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LatAm Mexico The Secrets of Local Brand Value

If you google images of Mexico the results, I bet you, will be: beaches, pyramids, colonial towns, churches, color, fiesta, city, countryside… All of them, images that you would have expected. This is, of course, because Mexico is one of the most portrayed countries (sometimes even made into a cartoon) in the global mindset. A country of culture,contrasts, fiesta and even violence; these are only a few of the associations generated by our country abroad. But what really is Mexico and the people who live there?

From Alexander von Humboldt’s ‘horn of plenty’ to Octavio Paz and his Labyrinth of Solitude, more than a few people have tried to describe or share their insight into the largest Hispanic country. Mexico has almost 120 million inhabitants, and combines thousands of contrasts: wealth and poverty; present and past; countryside and city, tradition and modernity, all in a mosaic that is hard to decipher and encompass. Mexican culture is complex, and this is a reflection of such contrasts: we are tribal, masculine –though not necessarily chauvinist – with rules and hierarchies, where people seek modernity but cautiously, where every “ought” depends on the occasion and may be adjusted so that the parties involved have the best time. We are a country of individuals (and consumers)who seek to minimize uncertainty, are hugely influenced by what people may say and look for offers with clear benefits and very few disadvantages.

For this consumer, brands are more than key elements in the purchase decision-making process. Mexican people need powerful references to avoid uncertainty, want every spent peso to be a well-spent peso (not necessarily an investment, because we do not think that far forward and a momentary luxury is as valuable as a long-lasting item). Strong brands provide that certainty. But not only that, brands in our country are an important social currency: they provide an easy step up the ladder of a stratified society, an impressive symbol of power that allows consumers to establish clear differences between them and other people, as well as giving a strong sense of belonging to a tribe of their choice.

The portfolios of most valuable brands in our country reflect a supply focused on this complex consumer. They comprise mostly brands of tradition, powerful brands that with the passage of time have managed to adapt their offer to a changing market and a consumer who, although unsophisticated, is increasingly demanding. It can be said that each of these brands are great examples of meaningful, different and salient brands.

At the top of this ranking, Corona is the most valuable brand in the country and the region for the second year in a row. This Mexican brand of beer was innovative from its creation: a brand that built straightforward associations about what it represents, establishing links with clear moments of complete relaxation and making its origin a central point in its positioning strategy. Corona seeks to be significant, not only by offering a quality product but by being where it has to be and being linked to strong consumer experiences such as music festivals and top sports events. Such strategies are now almost basic to this category and are forcing competitors to create more and more complex branded environments and event marketing efforts.

Tradition in the market is an essential factor in our ranking and is a key aspect to the salience of each contender. Our ranking for Mexico includes nineteenth century brands (Liverpool, Victoria, Banamex and Palacio de Hierro are the oldest), but these are far from the only ones launched more than 50 years ago. Permanence in the market builds in the Mexican people a feeling of continuity and confidence that enables brands to remain as favorites in the market. In Mexico we live in a constant state of nostalgia, because we all know that “better the devil you know than the devil you don’t”: Mexico is a market where tradition and brand heritage are fundamental for decision-making, and this poses a significant challenge to any new launch that fails to have the support of a feeling of continuity or a clear positioning that may allow consumers to fight the uncertainty they so fear. Some younger, more challenging brands have managed to turn things around through discourse: brands such as Tía Rosa have managed to be linked to tradition by creating a positioning that points to known territories. The slogans “With love as always”, “For their great home-made taste”, reflect their intent to build on familiarity and closeness: a desire to belong to the closest tribe to the user. 

Although they are more classic brands, the Top 30 in Mexico include competitors who know how to stand out in their set, perhaps not through radical innovation, but by a process of constant gradual innovation that keeps them at the head of their categories. Elektra, for example, has managed to combine on the same sales floor other companies of Grupo Salinas, creating a powerful supply that builds on microcredit, and therefore affordability.

Another example is Oxxo, the convenience store par excellence in our country which combines characteristics of modern and traditional channels creating a unique and differentiated format rooted in ‘total convenience’.

Each and every brand in our ranking has been transformed throughout time based on really strong standards that go beyond the boundaries of their categories. Some examples are Palacio de Hierro, which has set the standards of style in our country, Tecate and its construction of the modern Mexican macho, Oxxo and the standards of convenience. But the titanic power of these brands has also brought about significant adjustments nationwide: in the case of telecommunications, Telcel, Telmex, Televisa and TV Azteca concentrate very important shares in their categories, giving an eternal sense of monopolistic practices to their actions. This characteristic eventually forced the Mexican government to reform the Constitution and create specific laws applicable to the telecommunications sector (one of them even received the nickname “Televisa Law”).

Yes, the recipe for success in our country seems to be based, to a great extent, on size and time in the market, and although it cannot be denied that these are important, they are far from being determining factors. A powerful brand in Mexico is known as a Mexican brand which seeks to become culturally relevant. It offers clear benefits to consumers, allowing them to project and establish their place in society. It is able to change with a dynamic environment and a picky consumer, highly influenced by other people’s opinion. Brands in Mexico must be not only providers but also allies, seeking to be a part of the consumer’s tribe. The Mexican market demands more and more brands that acknowledge its individuality, to make life easier and have a conversation. Like the country itself, Mexican people can be contradictory consumers: consumers who strive for tradition but are more than open to diversity.

Fernando Álvarez Kuri

VP Millward Brown Vermeer, Millward Brown