A new moment of polarization, populism and post-truth? Really? For Latin Americans, that sounds more like business as usual! But, as always, challenging moments also create opportunities for those who adapt. For innovators looking to speak the language of Latin consumers, transparency and empowerment will be potent truths to anchor your thinking.

Let’s start at the top. Consumers across the region are accustomed to much about this new global moment. And they’re familiar with the love/hate relationship with globalization that fuels it. Seriously (and a special shout out to Venezuelan readers here) does Donald Trump remind you of anyone?

The consequence of all that uncertainty? This is still the region with the lowest levels of consumer confidence in the world.

First, this picture – populism, polarization, post-truth and all the attendant uncertainty – is in flux, and these changes have powerful implications for brands. Yeah, like just as the region turns away from populism the rest of the world starts to embrace it? Srsly??? Okay, it’s not that simple – more below ;)

And second, where there is consumer discontent – and yes, there will be plenty in the years ahead – there is opportunity. Before we get to how to unlock those opportunities, some background. Where is the region at the start of 2017? Our take:

Populism vs Pragmatism

The epic battle between pragmatism and populism continues. And yes, the populist wave of the last two decades continues to wane in some quarters. The latest instalment in that story is ‘populism fatigue’ and a shift to the center? In June Peru elected the liberal banker Pedro Kuczynski as president, rejecting the populist Keiko Fujimori, the daughter of president Alberto Fujimori.

The focus of populism is shifting away from poverty and towards corruption.

Chavez and other politicians in the last wave of regional populism cleaved to economic injustice as their primary cause. But the huge surge of popular anger that led to the impeachment of Dilma Rousseff in Brazil was focused around corruption. In Guatemala, President Molina awaits trial after thousands protested over corruption allegations. In Honduras, thousands took to the streets in 2015 over allegations that the healthcare minister was lining his pockets. In Mexico, a petition signed by 600,000 forced the government to tighten anti-corruption laws. See a pattern emerging?

Growing popular anger around corruption will increasingly encompass big business, too. The Carwash scandal, which encompasses multiple big brands in the region, and that December saw construction company Odebrecht hit with the biggest corruption penalty ever levied by global authorities, is a sign of things to come.

Consumer Headspace

So in summary: the failure of the last wave of populists, plus economic slowdown, is pushing some back towards pragmatic solutions. Meanwhile, populism isn’t going away – it’s morphing.

A couple of numbers on where consumers are at amid all this. And these numbers should make you excited :) Yes, large numbers of consumers across key markets in the region think the system is failing. But… (and it’s a big ‘but’), consumers across the region have unusually high trust in business. That’s high when compared to consumers in other countries. And high when compared to the trust they have in government.


Got that? Most consumers think the system is failing. And who do they trust most to put it right and build a better future? Businesses and brands. Yes, you.

So your response in this environment? Serve that expectation and start innovating to build a better future. In our global Trend Briefing we highlighted five core human truths that show why despite being in a post-truth era, brands that practice TRUTHFUL CONSUMERISM will win. Here, we’ll look at two of the five – transparency and empowerment that provide particularly powerful opportunities for Latin innovators, large and small.

Ground your innovation in one (or both!) of these truths and you’ll be on terrain that is meaningful and lasting.

Conclusion: Time to Get Fired Up

Time to rewind to those amazing numbers on trust we talked about in the introduction. Yes, most people in Latin America think that the system is failing. But by an overwhelming margin, it’s businesses and brands – that’s you – that they trust above all. They’re looking to you to build a better future.

Quite a responsibility, right? But also an amazingly powerful opportunity.

The brands and innovators that step up will be swimming with the tide of history. They’ll also be ensuring their own future.

Because ultimately, the only way to do that is to build positive value for millions of people across the region.

So take this question back to your team: how can we ground our next innovation in the truths that are transparency and empowerment?

Then get fired up, and GET GOING!



About The Author:



It takes a team:

Muchísimas Gracias colegas from Latin America. This piece was put together with contributions from tw:in, TrendWatching Insight Network. Thank you to the Latin American spotters who shared their precious time and insights: Fernando Tobias, Sebastián Moreno, Lina Forero, Claudia Quiros-Fernandez.


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