International Business

It's time for U.S. brands to say 'si' to the Cuban market


As Cuba continues to transform, there is a clear opportunity for brands to play a part in the development of its economy -- and grow their business in the process.

By Gina Acosta

PrintIt's time for U.S. brands to say 'si' to the Cuban market
It's time for U.S. brands to say 'si' to the Cuban market

According to WPP and Kantar’s new BrandZ Spotlight on Cuba report, brands have a unique first-mover advantage in the Cuban market. 

This month, Retail Leader also published a special report regarding the opportunities in Cuba specifically for U.S. retailers.

“Cuba is an island paradox and a market like no other in the world. A standard ‘fast-growing markets’ strategy just won’t work here,” says David Roth, CEO The Store WPP, EMEA and Asia. “Negotiating the nuances of working and building brands in this country – and navigating apparent contradictions - requires local insight and a lot of patience, but now’s the time to invest that energy and those resources.”

The BrandZ report is based on new, exclusive BrandZ consumer research in Cuba focused on 43 brands in four key categories: coffee, spirits, beer and tobacco.

The study shows that the proportion of brands that are "Clean Slates" in Cuba is 38% – one of the highest rates tracked anywhere in the world. "Clean Slates" are brands that most people don’t know exist, or people recognize the name but don’t know what the brand stands for. The global average is just 14%; this gap represents a huge opportunity for brands in Cuba.

BrandZ "personality" analysis of brands already popular in Cuba shows there’s a high proportion of brands seen as sexy and desirable and brands seen as rebellious compared to the rest of the world. “Sexy” and “desirable” brands are three times as common in Cuba as they are globally, and Cuban “rebellious” brands were more than twice as common.

“Gradually, the Cuban consumer market will become more competitive and shoppers will have more choice; new brands will need to make a strong impression and those brands already successful here will have to work hard to maintain their position,” says Doreen Wang, Global Head of BrandZ, Kantar Millward Brown. “And what many brands don’t realize is that even though they’re not operating in Cuba, they’re often already there – and so are their competitors. It’s less a question of whether you enter this market than of how you manage your presence.”

Spotlight on Cuba highlights the potential for local and international brands to grow in Cuba. This is a market of 11 million educated and entrepreneurial people who are broadly positive about their circumstances and their future.