Brand Chile and a mine-full of marketing opportunities

October 2010

I’d originally intended this month’s comment to be about trade shows and the reasons behind the falling number of people attending them, but all that became quickly irrelevant and somewhat mundane, as the unprecedented rescue scenes unfolded of the miners in Chile.

Now if you were anything like me, the whole epic drama of the Chilean mine saga was news at its compelling best. From the initial announcement all those months back that all 33 miners were, incredibly, still alive, through the highly-technical drilling operations and the final and successful rescue itself, was something which gripped me from start to finish. And no doubt the reasons were much the same as the staggering number of people around the globe who were also glued to their TV and computer screens: the imagined terror that being trapped a quarter of a mile underground would inevitably bring to us all; the near-incomprehensible feat of drilling a very long and accurate hole through solid rock to come out in just the right place where the miners were located; to sharing the overwhelming emotion as each man stepped safely from the capsule above ground.

But of course, and with the success of the rescue operation, I’ve also been interested in anything and everything that all this had to do with brands and marketing. And there’s been rather a lot of both. So let’s start with brand Chile: Perhaps you’ve never really thought very much about this long and thin country before (like 2600 miles long and an average width of just 110miles) but that doesn’t matter because you’ll certainly have a view now. And chances are that the view will broadly be around a country which deeply cares about its people; is highly organised when it needs to be; had the confidence to allow, and indeed encourage, the world’s media access to pretty much anything and everything to do with the saga (and consider for a moment if it had all gone horribly wrong…); and, in its President, Sebastián Piñera, has a charismatic figure with the apparent ability to be at one with his people (though arguably it took this event to demonstrate it), and equally be a highly credible leader on a world stage – kind of important now everyone knows who he is. And why does all that matter? Well Chile, and no doubt like all Latin American countries, needs foreign investment to aid its recovery from the economic downturn, and the sort of values and credentials it has just displayed will do its cause no harm at all.

Also worth considering how it affects overseas consumers – e.g. increased likelihood to visit Chile as a tourist (surely few people desire to take their holiday in a disorganised country with nasty people in it), or even just picking up a bottle of Chilean Merlot rather than Australian Shiraz when you’re next in Sainsbury’s. The fact is that we all now know more about this country, and we like what we’ve seen.

Then there are the brands that were involved in the rescue, the first of which has to be Schramm Inc., the makers of that whopping great big drill, who describe themselves as a “century-old Chester County, Pennsylvania manufacturer and global supplier to the hydraulic drilling industry”. Now I’m not currently in the market for a drill that big and won’t be any time soon, but if I were to be then the Schramm T-130 would be top of my list. Perhaps more likely as a future and rather lower cost purchase, would be sunglasses. That being the case, Oakley might figure on my radar and no doubt will for many million more consumers: Research by Front Row Analytics indicates that the 35 pairs of $450 sunglasses donated to the rescue effort by Oakley gave the Californian-based company the equivalent of $41 million in television advertising time alone. A figure which gives the term ‘product placement’ something of a new dimension.

But I suspect we haven’t seen anything yet as far as marketing opportunities are concerned, as the real power-house will be the collective group of 33 miners (or perhaps not so ‘collective’ once human nature and a little understandable greed kicks in), with more commercial opportunities for them, and indeed the brands they sign up to, than most of us could currently imagine (and I can imagine a lot).

To give this all some context though, I’m only able to write about the brand and marketing success story of the saga because all 33 men came out alive. So worth pausing for a moment and taking stock of what’s actually important in this momentous story.

And once you’ve done that, then go out and treat yourself to some new Oakley shades.

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