“Colombia”, Building Their Own Brand

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“Colombia”, Building Their Own Brand – A Successful Story

By Giuseppina Russo

In the last twenty years, Latin America has gone through multiple structural changes in pursuit of a winning economic growth formula. In the region, the concern of many governments and business sectors resides exclusively on the need to maintain investor’s confidence and to decrease their country risk factor to compete, somehow, in the international arena.

While the regional integration still has a long way to go before in its implementation, some countries have realized how important is to build a positive socioeconomic environment from inside out and have started a “Country Branding” strategy not only to attract direct foreign investment, but also to promote entrepreneurial activities and, most importantly, to engage their citizens to work towards a shared vision for growth.

The Colombian case reflects the vision of a society working together to build the foundation for future generations. In 2008, the Government of Colombia started the Country Assistance Strategy (CAS) Program supported by the World Bank through the International Finance Corporation and the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD).  According to the World Bank, “Colombia’s economy rebounded from near stagnation in 2002 to achieve a growth rate of around 6.6 percent in 2007”.

The key to develop a sustainable branding strategy lies in educating the population at all levels, in promoting citizen participation, building a positive environment for people to change attitudes with a clear vision of themselves and its opportunities. When you visit tourist places you can feel that commitment of impeccable service that the Colombians always offer.

Colombia: The only risk, is wanting to stay.”

Known internationally as a headquarter for “guerilla” groups and drug producers, Colombia started a brilliant re-branding strategy in 2007 to change the international perception of the country with the campaign “Colombia: The only Risk, is wanting to stay”.

How do they got there?


– To change the negative perception of Colombia in the world

– To promote the country as a preferred destination for trade, investment and tourism in South America

– To target specific foreign investment

– To promote Colombian brands worldwide

Brand Values

The success of the branding strategy resides on the emotional associations created around three elements (safe environment, sustainable development, and creativity), translated as:

–  “Falling in love” with its people and culture

–  Long term relationship: you want to stay, if not for life, certainly for longer than initially expected

–  Safety: governments have done a lot to improve safety in tourist places and major cities (i.e. Bogotá, Medellín)

–  Nature: Green scenery, untouched ecosystems that reflect their sustainable development approach in the agricultural segment

–  Colors: bright and vibrant as their people’s passion for the art and the creativity

Brand Identity and Image

– “Colombia is Passion”:

With the introduction of a key message as a slogan, Colombia is shaping the way the country is perceived, both domestically and from abroad, from the “people” component to the quality of its goods and services, the attractiveness of its culture, tourism, and investment opportunities.

–  The Colombian government also introduced a new logo to be shared by all government offices, a move largely aimed at promoting the country’s national image in the international community.

–  Building Brand Awareness: a creative idea to change the negative perception of Colombia in the world.

The Ministry of Tourism has had an important role in the design and development of this campaign. The official sites of Tourism of Colombia (www.turismocolombia.com and http://www.visitcolombia.com) are offered in English and Spanish, and have become the first source of information for regional and international tourists and business people.

From Local to Global: Juan Valdez, Café de Colombia (Colombian Coffee)

Brand Identity and Symbols

The Colombian Association of Coffee Producers ( Federación Nacional de Cafeteros)  created and maintained around The Juan Valdez Persona – with the iconic farmer with the mule and the mountain,  a set of associations that represent what the Colombian Coffee  brand supports, ”smoothness and great taste” and implies a promise of value to the customer every time you buy it.

Building a “Gourmet Brand”: Trademarks, Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) and Protected Geographical Indication (PGI)

In 2008, the Association took their brand strategy to the next level by introducing a distinctive label in all their products: “Café de Colombia”. The Colombian coffee was the first product not produced in Europe to get the Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) and Protected Geographical Indication (PGI)

The triangular logo, with its trademark and label “Café de Colombia” – written in Spanish – guarantees the authenticity of the product, and positions it as one of the best in the world. Juan Valdez continues its international strategy leveraging on quality and on the national branding strategy.

Every time I have visited Bogotá, I could connect with the major intangible characteristics of their country brand through the people I met, with their courtesy, wisdom, willingness to help, to share their history and heritage and to make your stay in the city for business or holiday just memorable.

The personality and values of the Juan Valdez brand are well represented in all their coffee shops; the ambience evokes the quality of their products with great service.

Colombia is a great example of what a well-managed country branding strategy could do for their international visitors and for their citizens.

Other countries in the Americas are also building the right image due to the internationalization of their local brands such as “Gato”, Chilean winery,  “Havaianas” from Brazil, and  “Corona” and “Bimbo” from Mexico, to name a few.

The key success factor is to build an image around value added products and far from a “commodity” type nation.  Canada has built a solid country brand internationally; however, their local companies are still afraid to compete in foreign markets. The good news is, the country has attracted the best talent in the globe that in the right positions, in corporate Canada, might turnaround this behavior.


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