Branding Lessons from Cuba

Cuba is a fascinating country. With its weather, culture and history it might be “the” country to visit. Also, Cuba is special because of its politics: unlike China, Cuba is a communist country that does not embrace capitalism. In that sense, being in Cuba is a unique and a priceless experience that you can’t have elsewhere in the world. How is this related to branding though?

It is often said that brands and the capitalist system are intertwined. One could not exist without the other. Cuba proves that wrong. It is surprising to see the existence of brands in Cuba. Yes, they are all government-owned, but brands DO exist even in a communist country. To me, this proves that branding is above politics, a global “must”.  Here is a couple of more observations:

Cuba has world-class brands: Partagas and Havana Club have been created before the revolution, but they still exist under the communist regime. Even better, the Cohiba brand was created by Castro’s personal directive. So Cuba is pretty successful in creating global brands.

Branding in Cuba is not restricted to export goods. There are multiple banks, bottled waters, and soft drinks. Even companies that don’t have any competition like Cubataxi and Cadeca are branded. Cubataxi even has sub-brands!

Cuban corporate graphic design is surprisingly good. For instance, Cadeca’s logo works at multiple levels, with layers of meaning.

Cuban’s follow branding principles well. Take Cadeca for instance. It stands for Casas de Cambio. It could have been easily named, CDC, CC or Casas de Cambio. Instead, Cubans shortened the name the right way. (More to come on this topic). Also they came up with a brand name that has three explosive sounds! That is successful verbal strategy. (More to come on this topic)

Today’s actionable tip: Branding is not a “nice to have”. It is a “must-have.” If brands could exist in communist Cuba, then you should not question whether you should brand your business or not.

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