Rogelio Manuel Díaz Moreno
HAVANA TIMES — The sale of Labiofam perfumes with names alluding to Che Guevara and Hugo Chavez caused the stir that was to be expected. The Cuban company launched these new products at the fair it recently organized. The night following the news, Cubans, for the most part unaware of the marketing strategy, saw a 180-degree turn to the situation.
An anchor for Cuba’s evening news read the official communiqué, which summarized the verdict with the sentence: “these symbols are sacred.” This way, we were informed that the authorities had decided that the marketing of such brands was unacceptable. Using the images of the comandantes in question as a commercial brand was labeled a serious affront on ethics, principles and everything else and the production and sale of the products was suspended.
The situation, the official communiqué added, will be reviewed in depth with those responsible, particularly the management of Labiofam. It also denied rumors that the relatives of the figures alluded to by the brands had given any kind of approval for this commercial maneuver.
As a rather impertinent observer, I suspected from the start that Labiofam’s heretic idea was going to tick many people off. Even though Cuban society is heading down the road of vulgar capitalism with resolve, we still haven’t gotten that far.
The ideology of the dying system still has considerable weight, or, at least, the nomenklatura still has to express a degree of moral outrage to retain its legitimacy. One thing is certain: it is just a matter of time. In 10 years’ time, the executives of Labiofam, today awaiting execution, will be regarded as marketers ahead of their time.
After all, Cuba’s market reforms continue to make progress. Che Guevara has long been commercialized in the “bazaars of socialist art” – not only on T-shirts, caps and posters, but also paper-weights, pens and many other trinkets. It doesn’t seem like the other Labiofam brands which also allude to important historical figures (Celia and Alejandro) will be changed in the least.
For now, Labiofam will be chastised for besmirching a symbol of the Cuban revolution (and perhaps a bit more than that) with these bold products. Other Labiofam enterprises which are as unethical as (or worse than) this one will, however, continue in full swing.
I am of course referring to what I consider to be a scam: their homeopathic products, which have been scientifically discredited, but which continue to enjoy excellent sales among people who are seriously ill. Playing with people’s health, exposing them to life-threatening risks, blatantly trampling on internationally respected clinical and therapeutic protocols which Cuba claims to acknowledge, does not seem such a serious offense to our authorities.