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What is the secret of the most valuable brands in Colombia? 

During the past year, the most successful brands in the Colombian market contributed 25% to the GDP growth. They have shaped the local economy by offering products and services that take into account Colombians’ unique culture, traditions, and physical, social and economic aspects. In some cases, these brands have also paid attention to regional differences within the country, developing different purchase channels, customer service models and even products.


Most of these brands have been present in the market for over 50 years, which forces them to face great challenges: They must respond distinctively to the needs of 3 different generations — our parents, us, and our children — so they are forced to innovate constantly without losing their history, values, or roots. Today, Colombian customers can access more information and are therefore more demanding: in a matter of minutes, they can compare prices, suppliers and sales online. Successful brands have concentrated on always meeting their purchasers’ needs, on performing properly, and also on creating closeness by triggering emotional responses in their potential consumers. Such is the case of brands as A?guila Beer and Bancolombia, which in addition to meeting the basic needs of their categories, resort to emotional levers such as the A?guila girls, the Colombian national football team, or campaigns like “Le estamos poniendo el alma” (“Our soul is in this”) so as to remind us that, besides being a delicious beer or a trustful bank, they exist in order to entertain us or help us progress in our daily lives.


When considering that brands face an ever-changing environment, we can see the challenge for them is still greater. In the last few months, we have witnessed how foreign brands, including beer brewers and financial institutions, have entered the Colombian market — or have shown interest in doing so. In fact, our research in the local sphere has found that spontaneous brand recall is lower than three years ago, despite the fact that advertising investment has grown faster than inflation during the same period of time. This means that, today, there are more brands addressing consumers but fewer brands in consumers’ minds. Colombian consumers have tried more brands in the past 3 years than ever before and have been exposed to a larger number of purchase channels, both traditional and new, including direct credit, global-chain, and even digital formats.


Regarding the digital environment, it has become more and more common to see consumers finding all kinds of information in digital channels: they really get thorough knowledge online about what is it that brands offer. Little by little, the need and the opportunity to use these media as purchase channels are growing, even among categories we did not imagine could participate in the digital environment. They constitute safe channels that generate trust and will continue consolidating in the future.

All of this has resulted in customers who are less loyal and more into the repertoire market, and they outnumber those simply searching on price.


Taking all of this into account, and in an effort to be “meaningful” to Colombian consumers, brands must seek innovation, generating trends within their categories and being bold. This has been the case with A?guila Beer, which in the past months launched an alcohol-free beer: A?guila Cero. This beer is targeted at the niche of non-alcohol consumers, creating more occasions for consumption,

far from traditional ones, and even promoting drinking it at home. Initiatives like this one should not be provisional, but rather the result of brands’ permanent policies of investment in research and development, keeping always in mind the purpose of making consumers’ life easier, teaching them to use their products, and searching for new business opportunities.

If companies want to continue being successful, they must validate their business basics, be willing to revise their price and packaging strategies, leverage what they have built, and be ready to help in the ever-changing economic environment all of us will be facing.