A few weeks ago a new client –a multinational corporation– brought to us two questions with regard to their communication effort in our part of the world. Considering they are basic issues any marketer will face during a planning process for Central America, it may be useful to share those questions and answers.
The first question was: “Even though Central America is seven countries, from our marketing point of view you are a single market. Does a single strategy make sense for all countries in Central America?”
Our answer was yes, with critical considerations to be made. First-hand, up-to-date knowledge of the local situation is absolutely necessary if we are to engage in conversation rather than just messages. Why? Because even though Central America may be strategically considered a single market, tactically it is still seven different countries, seven different cultures and backgrounds, and seven different political, social and economic environments, creating different priorities and triggering specific behavior. Central America is homogeneous when it comes to language, roots, aspirations and channels, yet heterogeneous when it comes to local history, politics, social structure and current situation. So, conversation requires specificity. You need to know each country’s internal situation, perceived problems and needs and, of course, the key influencers in each market. This means that, while you can maintain your brand’s global look and feel, and stay within a single strategic approach for the all countries in the area, your language and specific tactical approach will have to be adapted to local culture and digital trending.
The second question was: “Is there really a meaningful Internet and social network penetration in Central America and if so, how do we make one strategic approach work for conversations in seven different countries?”
The answer to this question was again yes. Digital growth in Central America is transforming the communications landscape faster than anything we have seen since television made its debut in our part of the world, a little over 50 years ago. Users have adopted the technologies as fast as connection availability and disposable income allow them. There are already around 8 million Internet users (2.2 million in Costa Rica, 1 million in El Salvador, 2.3 million in Guatemala, 1 million in Honduras, 0.7 million in Nicaragua and 1 million in Panama). In Costa Rica alone, Internet penetration is already at 50%, (2.2 million out of a 4.4 million population) and Facebook users surpass 1 million, for a total of 3.5 million users in all of Central America. Mobile use is growing even faster; we can safely say that soon there will be more than one phone per person in most countries.
Among key benefits of digital reported by users in a study conducted by Unimer Research, people mention:
1. Being able to relate with others
2. Belonging to groups with shared interests
3. Expressing my opinion on key subjects
4. Keeping informed
5. Allows me to choose friends
6. Lets me show affection for others.
Even though it sounds like what you already know, what makes it different and more meaningful in Central America is the fact that it transforms a common historic trait: cultures shaped in isolation which traditionally felt small and limited are now feeling like they are part of a larger community. Connectedness and openness create a new frame of mind with no limits for thought, knowledge acquisition, aspiration – and make people free and able to overcome their old geographic boundaries. Digital then becomes empowerment.
The sum of local insights, regional vision and global relevance is the key to Central America.