Derek Newberry

Poverty Is All In How You Sell It: Pt. I

Coca Cola Brazil SantaI hear the average person in Latin America consumes one coke per day. Not a particularly scholarly source, but I asked a friend who had just gotten back from a long stint in the region why he felt this was the case…. he said that in Brazil at least he had met several women who bought liters of coca-cola every week even if they could ill afford it because as he quoted them, “my husband should be able to have a coke with every dinner. I can afford that.” In other words he felt that for many, being able to drink a coke with every meal was a sign of status. I was thinking about this at a team meeting for New Ventures today when I distributed a few examples of possible newsletters for us to produce (I’ll announce when the first one is published). The layouts and content worked, but my titles all got more or less trashed… for the record I still think “Rising Ties: Exploring the hidden connections that will lift all boats” is a cool heading for a report on global development trends. But I digress.

I was thinking about that anecdote about coke in particular because it really drove home for me that what you produce in this world is sometimes only 50% about what you actually do and 50% how you sell it. The fact that Coke can become so entrenched in Latin-America that many families consider it a symbol of economic status and prestige is all about the fact that Coke relentlessly markets its products on a global scale. The fact that my New Ventures colleagues and I agonized over the title of this report shows how important the initial contact packaging provides between producer and consumer really is.

On that note, as a quick aside, I was happy to see a recent article in a marketing magazine on the rise of green advertising. If giants like GE see profitable gains to be made from promoting an environmental image ala Ecomagination, it must mean that sustainable business practices are really hitting the mainstream. I like how the article notes that this no longer is a purely superficial, phony act by many companies but that they are actually changing the way their businesses function. The idea of selling a genuine green image got picked up years ago by an amazing small business in Mexico called Sustenta (one of our proud partners), and it seems to be gaining momentum in American markets.

I wanted to make a final point in all this and pose a question about how we “sell” poverty programs, but I will let this topic sink in for now and return to it in a later posting. Also, I have the US game from today Tivoed and I want to relive Landon Donovan leading the Americans into a pitiful descent back toward the mediocrity of their pre-2002 teams. Call me what you will, but if someone had to lose to Brazil in the next stage, I guess better Ghana than us?