By Adam R Jacobson

MIAMI — With many Americans lamenting the dwindling number of middle-class families, thanks to a prolonged recession that has ravaged retirement funds and savings accounts, marketers may wish to turn their eyes south. Latin America’s “C” group is hot, and there are plenty of middle-class growth opportunities for CMOs and brand managers in Brazil and other key countries.

In particular, 77 percent of those in the “C” group – traditionally middle-class families in the traditional A-E socioeconomic scale used across Latin America – believe their financial situation will improve in the next year.

The findings from Kantar Media, the research arm of global advertising industry giant WPP Group, were shared by Kantar vice president of business development Jimena Urquijo at a December 2 Versailles Breakfast Club event in Miami’s Little Havana.

Access to credit cards is the top reason why Latin America’s middle class is bulging, Urquijo notes. These consumers are also more aspirational, fueled by growth in internet use.

Meanwhile, Kantar also finds sports properties as a prime opportunity for marketers. According to Kantar, beer brands Brahma, Bohemia and Corona are the top three brewers in the Latin American sports arena, leading in benefits by teaming with an athlete, team or league. With Brazil ramping up for the 2014 FIFA World Cup and the 2016 Summer Olympics, this makes Brahma a key brand with lots of potential for increasing its market share.  Kantar data also show Ecuador and Peru as the strongest growth areas for brands to link with a sports property.

With middle-class consumers in Brazil and countries including Colombia, Mexico, Venezuela, Chile and Argentina overindexing for mobile phone use, engaging in travel, purchasing electronics, purchasing vehicles and financial services, companies in these sectors should increase their marketing efforts targeting those the “C” group, Urquijo says.

Among the other highlights from Kantar:

  • 28 percent of consumers access the internet from their smartphone.
  • 77 percent of consumers own a smartphone, compared to 50 percent in 2006.

“We expect smartphone usage to rise rapidly,” Urquijo says. However, marketers should take note of the high incidence of prepaid mobile phones, and the cost of data plans to smartphone users.

Speaking highly of Brazil, Urquijo believes Groupon-like sites and online banking are ripe for user growth, while newspapers and magazines have seen a significant shift of readership to their digital offerings. In particular, 12 percent of newspaper readers in the Latin American nations reviewed by Kantar only read the publications online.

Kantar conducted face-to-face interviews with 63,000 consumers in the “C” socioeconomic group; roughly one-third of the interviews took place in Brazil.

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