Adventure is Out There: Marketing in Guatemala

We research, plan and implement marketing plans in the United States every day, but what about international brands?

This summer I had the opportunity to experience marketing in Guatemala first-hand by participating in the Farmer-to-Farmer program organized by U.S. Aid. Farmer-to-Farmer is a governmental program which provides assistance from U.S. volunteers to various agribusinesses and farmers in developing countries.

The program typically recruits senior professionals and retirees. However, this year the program worked with Dr. Chapa at Florida State University to select grad students based on their proposal for an integrated marketing communications plan for Grupo Union Esperanza. The group is an all women-run organization that sells all-natural peanut products.

While working with the group of women, I realized how challenging it is to implement a marketing plan when numerous outside factors have an impact. From lack of funding to cultural limitations, we had to be open minded and think strategically. After such an incredible experience, I would like to share my main takeaways from the trip and relate my experience to marketing in the U.S.:

Branding is essential.

With so much peanut competition in Guatemala, a distinct look and feel to the Grupo Union Esperanza rebranding was needed. This branding process required that we understand the culture and respect the women’s values. Here are a few guidelines we followed when building the new brand:

  • Brands need to establish values in the mind of their consumers
  • Marketers should get to know their client’s background and culture
  • Capture the essence of who the brand is and what they stand for. For example, we made the tagline “De Nuestra Tierra, A Su Mesa!” (“From Our Land, to Your Table”) in order to show how the involved the women are with the production of their products.
  • Positive emotional ties to the brand lead to impacted sales

Resources are key.

In Guatemala, transportation, internet and overall business knowledge are limited for many people. While we set the foundation for a solid marketing plan, we quickly learned that cultural issues and limited resources would potentially limit our ideas from becoming reality. Here are some tips for you to consider about resources:

  • Be flexible and creative when working with clients
  • A great idea just might not be feasible given the client budget or time. For example, we didn’t implement the digital plan we initially had because most of the women don’t have internet access.
  • Take advantage of the resources that you do have, such as media contacts

Research is the foundation.

In the initial phase of working in Guatemala, we conducted research to compare branding and characteristics of the competition to better position Grupo Union Esperanza’s products.We also listened to a focus group via Skype to understand consumer opinions and product usage habits. These are just a few factors to consider when researching:

  • Understand the market landscape in addition to the brand being marketed. For example, we saw that very few peanut brands in Guatemala used a character in their logo which made our rebrand appealing to moms and kids.
  • Use tools such as surveys and focus groups to gain insight
  • Ask the right questions to the right people — the target market

Overall, this trip opened my eyes to a different culture and also made me appreciate the resources that we take for granted on a daily basis. Meaningful marketing has the power to create amazing new brands, and I look forward to seeing how our help contributes to the future of the group.