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June 2, 2006

Juanted: Coffee Brand Icon. Must Love Donkeys.

Juan ValdezI was saddened to read that Juan Valdez is retiring after 37 years as the brand name icon for Columbian Coffee.

The actor who plays Valdez, Carlos Sanchez, claims that his role as the gentle coffee grower has led Columbians to see him “.”

Sanchez is only the second actor to play the role of Valdez. The first was, ironically, a Cuban man named Jose Duval. The powers that be are looking for a man who can sport a moustache, look good in a poncho and is not afraid of donkeys. Tea drinkers need not apply, I suppose.

Juan ValdezValdez and his donkey (named Conchita) are the main branding symbols of the $10 million annual advertising campaign of the Columbian Coffee Federation. A couple of years ago, the Federation launched a chain of coffee shops under the Valdez brand name designed to compete with the much trendier but less authentic Starbucks.

Cafe de ColumbiaGabriel Silva, the president of the Federation, says this about Valdez as a product naming legend: "Think about it this way: In the U.S., companies invest millions of dollars to hire celebrities to represent their brands with no connection with a product. Here it's the contrary. We have a modest coffee grower who is a world celebrity." I have to admit, that’s not bad...except for the fact that Sanchez, a former printer, never grew a bean in his life.

At least one will be glad to see this incarnation of Valdez go, as for many Latinos in the USA, he represents a stereotyped image of Columbians. I’m not sure I agree: the Juan Valdez brand stands for good coffee, not Latino culture.

Adios, amigo.

The Aldo Coffee Company that Conchita, Sanchez's faithful mule, could not be reached for comment. Also check out the blog for additional commentary on this news story.

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Posted by William Lozito at June 2, 2006 11:45 AM
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