Political or not? A Tecate marketer explains the 'Mexico is in Us' tagline
In an era when nearly everything is politicized, a tagline like “Mexico is in Us” is sure to raise a few eyebrows. Depending on the context, it could be viewed as either a statement for or against immigration. But a marketing leader at Tecate—which has been using the line since February—says there is nothing political about it.
“Everything is political right now, and we don’t want to dismiss that,” Oscar Martinez, Tecate’s senior brand director, says on the latest edition of Ad Age’s Ad Lib podcast. But “we want to fly higher than politics here—it’s about culture.”
While it may not be overtly political, the campaign takes on a pretty weighty issue—what the brand says is the societal burden Mexican-Americans carry of having dual identities.
“A lot of times they feel half American and half Mexican,” Martinez says about the brand’s core target of Mexican-American drinkers. “For example, you are in the office with your American friends and you are like ‘the Mexican.’ When you are with your Mexican family celebrating independence month in September they make you feel like you are ‘the American’ ... This campaign is about ... celebrating we are 100 percent Mexican and 100 percent American."
So the campaign encourages people to embrace their heritage, rather than hide from it. As the lead ad says, “there is no such thing as being half-Mexican.” (The creative agency is Nómades, which was founded in Mexico and Argentina in 2013 by Pablo Batlle, an Argentine creative and DDB veteran.)
On the podcast, Martinez digs into the insights behind the campaign, which replaced a more lighthearted effort called “Born Bold” that played up the brand’s black eagle mascot.
Tecate is brewed in the border town of Tecate, Baja California, Mexico, and has ingredients from both the U.S. and Mexico, Martinez says. So the tagline “Mexico is in US” works on multiple levels.
On the podcast Martinez also explains why the brand—a longtime boxing sponsor—has moved away from the sport. It was a “tough decision because boxing has given us so much,” he says. But “we understood Mexican-American culture is more than boxing.”
The brand’s new approach leans into music. Originally the plan was to connect with younger dinkers using sponsorships of music festivals such as Chella, a Latino music festival held in Indio, California that is a counterpart to the larger Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival. COVID-19 made that impossible. So Tecate, like so many other brands, has shifted to digital programs. On Friday evening it begins a four-part virtual concert series called “El Patio Tecate” that includes free, live-streamed concerts of regional and national Latin music acts that “defy genres and embody diversity,” according to a press release.
The name El Patio is a throwback reference to the Los Angeles scene in the 1990s, “when those underground parties were thrown on your patio, your backyard,” Martinez says.
Martinez, who was born and raised in Madrid, has got his start working for liquor giant Diageo in Spain. He’s been living in the U.S. for 14 years and began working for Heineken-owned Tecate in early 2019.
He joined as Tecate was struggling through a serious sales slump. The brand is still not where he wants it to be—sales in stores were down more than 3 percent in the first half of the year, according to Beer Business Daily. “We were in a very negative place in 2018, and the minus 3.2 is a positive,” he says on the podcast. “Do we want to do better? Hell yes...but we see the trend bending.”
While Martinez downplays any political intentions in Tecate’s current campaign, the brand has gotten political before. In 2016, it ran an ad that amounted to a light-hearted takedown of Donald Trump's wall proposal by showing Mexicans and Americans propping a cooler on a short beer wall along the border.
Martinez, who was not yet with the brand then, admits to admiring the ad from afar. “It was brave,” he says. “When I saw that ad … I thought, I want to work for Tecate.”
On the podcast, he is quizzed about trying something similar this election year. “We don’t have plans to do anything like it,” he says. “We are not going to be opportunistic, but it’s good to be agile.” He adds: “The door is always open for things like that to happen.”