Brand building through storytelling

A temple of books in Buenos Aires

Some say that Buenos Aires is the world capital of tango, and no wonder, with dancers strutting their stuff on throbbing downtown corners. Others say it´s the city of soccer. Why not? T-shirts bear slogans like ¨Futbol es vida¨ (soccer is life), brawls erupt over insults to a team and crazed fans start carousing on the way to the stadium, honking horns and pumping their fists out car windows and generally making fools of themselves, as if their heroes had already won.

And of course Buenos Aires is where women go to be lifted, tucked and buffed for a fraction of what they´d have to pay back home. The quest for surgically bestowed perfection is so accepted here that one clinic, in an ad I saw just the other day, is running a makeover on Rubens´ iconic Three Graces. As painted by the master, the Graces glory in their lush, dimpled pink fleshiness. As retouched by the guardians of surgically bestowed perfection, they´ve all had liposuction and breast jobs. Yes, really.

Okay, let’s get to the point. Here´s a secret you probably don´t know about Buenos Aires unless you´ve gone exploring there. It´s a city of passionate readers. While newspapers in North America are losing readers to the Internet and laying off staff, Buenos Aires supports no fewer than 11 papers, one for every stripe on the political spectrum. To fit in with the intellectual-looking patrons of a Buenos Aires cafe, you need not only a coffee but a well-thumbed newspaper and an expression of intense engagement, as if you´re itching to debate what you´ve just read.

The city´s bookstores reflect this devotion to the printed word. They´re all independent and none sell candles or greeting cards. On a busy shopping street, in the sort of prime spot that back home would house Pottery Barn, I found the most enchantingly majestic bookstore I´ve yet encountered–El Ateneo, a former movie palace where the first talkies played back in 1929. With baroque carvings, fluted columns and three circular tiers as densely packed with books as any university library, El Ateneo is a veritable shrine to reading. I particularly loved the old boxes, now turned into reading nooks, each one endearingly cluttered with books left behind by devotees of the word. I could have spent hours at El Ateneo but for one small catch. I know about 14 words of Spanish. What sweet frustration!


Posted by Rona

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