Cuba has been on my mind recently (and not just because of this hilarious video going viral that would make Celia Cruz proud).
It’s because of the press it has recently received. From the November issue of National Geographic to a recent NPR special, Americans’ interest in this colorful Caribbean island has undeniably grown. As a Cuban-American, I could not be prouder.
I appreciate their interest in Cuba now that capitalism has blossomed, as I’m also eager to see a bright future for the country. I grew up in Miami, where my Cuban heritage was like “arroz con pollo,” a typical dish seasoned with several spices. That is, my upbringing was a fusion of North American and Latin American cultures, and it was seasoned with the intense flavor of my Cuban heritage (with salsa dancing at high school parties and teachers that spoke Spanglish in class).
Cuba’s economy is shifting, while its tenuous relationship with the U.S. is strengthening. And that means that open communication between Cuba and the U.S. are about to explode for the first time in more than 50 years. As we consider the economic and cultural implications of external communication between the two, it is important to understand the nature of internal communications in Cuba.
Take advertising: In the U.S., we complain of information overload, but how do brands in Cuba get the word out with bans on television commercials, radio spots and social media? Enter guerilla marketing tactics. Cuban entrepreneurs have turned to word-of-mouth to market their businesses. One restaurant owner decided to stick decals on cars to promote his business. The fact that cars’ license plates are color-coded in Cuba worked to his advantage: he staked out the blue-plated tour vans, black-and-white plates of diplomats, and the orange-plated cars of foreign company employees to find his target markets, i.e. those with foreign currency (as opposed to weak Cuban pesos). “We put one on the ambassador of Spain’s car a few days back,” he said, “and he turned up.”
Marketers in the U.S. can learn a thing or two from Cuban entrepreneurs. In the U.S., we are constantly immersed in advertising and social media. As a culture, we demand more high-tech media and advertising with the elusive “wow” factor, while at the same time proving that “old school” word-of-mouth can create a successful brand overnight. Perhaps the best way to break through the clutter is to look to word-of-mouth, especially with regard to Hispanic marketing. The importance of word-of-mouth in Cuba is indicative of a greater trend in the Hispanic/Latino culture across the Americas. Studies show that across social networks and media platforms, Hispanics tend to use social media and express their opinions online about brands more often than their non-Hispanic counterparts. As businesses reevaluate their social media strategy in the wake of Facebook’s recent changes, it is important to remember that the Hispanic culture is, by nature, social and group-oriented. Therefore, though talk is cheap, word-of-mouth marketing may be a worthwhile investment in order to reach the booming U.S. Hispanic/Latino consumer base.
What are your opinions on this matter? Like this post, share your comments, and pass this post along. If you already did, I’d be willing to bet you’re eating “arroz con pollo” for lunch today.