2022 EFMD Case Writing Competition Winners Interview Series: Latin American Business Cases

Latin American

EFMD encourages and rewards innovative and impactful cases in management development each year. This year again brought an exceptional variety of winning cases across various industries. We interviewed the winners to find out more about their motivation, inspiration and significant challenges. The following interview is with Nicolas Kervyn of Louvain School of Management, one of the winning authors of the “Latin American Business Cases” category.

Mazatlán: The Destination That Did Not Like Its Brand

What was the inspiration for your case?

In 2012, Pr. R. Gomez Zuñiga (Universidad Autónoma de Baja California) created a choreography entitled “I Love Buchomp”. This choreography focused on the lives of women involved with Mexican drug cartels. It tackled issues of drugs, violence, gender roles, sexual objectification but also music, religion, dance and clothing.  This sparked my interest in Narcoculture in Mexico. The present case study is my third paper on the subject of Narcoculture and Marketing (Kervyn et al. 2019; Castillo-Villar et al., 2020).
Kervyn, N., Cavazos, J., Castillo, F. & Gomez, R. (2019). What to do when your brand is kidnapped by Narcos? The case of Buchanan’s whisky. Emerald Emerging Markets Case Studies, 9 (3), 1-18.
FR Castillo-Villar, J Cavazos-Arroyo & N Kervyn (2020). Music subculture as a source of conspicuous consumption practices: a qualitative content analysis of “altered movement” songs and music videos, Journal of Consumer Marketing, 37/4, 353-363.

What were the major challenges in designing the case?

There are some security concerns when travelling in Sinaloa. Thankfully, both in Culiacán and Mazatlán, I was welcomed by fellow academics from the Universidad Autónoma de Sinaloa and Universidad Autónoma de Occidente, who gave me valuable advice and took me to visit the less safe points of interest such as the narcomausoleums of the cemetery of Culiacan.

What would you like to highlight from your case?

The war on drugs is almost exclusively portrayed from a USA-centric, law enforcement point of view. In our approach, beyond the specifics of the case, we offer an underrepresented Mexican perspective on the US-led war on drugs and its consequences.

How do you believe your findings could impact Latin American society and business in the future?

We hope that it will encourage students to develop a more nuanced approach to the issues related to drug prohibition as well as Mexico-USA relations.

Delve into a wealth of valuable insights within the remaining Case Writing Competition interviews.

The Sponsor’s Commentary

The category “Latin American Business Cases” is kindly sponsored by Universidad Externado de Colombia. EFMD greatly values the sponsorship, the expertise and the effort of the sponsor to contribute to the Case Writing Competition.

Liliana Lopez Jimenez from Universidad Externado de Colombia and Carlos Restrepo, Research Leader at Universidad Externado de Colombia School of Management share more information about sponsoring the category.

In the current global context, why is it important to promote case writing on Latin American Business Cases?

Liliana: The globalization of business has made us very aware of how local differences matter. People and businesses from all regions across the globe have their own distinctive features based on legal frameworks, geography, languages, religious beliefs, ethnicity, and history, just to name some of the most salient sources of differences.

Many years ago, I read an essay by a Western professor who was inviting fellow university professors to be mindful of cultural differences; he went on to make the point of how “Western culture” was different from “other cultures”. To me, the big point he was missing was that the two terms being contrasted encapsulated so much variation within themselves that the categories could not hold well and be relevant.

Latin America is a very diverse region with some common salient characteristics and some others that vary widely across countries. We don´t speak a single language, we are spread across the Americas, and some historical patterns differ from one country to another. That is one of the strongest reasons why we need more cases from our region: because a limited number of cases is unlikely to properly cover the diversity of the region and what it is like to do business here; the more cases we have, ideally from all the countries in the region, the better the chances for instructors from Latin America – or otherwise interested in portraying the region – to find truly relevant cases for their classes.

Carlos: The current dynamics of global markets show Latin America as a region with great potential to produce competitive goods and services beyond the traditional extractive sectors based on raw materials and natural resources. In this sense, manager training processes demand that management schools have pedagogical resources and teaching materials that illustrate how sustainable business models can be built, taking companies from the region as a starting point.

On the other hand, business environments in Latin America present very particular characteristics of resources, infrastructure and institutional contexts that favour or limit the development of competitive advantages. In this sense, understanding the competitive dynamics in these environments is very different from what other regions show, even for other emerging countries. For this reason, it is necessary to have cases that address the particularities Latin America offers and that pose new challenges and opportunities for investors and policymakers.

What are the reasons Universidad Externado de Colombia encourages case writing in this category?

Liliana: We at Universidad Externado want to encourage case authors to write and publish more cases about Latin America; only about 11% of all cases found in the Harvard Business Publishing repository come from here.

We also want schools from the region to recognize that cases are an important type of intellectual contribution that our faculty should include in their portfolios. We understand the importance of other types of contributions, especially peer-reviewed journal articles, but we still need to address the specific needs of our own context in a very focused manner.

Faculty at our schools are primarily teaching students that are (or will be) creating or working for companies located in the region, and we need better materials to do just that. To be sure, there are large multinational companies that are important to study and quite interesting to our students, but a good local case brings home the message in a much more powerful way.

Carlos: For over 20 years, the School of Management of the Externado de Colombia University has promoted teaching and case writing in Colombia and the region. In this sense, the School is committed to the case method as a teaching and research strategy.

At the same time, our faculty members identified the need for pedagogical resources that speak about our companies’ realities. Therefore, when EFMD opened this category within the Case Writing Competition, we considered it an excellent opportunity to promote case writing and generate materials relevant to our context. Therefore, support for this category is the result of our conviction that through the case method, we will be able to contribute to better management training in the region, to the design of more effective public business development policies and, naturally, to the transformation of management practices in companies so that companies in the region become globally competitive.

What would you like to highlight from the winning case?

Liliana: Universidad Externado is located in Colombia, a Latin American country that has been heavily hit by drug trafficking and the military war on drugs. These two intertwined phenomena have so many repercussions for local economies and societies, and that is a story that most people from other places do not know and cannot understand.

This case tells this story from a very well-informed local, yet globally relevant perspective: the effects of narcotrafficking and dark tourism for the city of Mazatlán, in Mexico, where Joaquin Guzman Loera (known as “El Chapo”) was arrested. I am sure that students from cities such as Medellin here in Colombia, or Guayaquil in Ecuador, can relate to this story and the dark legacy that comes with it.

Yet, the case does not stop at telling a sad story. In fact, it poses a challenging business problem to students: as a marketing professional, how do you manage factors outside the control of your brand? Do you take advantage of the popularity of the city as a destination for narco-traffic-related tourism, or do you try to help rebrand the city in a more positive way?

About Sponsorship

EFMD Case Writing Competition is proud to have dedicated sponsors who drive management education towards impactful teaching and learning. Sponsoring a category allows you to showcase your institution’s expertise in the specific field of management education in the wide EFMD network. The choice of category, its exact definition and any specific conditions are the privileges of the sponsor. Sponsorships for the following categories are currently available – Bringing Technology to Market, Continuous Improvement: the Journey to Excellence, Corporate Social Responsibility, Responsible Business, MENA Business Cases, Responsible Leadership, and Women in Business. If you are interested in sponsoring the mentioned categories or launching a new category relevant to case writing and teaching, please check out our category sponsorship opportunities page or contact Hansol Park at .

More information about the 2022 EFMD Case Writing Competition can be found on the EFMD Case Writing Competition page. Please visit The Case Centre’s webpage to access the collection of the winning cases. See other interviews from this series.