Personal Branding Across Cultures Blogathon: Day 7 / Marcela Reyes
Drug trafficking, violence, guerrilla warfare, and kidnappings.
These words and images are probably some of the first that come to mind when someone mentions the country of Colombia (not to be confused with Columbia, a city in South Carolina). All over the world, people view Colombia as a country laden with drugs and corruption, a reputation made popular by the media’s exploitation of the reality of decades past—a reality that is no longer true.
The Happiest People in the World
While this perception makes for exciting movies, outside of the cinema Colombia has unfortunately also been a victim of bad press, poor perception and negative remarks for many years. Despite all these stereotypes and negative remarks, Colombians are reportedly some of the happiest people in the world. This country’s people, according to a 2012 Gallup Poll, are almost twice as happy as the global average. Not bad for a place like Colombia, given the reputation that it has.
Some famous Colombians include names like Shakira and Sofia Vergara. In addition to the exotic beauty that these two are known for, these women share the qualities of being joyful and highly spirited. It is no accident that these two Colombians have similar brand attributes—these women are reflections of their Colombian heritage, a culture alive with flavor and energy.
Besides the happiness of its people, Colombians share a diverse and rich cultural background, with a broad range of distinct groups that have unique customs, accents, social patterns, and cultural adaptations.
Colombians accept diversity and differences. Music is part of our daily lives. We find excuses to dance whenever and wherever we can. We love beauty and aesthetics. Colombian women are considered some of the most beautiful in the world and for good reason. We like to take care of ourselves and look our best because personal hygiene and physical appearance are regarded very highly. We may even invite you to eat at home with our family. And, as in the rest of Latin America, time is not a top priority here. We are usually “fashionably late”.
A Brand of Many Layers
A value that is integral to business interaction is the emphasis we place on relationships. We like to get to know you well at both a personal and a business level. Look at one of the more recognized Colombian brands, Café de Colombia, a brand fronted by the likeable Juan Valdez. It is with Juan Valdez, not the name of the coffee company with whom consumers build a relationship. A business relationship with a Colombian will be both personal and professional. Colombians want to get to know you, and expect you to be interested in their lives as well. Juan Valdez is a reflection of this Colombian value, and remains an extremely successful icon of the brand of Café de Colombia.
Imagine the Colombian brand as one made up of many layers. The top layer is the most visible and the one of drugs and corruption. However, lying underneath, if you peel away that misleading skin, lies the authentic beauty of the Colombian brand—one that is more true to nature and based upon Colombian values and cultural norms.
Leaving the images of guerillas and drug lords behind, one can see the vibrant, colorful, and exotic flavor that emanates from Colombia and its people.