So here we are in Mexico City, for ESOMAR’s Latin America conference 2012. We’ll be keeping you updated on the presentations and hopefully offering an insight into the research industry and society in Latin America. I’m at the mercy of the translation service, so forgive me if anything does get lost in translation!

There’s a man painted entirely in gold with a huge head dress, shaking his maraca all over the place. It’s a pretty intense start to the conference, a fully costumed Incan dance (I’m told via twitter that it’s the rain god Tlaloc, thanks Insights Magazine!) organised personally by our programme manager Alfonso, it’s a great choice. There’s no way you can’t be fully awake after that.

After the dance, ESOMAR Director General Finn Raben kicked off LatAm 2012 with his usual style. Finn started by stressing the importance of Mexico as an economic hub, with a GDP set to double by 2020. He then went on to honour Manolo Barberena, longstanding ESOMAR supporter and council member who served as a bridge between LATAM and ESOMAR. Manolo sadly passed away last year, a great loss to the industry. An award has been set up in his honour by the ARIA more information on that can be found here:

We were then welcomed to Mexico City by Gabriela de la Riva, the president of AMAI Mexico, who went on to show a video that summed up the many facets that come together to make the Mexican identity. A very visual start to the conference so far.

Up next was committee chair Ignacio Galceran who gave a brief overview of the industry in Mexico, a region with the greatest growth globally in 2010. Ignacio went on to express his confidence that when the Global Market Report for 2012 is released later in the year, it will be a growth that have continued. Ignacio reflected on his professional life and his personal history of research. He went on to say that we are in a time where there will be fundamental change in the industry and that we need to recapture the spirit of yesteryear. Researchers need to stake their claim in a present where 2 out of every 10 dollars is spent on digital and marketing communications.

People Meter, People Matter
Ignacio then introduced Alejandro Quintero the opening keynote for LATAM 2012, who came to talk about emotions. Alejandro is VP of Corporate Commercialisation at Televisa Group in Mexico. The phrase “television is dead” can be heard often. Alejandro thinks that actually TV is far from dead. It sits at the centre of of a multi-media web which at it’s core tells stories.  Consumers are emotional rather than rational and gather round a source of light, whether it’s a fire or a television, good stories generate community and reflect our life styles. And professional channels such as TV provide a greater amount of relatable characters. Alejandro went on to say that brands need to seek more emotional connections with consumers and that in Latin America consumers are looking for engagement and emotion and that must be our priority. TV in Mexico can reach 90% of consumers and brands need to be reintegrated into the life style of consumers. In order to engage with consumers, brands must become creators of content, and creators of content should become brands.  TV is going through a new golden age. Keep on conquering hearts

New Faces, New Roles, New Ways, A New Latin America 
Up next was Luis Woldenburg who guided us through the changing social environment in Latin America. Luis started by saying that although there has been huge growth in the regional MR industry it is actual growing more in number of agencies than in % of growth. Because of this, researchers need to look at the value they are adding and focus on context. The social environment is changing so much that segments need to be redefined. Luis continued with a number of examples. Only 30% of Latin Americans are happy, but they are young and productive. Unfortunately, this demographic advantage is wasted due to factors such as high unemployment. In addition to this, the role of women is changing as their participation in economic activity has increased and will continue to do so, as LATAM culture means that “those that pay, call the shots” and this has created a massive shift. There are increases in life expectancy, obesity, and a reduction of institutional trust. All these factors are creating new segments and new roles for consumers which will require new products and new communications. Whoever can detect and understand these new segments will have the ability to grow and innovate.

How to Continue Being A Cuturally Relevant Brand? 
Coca-Cola have a track record of challenging societal tensions, and today Omar Fuentes and Pablo Kennedy were here today to show how, through communications, Coca-Cola endeavoured to provide a cultural message to help create a better world. But first they needed to know the enemy. Through a combination of expert advice and consumer research across the Latin America region, they chose to tackle the challenges surrounding the “uncertain world” we live in. Once that was chosen they surveyed over 400 people and found that consumers had a profound, even cathartic, need to talk about this. What came from that research was the “Reasons to Believe” campaign which was rolled out worldwide and based around the fact that there are more good people than bad. Coca-Cola then had an adaptive campaign which could be pushed into countries that needed it most, such as Japan and Egypt last year. It’s a great and rare example of a marketing campaign that can harness underlying and universal tensions and can be specifically targeted to various countries while at the same time keeping a specific set of core values unchanged.

