Opportunities arising from the crisis

Marcela Perez de Arce
Head of Client Management

In Chile, maybe more than in any other Latin American country, we are used to experiencing earthquakes. We know the next major seismic activity will put to the test engineering, architecture, and materials used in all structures, large and small.

However, we were not ready for a different type of “earthquake”: the social crisis that erupted in Chile in October 2019, and which is deeply shaking our foundations. This social phenomenon did not only affect our everyday lives, political and social institutions, but also pushed companies, and particularly brands, to the edge.

We were well aware we had been living in a scenario of generalized distrust for years. While no one could have predicted the outbreak of social crisis, there were clearly high levels of tension in the social environment. A steady stream of scandals in recent times had contributed to Chile becoming the most skeptical country, not just in Latin America but possibly the OECD.

Considering this background, the social outbreak revealed underlying discontent among citizens regarding topics like pensions, health, and education. However, and as surprising as it may seem, this is perceived by men and women of all ages and social conditions as an opportunity to make Chile a more equitable and fairer country. And they are clear in their minds that businesses and brands have a crucial role to play in making this happen.

Should brands get involved in a phenomenon like this? And if so, how do they do it? Although it sounds like a cliché, the mantra we should all be chanting during a crisis applies to brands as much as policymakers: Go back to basics. The good news is that this is exactly what “new perspectives” of millennial marketing indicate: achieving genuine, horizontal connections, and understanding how to relate to a consumer who has changed, in a world that has changed.

It seems that this social outbreak has brought into focus all the issues of modern marketing at once. For those who had difficulty understanding both the meaning and the value of the brand purpose concept, or who thought we still had time to understand how to be disruptive, or even those who doubted the value of consumer-centricity, now is the time. This is a unique moment to listen, understand, and genuinely tune our brands into people's real desires and needs.

There is no question that those who wish to value their brand, to make it more powerful and, incidentally, more resistant to damage in challenging times, must review the clarity of their brand purpose and possibly rethink it entirely. Being clear on this makes it easier to understand how to put consumers at the heart of a brand and provide them with a fulfilling, entertaining experience. Using these tools and conceptual lenses will probably help us sort out this stage of change successfully. And this goes not only for Chile, but probably also for many other Latin American countries.

The social crisis in Chile, if properly interpreted, reveals a great opportunity for brands. They can review and strengthen their architecture and engineering, better recognizing the status of their category and how it is evolving. Nowadays, many marketing teams lack long-term vision; the urgency of the moment has forced them to focus on the here and now. However, the decisions we make for today will also have an impact on the future. And we must remember at all times that, maybe more than ever, such decisions must be based on a sufficient understanding of this phenomenon. In this way, we can build strong brands capable not just of surviving times of hardship, but also thriving in spite of them.

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