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Juan Valdez was born in the 1950's with the purpose of distinguishing Colombian coffee from the competition. Today, it is one of the most preferred brands amongst consumers.
Juan Valdez Coffee is perhaps one of the most recognized and loved coffee brands on the planet. With its unique flavor, attractive advertising and its highest quality production, one might ask: What is the reason for this reputation?
Ossa Aguirre, a famous marketing researcher, proposes a thesis on why Juan Valdez is so popular: its history and the humorous anecdotes. We decided at Colombia Coffee, to talk about the origins of the situations that have led the brand to be number 1 in the world of coffee.
Juan Valdez is a brand that emerged in Colombia during the 1950s, thanks to the ideas of a few members of the National Federation of Coffee Growers (FNC), who sought to distinguish Colombian coffee from the competition and rescue the idiosyncrasy of 500,000 coffee growers and their families.
A North American design agency, based the characteristic garments of the coffee grower, such as the hat, the poncho and the carriel, and the place where coffee was produced, and conceived the logo that we know today. To provide much more strength, the work team believed it was necessary to represent the cultural traits of the coffee classic by means of an actor that would be present in events or publicity. The selected actor was Cuban José Duval, a renowned theater and television artist who played the role of Juan Valdez for a decade.
At that time, most advertisements and promotions showed Juan Valdez in the Coffee fields delicately selecting the ripest beans. The response was immediate because consumers quickly associated Colombian coffee with a special kind of coffee grown and harvested with dedication, with very little help from machines or tools and in special climatic conditions that included heavy rains, lots of sunshine and fertile volcanic soil.
Although José Duval played a key role in the expansion of the brand, his demands and whims ended in the 70s with the role that led him to glory. For his replacement, the Federation of Coffee Growers talked to more than 51 candidates. After countless meetings, tests and acting exercises, the chosen one was Carlos Sanchez from Antioquia, described to be a rather charming fellow.
Rengifo, a scholar of Colombian brands, reconstructed the vicissitudes that took place to find the new Juan Valdez. In his words: "The campaign in the United States was so successful that Duval became a "star", or at least he thought so and demanded certain working conditions that the National Federation of Coffee Growers was not willing to grant him and terminated his agreement. In this way he embarked on a frantic search for a new Juan Valdez that this time should be one hundred percent Creole. The search paid off and he was found at the end of August 1969 in Medellín. A delegation from the Federation of Coffee Growers, who saw a photograph of Carlos Sánchez, with a false mustache similar to that of Juan Valdez, on the poster for La Zapatera Prodigiosa, a play by García Lorca, which was in season at the Pablo Tobón Uribe Theater in Medellín, went to interview him. And although Sánchez's casting was a failure, the Federation felt that this paisa actor had the uncomplicated personality and charisma necessary to be a good coffee salesman.
And so it was, because until 2006 Carlos Sanchez took the brand and the Juan Valdez character to the top. Among the advertising strategies that had the greatest impact we have those of the 80s and 90s that emulated the ads of Chivas Reagal and Rolls Royce or showed Juan Valdez traveling on cruises, ice skating, surfing or simply visiting European castles where he offered a cup of coffee in the best Colombian style. Possibly the best appearance of Carlos Sanchez as Juan Valdez, was in the movie Bruce Almighty, back in 2003. In the scene, the protagonist Bruce Nolan, played by Jim Carrey, wanted a cup of coffee that was kindly delivered by Juan Valdez himself through a little white window. Because of the cameo, 14 million dollars were allocated to finance campaigns that would take Juan Valdez and Conchita, his mule, to the most prestigious magazines of the time: People and Rolling Stone.
On June 29, 2006, the current Juan Valdez was introduced to the public: Carlos Castañeda Ceballos, a Colombian coffee grower from the municipality of Andes (Antioquia). So far, Castañeda has been able to honor the legacy of his predecessors by taking advantage of his charisma and resemblance to José Duval and Carlos Sánchez. He has also been present in the hundreds of Juan Valdez stores that were opened in 2002 in connection with the internationalization of the brand. He has shared spaces with intellectuals, politicians and artists such as Bill Clinton, has exchanged greetings with James Gandolfini, star of the famous series The Sopranos, and has walked the red carpet of the Emmy Awards.
Mauricio Reina, author of the book Juan Valdez, the strategy behind the brand, wonders why Juan Valdez is so successful. His answer is relatively simple. First, the originality of the visual proposal is anchored in geometry and consumer-friendly shapes. Second, a clear and precise language. And third, a marketing strategy that takes into account Colombian and Antioquian values.
Castiblanco understands the brand's success from another point of view. In his view, Juan Valdez achieved prestige as a result of organized planning, in-depth market research and a professional investigation of coffee consumer trends. And from the National Federation of Coffee Growers' point of view, the power of Juan Valdez comes from its icon, which was recently recognized as the most important advertising icon in the United States at Advertising Week in New York.
What position do we take in the face of this barrage of theories? In our opinion, we are left with each of those interpretations that affirm that the fame of Juan Valdez lies in the quality of the coffee it offers, in the experiences it provides to the buyer and in its multiple appearances on the small screen during programs like The Ellen Show and The Simpsons, or in the controversies it has been involved in since its birth. A very delicate controversy was the litigation against the Costa Rican coffee chain Café Britt, in 2006. The cause of the misunderstanding was a message that read: "Juan Valdez drinks Costa Rican coffee". The National Federation of Coffee Growers filed a $1 billion lawsuit against Café Britt alleging defamation. The charges were unsuccessful, but Juan Valdez proved its reputation and value in the marketplace.
In the future, we are sure that the Juan Valdez brand and character will continue to bring Colombian coffee to the world through ingenious campaigns, products and services. The most optimistic ones speak of an incursion of technology which point of sales deliver cold beverages (Nevados Juan Valdez, Tinto Frío Juan Valdez, Espresso Frío Juan Valdez, Mocca Frío Juan Valdez, Latte Frío Juan Valdez, Chai Frío Juan Valdez or Fruppés and natural juices Juan Valdez), hot beverages (Americano Juan Valdez, Tinto Juan Valdez, Pod Juan Valdez and Espresso Juan Valdez), coffee-based pastries (Mantecada Juan Valdez, Brownie Juan Valdez, Rollo de Canela Juan Valdez and Tortas Juan Valdez) or the Juan Valdez articles (clothing, pens, notebooks, notepads or all kinds of souvenirs). Others argue that FNC will revolutionize the way we consume and enjoy the bean. Keep visiting Colombian Coffee to learn more about coffee, the distinctive brands in the industry, and to buy our products, all just a clip away. And remember: when you see the Juan Valdez symbol or ours, you can be sure you're getting the best and purest Colombian coffee.