lesson in expecting the unpredictable.


Paula Andrea Siabato.png

J. Walter Thompson, Colombia Paula.Siabato@jwt.com

Marketing and advertising professional. Passionate about brands, communication and yoga with an MBA in the University of Exeter, UK focused on sustainable development. J. Walter Thompson is the world’s best-known marketing communications brand, has been creating pioneering solutions that build enduring brands and business for more than 150 years. It is a true global network with more than 200 offices in over 90 countries.

The agency consistently ranks among the top networks in the world and continues a dominant presence in the industry by staying on the leading edge. For more information visit www.jwt.com and follow us @JWT_Worldwide.


During 2016, two major events happened in Colombia that reminded me again about that revelation. In one week Colombians said “No” to the chance of ending a war that has been hurting us for over 60 years and five days later our President was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. Two very unpredictable events; while the world was expecting us to say “yes” to peace, we said “no”. But it was not because we didn’t want war to be over, it was because we were asking for a complete, better and more meaningful solution to our needs. The Plebiscite was a demonstration that Colombians are not willing to ‘grin and bear’ it anymore.



The same situation is happening with brands; consumers are demanding more transparency and engagement and are no longer willing to ‘grin and bear’ problems with the product, services or messages that companies provide. These shifts in consumer behavior are making our role as communicators more challenging because we cannot pretend to


build meaningful relationships with consumers if we continue to work under traditional business models and we only tackle superficial needs.


The Living Planet Report by the Worldwide Fund for Nature (WWF)

in 2016, stated that the human race is the only one on earth that doesn’t live sustainably; we are exploiting natural resources as if we have an extra planet at our disposal. We have become television watchers, car drivers and fast-food eaters. However, there is a new generation that is self-aware of

its consumption patterns and wants to make a change in the world, and not in a utopian way.





According to J. Walter Thompson’s Intelligence Group, this generation of new consumers has high ethical expectations from brands, they care about working practices, political issues and companies’ values.


For them, sustainability is key to preferring or rejecting a brand.


In Colombia, some companies have approached the world’s issues by developing “eco-friendly” credentials, for example by planting trees or helping people in need. This “social marketing” formula worked for a while, but it did more harm than good because consumers lost their faith when they realized that it was mere 'greenwashing' to boost reputation or reduce taxes. It would be unfair to say that all companies in Colombia are guilty of 'greenwashing', but some still tackle social responsibility with a narrow scope, since these initiatives are not related to the business’ core and don’t create economic value.



This is why brands that understand that sustainability goes beyond public service are far more likely to be the

ones that will succeed in the near future. As Porter and Kramer remarked in the 2011 Harvard Business Review, “Creating Shared Value” is the right way to build businesses. They argued that brands can create economic value by addressing the social and environmental problems that are related to their core business.


There is a myriad of difficulties and unexpected shifts to overcome with Colombia’s consumers nowadays, and brands have enough economic power and influence to do something. The key is to solve those issues by using that power for meaningful purpose.


I believe that our most meaningful work should transcend advertising and create something far more valuable for people, solving their real needs and adapting to the unpredictable.