Consumerism is very different in a developing country. I’ve realised how hard it is to write a brand blog in Costa Rica:

1. Import taxes are super high. Everything imported costs at least 40% more than in North America, and sometimes 100% more.

1a. You can’t order anything that’s not a book from Amazon or other foreign online retailers without it getting held in customs and being taxed up the wazoo. Oh, and the Costa Rican delivery company will also charge you an additional amount for “paperwork”.

1b. You can’t order anything from Amazon or other foreign online retailer without a high probability of the item getting lost by the delivery or postal service.

2. Burglary is prevalent (George Burglary Link 1) (George Burglary Link 2) and burglary insurance is useless. Burglary insurance covers (a) the damage to your door or window caused by the burglar and (b) any non-portable items. You understood (b) correctly. Cellphones, laptop computers, laptop computer cases, headphones (even big noise-cancelling ones), jewellery and art are not covered by the only burglary insurance policy offered by the monopoly state insurance company, INS. Here’s a burglary insurance policy – oh, by the way, it doesn’t actually cover anything the burglar can easily take away from the house.

3. In a country of over 4 million people, 1.5 million of those live in a small metro area around the capital, San Jose. All big company marketing communication efforts tend to be concentrated in that area.

3a. In a country with an average income of only $3000, there’s not a lot of disposable income for extra “stuff”, except in the San Jose metro area; so the only foreign branded retailers are concentrated around San Jose.

4. Cable TV has the big 3 American channels, but the feed is from Miami which is 2 hours ahead. All the prime-time TV shows (and resulting commercials) I would normally watch are broadcast at 6-8pm here. I don’t watch really TV anymore (except soccer/football on weekends).

The average American receives 3000 marketing messages a day. The average Londoner receives 3500 marketing messages a day. I receive a maximum of 100 marketing messages a day. Seriously.

While it’s not very inspirational when writing about my blog topic of choice, there are some wonderful benefits

1. My 6 year old doesn’t ask me for stuff

2. My 6 year old is super impressed and grateful whenever he gets anything. A Lego set gets weeks of gratitude. A Hotwheels car is like golddust at his school.

3. I go to the beach and swim when I’m bored – I’m not bothered about stuff anymore (very weird for me)

4. I save money because I don’t buy much

5. I don’t think I’m going to get cable or satellite TV when I go back to the real world – I don’t really need it

6. I’ve got a great insight for marketing departments of big companies everywhere. If someone in your department  is doing remote work for developing countries, send them to that country to live with the locals outside the capital city/major centre for at least 2 weeks and their new understanding will help double or triple your company’s sales there.

7. I got some unexpected insights and understanding about marketing in developing vs developed countries. In developing countries, people really need more; anything extra, no matter how small, is a huge deal – not just because of income levels but because of the time and effort required to acquire and protect it. In developed countries, people think they deserve more; it’s hard to be satisfied because there’s always the next thing to buy (easily) and the next tier to achieve.

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