The Kids are Alright 
Noel Gladstone continued the Bigger Picture thread of the morning by presenting the results of a recent study by Nickelodeon which looked into the changing family environment. Noel talked to us about the shrinking household, due to falling birth rates and increasing numbers of divorce, but he also went on to say that families are becoming increasingly tighter knit. Family fusion is enabling kids to grow in confidence and happiness and children are actively seeking more time and togetherness with all of their family, not just the nuclear. As the family become closer it means that children play a bigger and bigger part of family decisions. Parents are trying to teach kids that their opinions matter, and that means bringing them into every aspect of life, even financial decisions. There is a stronger bond and although the connectivity does not extend to every corner of life, it does mean that in a lot of cases, goals and achievements for both parents and children are aligning. Noel finished with dispelling the myth that media and social connectivity are destroying family life. 98% of families consume media together, it is in fact generating far more connectivity within the family.

MasterCard – Master Insights
First up after lunch, in the Business Beyond Borders thread was Ricardo Alvarez of MasterCard Worldwide. Ricardo started with some challenges of traditional quant surveys in the region, where 63% of consumers hate to answers surveys while 78% will only participate if they receive an incentive. They also found there was a significant difference in results depending on telephone, face-to-face or online surveys. The challenge for MasterCard was how to make information collection enjoyable. MasterCard found that experiences are more important that goods, so the question was how to transfer this to research? They discovered from research that the surveys were too long and that F2F and telephone was too intrusive. So, they decided that you need to “fish were there fish are” : Social Media. MasterCard found that consumers tend to express emotions more freely on social media, and it’s a much better gauge of sentiment. Ricardo does not feel  that the current industry in the region is doing enough to understand the insights available in social media. Social Media not only allows for listening and awareness for the what, who, where and how but can also help with marketing in terms of participation engagement and the industry in Latin America must take it more seriously.

Brazil Middle Class? Your table is ready

Up next was Gabriel Alexio of BrainJuicer and Renata Riberio of Nestle in Brazil who discussed the opportunities and challenges in the out-of-home food market in Brazil and the emerging middle-class. They needed to know how and why the decisions were made when choosing to eat out in Brazil, considering the size and variation of the market. BrainJuicer decided to create an MROC, allowing for targeted profiling and the ability to focus on actual experiences to better understand motivations. This approach was specifically designed to bring to life something that would otherwise be a 2-dimensional report. By taking feedback and adding game mechanics, respondents were far more engaged. Gabriel then presented some of the findings of study. They found that eating out is charged with emotional feeling and hidden values, as previously it was only the rich that could eat out. When choosing a place to eat, the consumers want to explore new things within certain limits and the freedom to feel at home away from home. But most importantly it is a social moment that engages on an emotional level. The study challenged the easy assumptions about eating out and helps to brands define the territories they want to play in and provides fuel for innovation. The methodology provides a new way of diving into this new consumer segment.

The Power of Pacha Mama 
In the last of the Business Beyond Borders session Julia Helena Carrillo and Cristina Paez of Consultor Apoyo and Maria Augusta Iturralde of Komite, Ecuador outlined their recent work in the positioning of a cheese brand. Pacha Mama in the Andean world represents the motherland. They needed to find an assertive positioning linking positive aspects of the historical and cultural environment in Andean area of Ecuador. They found that by linking an indigenous culture to the brand it had positive emotional reaction from the target urban demographic. By drawing from design elements such as colours and patterns often associated with the region they were able to provide the client with packaging that performed well in eye tracking, allowing an opportunity to release new products and provided an increase in profits. They finished summarising the need to look local when positioning such brands, particularly when targeted towards urban populations. A strong link to artisan communities can provide a string emotional identity.

Fringe Factory “Latina”
In the last session of the day, Cristina Paez, Fringe Factory board member introduced the Fringe Factory to Latin America. If you haven’t heard, Fringe Factory is a movement made of a group of young researchers around the world, who love the profession and have the common goal of celebrating market research. Fringe Factory is at pains to ensure that the real value of MR and the help it provides, is known not just to companies but also governments and policy makers worldwide. The group’s aim is to get more young people into market research. It is said that marketers get all the glory but researchers do the work. Fringe Factory aims to have this research work recognised. Talent retention is also another aim of the Fringe Factory, to make sure that the training and talent stays in the industry. Cristina proceeded to ask the ESOMAR students what the views of their friends might be about market research and the industry in the wider sphere of business. The prognosis was not so good, as it seemed that their view of MR might be a lot of boring number crunching and not thought of well in overall business processes. Though it seems their experience at this event has improved their personal views and the place of research in strategic planning. So ,it seems like communications and exposure may be the key to attracting young talent to the industry. If that is the case Cristina and The Fringe Factory have taken great steps forward.