As we stand on the 6th floor of the National Museum of Peru in what is the ‘Truth Commission’ (which examined abuses committed during the period of internal conflict provoked by the Shining Path movement) we have a perfect vista of downtown Lima. As you scan the horizon, the colourful facades of colonial buildings draw your attention, as does the rather conspicuous Coca Cola sign. Another statue to our modern day consumerist values.
Branding in Peru is as rampant as it is in the global community. A city of almost 9 million people, Lima is the target audience for marketeers selling a plethora of things. Some essential, others not so.
In Villa El Salvador (VES) the idea of branding also plays a role in society. Logos appear in many places; a Nike swoosh stencilled on the side of a water delivery truck; clothing brands careful painted on to the sides of moto taxis. There is also a wide variety of branded clothing products to buy (copies of course) at many of the bigger markets I have visited. Why is it that in places like VES where the average person lives on $2 a day, do people care about the make of their jeans or the logo on their pumps?
Marketing is what makes consumerism look pretty. It dresses it up and makes it nice and fluffy. Non-essential products magically made into products that we all must have and could not possibly live without. Marketeers do a very good job of making products more appealing, to sell more to a wider audience who usually do not need them.
Here, in VES, at the electrical store there is credit available at alarming rates of interest. You can pick up a new TV set on credit and pay it back over a period of weeks – eventually paying almost twice over for the product. These people just want what we have, but what is the opportunity cost? Weekly expenditure on a TV set could be money spent on food, water or schooling for their children. Of course these people have choices, but many of them lack a good level education and are often exploited. The electrical store has no obligation to their buyers or about the potential implications, so long as they make their money. Not such a different strategy to that played out in the UK, I hear you say. But perhaps we could be more supportive of vulnerable people, the world over, who may end up in a cycle of debt?
The irony of course is that once you have bought your TV, you are bombarded with even more adverts, trying to sell you more things…
Kellogg’s products are widely available, as are a multitude of Nestle goods, even though there are cheaper, locally made alternatives. These bigger, more competitive brands are pushing aside local products. If people choose to buy global products, it is the domestic market that suffers. Basic economics of demand dictates the risk to local jobs, which further hinders reinvestment and development.
By Mark Chambers, ICS Progressio volunteer and group leader of the ICS Progressio Peru team. Photo of logos on a moto taxi by Mark Chambers.