Latin American women: the new global power bloc


Any business that wants to succeed globally had better respect the power of the Latin American woman.

That message was delivered emphatically in two ways recently:

  • On October 31, Brazil elected its first female president, Dilma Rousseff, reportedly a former left-wing guerrilla who later became an energy secretary in Rio Grande do Sul state. Her election is an important global event in addition to a Latin American one. Brazil is the world’s eighth-largest economy. Companies ranging from Caterpillar to Louis Vuitton have made Brazil a hot destination for global expansion. In her first few days as president-elect, she has vowed to sustain long-term economic growth for Brazil by decreasing the country’s national debt and lower interest rates, which are among the world’s highest — a message characterized as investor friendly and hopefully comforting for multinationals who intend to succeed there.
  • Just days before Ms. Rousseff’s election, my employer Razorfish, with the help of Terra, released a report (The Stampede) asserting that women are the key for multinational CMOs to build relationships with the so-called Classe C working class. This finding is significant because the Classe C population is fueling the growth the hot Latin American economic markets. According to The Sampede (announced on October 26) women are the main purchasers and decision makers in the homes of an increasingly affluent and powerful “new digital middle class” in Latin America, which might surprise executives who assume a patriarchal Latin American society. New digital middle class women are more likely to start their own businesses than men are, and as Razorfish executive Joe Crump told Fast Company, “Seven out of 10 borrowers in micro-lending are women. Online buying is also driven by women. Online, women have access to all the same shops as upper classes,” he explained. “Normally they would be watched by security in the actual shops.”

The Stampede shatters a number of misconceptions about the Classe C population that marketers need to overcome if they want to succeed in Latin America. In Brazil, Classe C constitutes about 100 million residents who “snap up cars, cellphones, and new homes, quickly becoming a prime target for marketers,” according to Advertising Age. Joe Crump, a New Yorker who lives in Brazil part-time, visited the the homes of Classe C residents in Argentina, Brazil, and Mexico, interviewing them about how they live and their media habits.


Faces of the new digital middle class

Among his findings: contrary to popular belief, Classe C put digital at the center of their lives. For them, digital provides opportunities to equalize the social and economic playing field in highly class-stratified societies — hence Razorfish renames Classe C the new digital middle class. In Brazil, 63 percent of families with a computer at home are Classe C compared to 23 percent for Class A/B as reported by MediaPost.


The Stampede

And as Joe Crump told Fast Company, the new digital middle class “want phones that are smart for their lives. They like phones that look high-end, but have features that suit their lives.” Savvy marketers like Samsung have already caught on to their sophisticated tastes in digital and are aggressively promoting mobile devices to them while less enlightened marketers assume wrongly that Classe C is a culture shaped by television.


You had better get to know her better


The new marketing power bloc

Whether you call them Classe C or the new digital middle class, this consumer group is going to be influencing businesses around the world for the foreseeable future. The Economist recently noted that Latin American economies will expand again by 5 percent even as many other regional markets only emerge slowly from recessionary conditions. Citigroup released credit card data in July 2010 that showed consumers in Latin Americas increased their spending 15 percent in the second quarter of 2010, while U.S. consumer spending fell 7 percent. And women lead the way.

For more on Latin America and Classe C:

New Razorfish report discusses how marketers have responded to the recession

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Today my employer Razorfish announces the publication of the sixth annual Razorfish Outlook Report. This report takes a hard look at trends affecting the chief marketing officer, drawing on essays from thought leaders and an analysis of 2009 media spend by Razorfish clients. Here are a few highlights from the 2010 edition (#RZOR):

1. Good news/bad news: economic recovery is here

An economic recovery is under way — which is good news or bad news depending on whether you innovated during the recession. Optimism about a recovery stems from the fact that Razorfish clients increased their media spend by 4 percent in 2009 versus a 13 percent drop in 2008. We believe that the CMOs who used the down time to innovate and advance their brands are in a great place. Those that failed to do so are going to fall further behind the innovators. MillerCoors innovated during the recession, for instance with a new product feature, the cold-activated can. Mercedes-Benz USA innovated with the launch of the E-Class sedan. Those companies are poised to fully benefit from an economic turnaround.

2. Recession = digital experimentation for many

Razorfish clients had an appetite for experimentation with their media spend in 2009. One hundred percent of Razorfish clients that spent on digital-out-of-home did so for the first time in 2009. Eight out of 10 clients who invested into ad exchanges were doing so for the first time (as opposed to simply carrying over their spend from 2008). All told, the channels that were most popular for experimentation in 2009 included data brokers, digital out-of-home, and ad exchanges.

3. Watch out, Google

Google still dominated search in a recessionary environment, but not for long. About 45 percent of Razorfish clients’ media spend in 2009 was invested into portals and search. Google still leads the search category. However, Razorfish expects the combination of Microsoft Bing and Yahoo! to challenge Google’s dominance. Bing is a good example of how innovation can occur even with a tried-and-true form of marketing — search.

4. Think and act locally

Many clients are also learning how to think and act locally as they emerge from the recession and seek to grow globally. The popular credo “think globally, act locally,” does not adequately explain what those marketers need to do. In fact, global marketers need to immerse themselves in the increasingly sophisticated and fragmented micromarkets around the world — thinking and acting locally several times over if you will. That’s why the Razorfish Outlook Report contains perspectives on the growth of global markets (in a chapter known as “Looking Ahead”). For instance, Razorfish Strategy Executive Joe Crump contributes a tantalizing point of view on Brazil, an increasingly powerful and digitally savvy market crucial to global players like Nike. Joe discusses “Classe C,” an increasingly upwardly mobile economic cluster of 70 million people who are shaping the future of Brazil. Joe asserts that the digitally savvy Classe C has rapidly made Brazil too important for any serious marketer to ignore. Joe is now launching research into Classe C that will be unveiled later in 2010.

I invite you to explore the report, and feel free to download charts and graphics from flicker. I welcome your comments. What I’ve summarized here barely scratches the surface.