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A visit to Universidad De Los Andes, Bogota

Uni AndesGroup of Six Colombia



KATE: The privilege of taking a class with the view of the Andes mountains is hard to put in to words. Further still, the privilege of being so immersed in the learnings that you aren’t even distracted by the beautiful scenery, impossible! We were given the chance to have a lecture with Professor Andres Barrios Fajardo at the university where he teaches, Universidad de Los Andes. He brought in 9 of the top MBA students currently studying at the institution and we had the chance to learn from both lecture and workshop. The subject was two fold, first the Colombian Consumer, where we learned that there is much opportunity but many daunting challenges in creating and engaging markets around the country due to the financial demographics of the population, lack of urban planning, and true marketing requiring the resources to enter into a trade. Some facts, 44% of Colombian’s live below the poverty line and the informality, or the number of people participating in un-regulated businesses is 49%. This means that half the country is struggling to live day to day on small business operations they run through the power of their social capital, such as fruit stands, flower stands or other vendors. This cycle will be hard to break as the situation is self re-enforcing, as growing or becoming legitimate business in the eyes of the government means abandoning the social family that supports each entrepreneur. We reviewed the Hofstede measurements for Colombia and the USA and tried to find commonalities and differences. We worked in teams to develop marketing plans for a new Colombian car brand.

Second we had presentation from ProColombia, after which we discussed the current tourism campaigns and again in groups what we would do to adjust the campaign to both drive tourism, and provide a benefit for the Colombian people. Many ideas were shared and discussions became more open as we got to know the UniAndes students better. It was inspiring to understand how these Colombian’s see their own country, and how they see ours. Here is some of what they said: “Show the world the real us!” “I urge you to pay attention to our people, that is our most valuable resource.” “Tourism is easy to say but difficult to do.” Much of what we learned today will end up in our final project. It must be said that one of these UniAndes is an American from Boston who did her undergrad at Loyola University Chicago!

Working in groups was so much fun, there has been so much laughter on this trip. While we may have a language barrier, we’re finding the universal language of humor and joy. And, of course, we’re already connected on facebook.

Afterwards, we met the President of the University, Dr Paublo Navas. He is the father of a Loyola / Quinlan classmate and he generously gave us his time to ask us about, of all things, us! He was kind and worldly, you could see how he has come into such a position. He spoke fondly of his country and seemed truly delighted to have us. As a gift he gave us all UniAndes hats, which we received happily. We can’t wait to rock them out in Cartagena and someday, when the sun finally returns, in Chicago.

Group of Six with President Universidad de Los Andes

When we met with the President of the University, I found myself thinking how well connected we have been here, how welcoming everyone has been, and that there is very little chance I would have the opportunity to meet the president of a top University in the United States for any reason!

It must be said that before going to visit UniAndes we trekked to the top of Monserrate which provides beautiful views of the city from 10,431 feet! Quite the elevation, and change since Bogota is only 8,660 feet (which is still very high)! It was magnificent to see the city we have all fallen in love with laid before us, and among such beautiful gardens and statues. We met more Americans up here than anywhere else in the city so far, and we were able to ask them many open questions.


Returning back to the hotel, we had an evening meeting with Leon Trujillo, the Sr Consultant in Territorial Branding at Futurebrand. In his former work he worked with what is now ProColombia to help market the country and now works marketing the whole Latin American region. Here we spoke with someone who was an expert in the very thing we are studying, world perception of Colombia. Some of his best advice on marketing the country was to focus on the good, those who are afraid now will come in time. We all agreed that there needs to be more focus in Colombian marketing on the people and the wonderful culture they export. He is published on this subject, and if it takes google translate, we will figure out how to read it!

A lot was discussed on generational differences here, with a lot of energy around social media. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram. All have the power to move a message faster through informal channels, and the younger generations influence each other more than any brand campaign could. Ultimately, we are part of that word of mouth change and will continue to hashtag our way through Colombia. #Colombia2015 #DecadeofLatinAmerica #ColombiaisMagicalRealism #groupofsix #loyolaquinlanschool.

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