Mexico with open arms and eyes

For decades North American culture has been the one we have looked up to, reflecting their values and cultural trends on ourselves. With recent developments however, it seems as though this relationship may be coming under unbearable strain, and perhaps it’s time to look for alternatives with which we can reflect ourselves.

If we look towards the east and consider China as the new superpower with which to associate ourselves with, we can think of both advantages and disadvantages. On one side, there is an obvious Nation-brand problem due to the negative connotations of “made-in-China” [1]. Or think about the fact that their culture, unlike our own, is grounded in rationality and an indifference towards the emotional [2]. It is also steeped in secrecy and prohibitions [3]…not very attractive, right? To become cultural partners, it is not enough to just benefit each other economically. Despite the fact that the relationship seems unlikely due to the geographical and cultural distances between the two, the fact that China is willing to connect to Mexico –unlike the U.S.A. [4], as well as the bond we have built with other Asian countries like for example, Japan, suggests that distances can be overcome.

Or, what if, as Evo Morales [5] suggests, we look to the south to help build our cultural identity? The region has a history of oppression and exploitation [6], which is perhaps the reason why we consider them more as potential partners than as rivals. Peru has become something of a reference point as to how a country can re-build its identity using cultural drivers like food and creativity to reconstruct its image – and it has not gone unnoticed in Mexico. The challenge is to build a positive Latin-American image beyond that of its three pillars: Food, tourism and football – whilst managing to dispel the ghost of the fourth and most damaging one – violence. [7]

A third option is one of introspective reflection, to look within. However, this tactic of promoting national pride that has been pushed since the 70s just isn’t cutting it anymore. Apart from being criticized for its political implications [8] it doesn’t fit with the image that Mexicans wish to project about themselves, one of a modern and cosmopolitan society. Many studies around the world have confirmed that we gain more satisfaction from a global ideal that everyone can relate to; than to base our sense of self solely on our own unique qualities [9], and Mexico is no exception to this rule. As opposed to our old way of thinking, we have drifted out of our mellow nostalgia and xenophobia and are now very much standing with minds open to embracing the world and all it has to offer as well as proudly projecting our own culture outwards.

Instead of the dependency of looking towards another culture to form the basis of our own, the future is to develop the ability to blend the best bits of many different cultures to enrich our own. There is no reason why the search should be confined to just China and South America; in fact, it is this very process of exploration that will provide the diversity we crave when looking to build the future of Mexico and its brands.

The key for brands then, is to embrace this narrative and to expand our search for cultural reference points beyond those with which we have become accustomed. For example, we have analysed to death the success stories of Airbnb or Netflix, but what can we learn from similarly successful brands coming out of Asia? Viki – which relies on user-generated subtitles for soap operas from in Singapore, Tokyo and Seoul [10] capitalised on the world’s fascination with Asian soaps and dramas and removed the main barrier to consumption – the language barrier, by inviting users to provide the translations for them. Or what about OYO Rooms [11], who realised how unorganized the affordable hotel room sector was in India, and became a hit by creating a slick and easy to use app which modernized the booking process for consumers.

Mexican brands can learn a lot from these simple solutions to business problems that revolutionized their industries through innovation [12]. This vision of an inclusive, cosmopolitan Mexico goes way beyond just looking towards its North American neighbour. To just consider our immediate neighbours closes us off from the rest of the world and prevents us from taking advantage of, and learning from, new and disruptive cultures.

References:

  1. Volodzko, D. (2015) How Made in China Became a Stigma. The Diplomat. http://thediplomat.com/2015/07/how-made-in-china-became-a-stigma/
  2. Lindstrom, M. (2016) Small Data: Las pequeñas pistas que revelan grandes tendencias. Paidós.
  3. Denyer, S.(2016) China’s scary lesson to the world: censoring the Internet works. The Washington Post. goo.gl/OP1ckN
  4. De la Riva Group (2017) México Rifado 2: Narrativa México. En desarrollo.
  5. Morales. E. (@evoespueblo) Hago un llamado a nuestros Hnos mexicanos a mirar más al sur; construir juntos unidad en base a nuestra identidad latinoamericana y caribeña”26 ene 2017 11:10 am. Tweet.
  6. Galeano, E (1971) Las venas abiertas de América Latina. Siglo Veintiuno
  7. Kadner, M (2017) El deporte, la marca país más reconocida en América Latina. El País. http://internacional.elpais.com/internacional/2017/02/08/america/1486515551_856117.html
  8. Raphael, R. (2016) El peligroso espejismo de la unidad. El Universal. http://www.eluniversal.com.mx/entrada-de-opinion/columna/ricardo-raphael/nacion/2017/02/9/el-peligroso-espejismo-de-la-unidad#.WJxr5vLC6aQ.twitter
  9. McFarland, S., Webb, M., & Brown, D. (2012). All humanity is my ingroup: A measure and studies of identification with all humanity. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology
  10. Viki Inc., www.viki.com
  11. www.oyorooms.com
  12. Devang, Kruse, Parker & Siren (2016) The Next Wave of Business Models in Asia. MIT Winter Magazine 2017. http://sloanreview.mit.edu/article/the-next-wave-of-business-models-in-asia/