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Welcome to the Financial Times live web chat with Raquel Castaño who features in our Ten Questions Q&A.
Prof Castaño, director of the master in marketing programme and the research chair: Glocalization: Understanding the Latin American Consumer at Egade Business School, Tecnológico de Monterrey, México, will answer your questions on Thursday 12th January, between 15.00-16.00 GMT.
Post your questions to email@example.com and they will be answered on the day on this page.
What made you choose to study and teach at Egade?
Raquel: Thanks for the question! While I was working in the industry, I was also a part time professor at Tecnologico de Monterrey which is the holding institution of Egade Business School and I was given the opportunity to start an MBA. While I was a student of the Egade MBA programme, I worked as a brand and group manager for GAMESA, a leading Mexican consumer product company, now part of Pepsico Group. I valued the way I could apply concepts and theories from the courses to develop solutions for the specific marketing challenges I confronted daily at work - a really hands on approach with the guidance of outstanding faculty.
Based on that experience, I decided to move on and specialise by pursuing a master in marketing programme also at Egade. I did so because I found that it covers the wide breadth of topics that fall under the marketing discipline and that were part of my everyday activities. Later, I became a full time professor for the marketing programmes at the institution and eventually decided to study for a PhD. The institution supported my decision and helped me join Tulane´s doctoral marketing programme.
How would you define the Latin American consumer?
Raquel: Great question. I would say that to define Latin American consumers we need first to recognise that the region is not one single entity that can be defined as a whole, but rather an amalgam of differences and similarities. Some similarities can be related to socio-cultural and demographic factors that need to be taken into consideration when developing marketing strategies in the region. I will refer to several examples:
a) The new middle class segments. These segments of consumers are becoming increasingly strong economic forces in Latin America. There is an opportunity to market low-cost options of products and services and at the same time, high-quality products that satisfy their needs adequately. A recent article published in Harvard Business Review by Eyring, Johnson and Nair refers to targeting this middle class. These authors state that this group of consumers is characterised by unmet needs or needs that are being met poorly by existing low-end goods and they cannot afford even the cheapest of the high end options. Upgrading solutions and making them affordable and accessible are key factors for these important consumer segments.
b) Customer preference and loyalty to local brands is a major challenge when entering the Latin America market. Again, developing ways to understand and better suit people´s needs are key factors to succeed in these consumer markets.
c) Increasing consumer concern on sustainability. Companies are recognising that social and environmental concerns should be part of the company´s core values and strategies for long-term profitability in this region. However, consumers need to understand the practical and tangible benefits associated with these options.
In sum, understanding Latin American consumers represent an exciting opportunity for global companies to apply their market understanding and their global market leadership by demonstrating flexibility and willingness to adapt their strategy.
What advice would you give to someone interested in becoming a marketing research manager / brand manager?
Raquel: Marketing research managers and brand managers must have solid analytical skills - when obtaining and analysing market information you must look beyond the numbers to discover insights and identify opportunities. There is no best research method as it depends on the research objective.
However, in my experience a combination of research methods can often prove very useful. For example, I am currently doing consumer behavior research with a colleague at the University of Southern California using FMRI (brain imaging analysis) as well as using traditional research methods.
Brand managers have the challenge of creating meaning and value for consumers and leveraging brands to improve long term financial performance. They should understand social media as it has changed the way consumers obtain information about products and services. Marketing managers should be trained to anticipate the future and approach problems in a holistic way, with the best new resources at hand and the skills to take advantage of them.