Breaking into Brazil

Brands wishing to conquer the Brazilian market need to connect with its 192 million population via the mobile internet – plus sprinkle a strong local flavour into their marketing communications.

Brazil carnival

Brazil has overtaken the UK to become the world’s sixth largest economy in the last couple of months, drawing the eyes of British marketers towards Latin America. With a rapidly expanding middle class of about 90 million consumers, it is a market that no brand can afford to ignore.

Brazil’s economy grew by 7.5% in 2010 and although that slowed to 3.5% last year, it is in sharp contrast to predictions that the Eurozone economy will shrink by up to 2% in 2012.

But it is not just the sheer number of potential customers that makes Brazil so attractive for British brands. The country is the fifth largest globally in terms of digital users, with around 91 million people online, according to Forrester research. This gives marketers the opportunity to reach consumers through cost-effective digital marketing, products and services.

Olga Martinez Garcia, Diageo’s marketing and innovation director for Latin America, agrees: “One of the special things about Brazil is that it is ‘leapfrogging’ trends. For example, people are jumping straight from not having used technology at all to having smartphones.

“As a marketer, you have to anticipate this adoption of technology and make sure you have the right content and tools available for your brand.”

A concerted push by the government to offer free Wi-Fi means that Brazilians are now the third highest users of the internet out of all nations, according to research by Ebiquity. The typical Brazilian also has 231 social network friends (whether on Facebook or the Google-owned Orkut) and brands that harness Brazilian sociability and mobile internet uptake will do particularly well in the country, argues Mobile Marketing Association Latin America managing director Marcio Chaer (see viewpoint, below).

The UK is well-placed to make the most of this, says Thomas Fabre, EMEA marketing director of Brazilian footwear brand Havaianas. “Brazil is growing very fast and, as a digital leader, the UK can bring a lot of added value to this market,” he adds (see Q&A, below).

Brazil has also fallen in love with YouTube and is sixth in the world based on video views, according to a study by EMarketer. This offers mainstream British and US brands a route into the market; companies such as Nissan, Burger King, Whirlpool and Visa have capitalised on this by launching new products with large budget video campaigns.

The viral hit of 2011 was Nissan’s Pôneis Malditos (Damn Ponies) campaign for its Frontier pick-up truck, which featured the driver opening his bonnet to find the engine space full of animated ponies.

Nissan Poneis

Return on investment on this social media push can be clearly seen in the spike in Frontier’s sales, claims Nissan Brasil marketing director Carlos Murilo Moreno. The number of vehicle registrations almost doubled to 1,488 units in August 2011, just after the launch of the campaign.

Social media also played a large part in the launch of Hearst-owned magazine Harper’s Bazaar in September, generating buzz among Brazil’s young and trendy fashion set through tweets from the editor before the launch.

The growth of middle class, fashion-conscious consumers in Brazil has led Hearst to expand further into the territory this year with the launch of Esquire and Home Beautiful.

Digital is a key strategy for these magazines in Brazil. Hearst Magazines International vice-president for business development for Latin America and Asia Pacific Patrick Brennan explains: “Double-digit growth is forecast for digital advertising spending between now and 2013, which is a huge opportunity for us. We’ve maintained our digital and social media presence so far, but we’re launching a Harper’s Bazaar website in the next few months to further build on that. We’re looking at the free web as a way of creating communities as well as taking people deeper into the content of the magazine.”

Even fashion brands hoping to gain traction in Brazil should look at how they can access the market through digital means. Harry Brantly, founder of luxury swimwear brand FB collection, which operates both in Brazil and Europe, argues that there is a gap in the Brazilian market for clothing brands to target the middle classes.

FB swimwear
Craft beer brand Brewdog is following luxury swimwear brand FB into Brazil

He explains: “There are lots of local brands that aren’t doing a particularly good job, and the likes of H&M and Gap aren’t particularly big in Brazil.” The two stores may have more success penetrating the market with a strong digital offering. H&M has already experimented in Europe with an augmented reality app and is very active on Twitter. It could use social media as a cost-effective way to reach consumers and establish demand before increasing its number of Brazilian outlets.

But although the digital expertise of UK marketers might bring a lot of value to the Brazilian market, as Havaianas’ Fabre suggests, it is essential that brands don’t assume the demand for western brands will be enough to make it big in Brazil without giving their offer a local flavour.

Association of Brazilian Advertisers executive vice-president Rafael Sampaio explains: “In the case of the Brazilian market, the brand has to be relevant to the life of the local consumer.

Brazilian flavour

“Brands that have tried to be successful with lots of hype but without having an adequate product or distribution, or without having a clearly defined reason for being here, have never worked well in Brazil. Global and international brands must acquire some ‘Brazilian flavour’ to work well here.”

Sponsorship of Brazilian events – with a digital element – is one relatively simple way of doing this, suggests Sampaio. YouTube’s Brazilian domain has sold sponsorships for live-streaming events such as Carnival in Salvador and Rock In Rio for the first time in 2011, allowing global brands such as Volkswagen, Garnier and Santander to access the marketing power of local events. With the FIFA World Cup coming to Brazil in 2014 and Rio de Janeiro hosting the 2016 Olympics this is an area that looks set to grow.

Some brands are also rethinking their products for the Brazilian market. Recent Unilever launches in the country have been tailored to the needs and tastes of local consumers, such as the new Fruttare Maracuja ice lolly, which switches conventional flavours for local favourites such as guava and passion fruit.

The marketing message must also fit Brazilian customers. Unilever Brasil vice-president for foods and refreshments Joao Campos says: “The power of the brands and of local innovation are key as new consumers enter the market.

“There are common themes that resonate well with Brazilians – family life, happiness, optimism, and pride at being from Brazil. Brazilians are natural optimists, and notoriously upbeat, and the way brands engage with them must reflect this.”

Diageo’s Martinez Garcia advises that marketers must also consider the difference between Brazil’s five distinct macro-regions. She says: “Understanding the diverse consumer base in Brazil is key. There are many distinct cultural profiles, to the extent that the best-selling brand of a category, say vodka, in one part of the country will be different to another.

“For example, to market a brand successfully in the north-east of Brazil you have to tie it to local and cultural events such as carnivals, dance events and local music. This is the same for taste profiles – products must be tied to local tastes and ingredients to be popular and adopted by the consumers.

“Similarly, when thinking about media in the north east you are going to want to look to the most influential local radio stations, whereas in São Paulo, which is a much more internationally influenced and cosmopolitan city, you have a variety of different media at your disposal and you can align your brand with more international music and products,” says Martinez Garcia.

Harper's Bazaar Brazil
Harper’s Bazaar, which recently launched in Brazil, is capturing the spirit embodied by footwear brand Havaianas

The marketing message of Diageo’s best known brand in Brazil, Johnnie Walker, is tailored to these different regions – in one place tapping into pride in family and local heritage, in another presenting the brand as a symbol of individual success (see case study, below).

‘Brazilianess’ is not just important to marketing messages, but also business strategy. Many brands such as Burberry, Apple and, from 2014, Nissan have a manufacturing base in Brazil, in part to avoid the country’s phenomenal import tax. But even if brands choose not to go down this route, it is essential to absorb Brazilian staff into your outfit.

UK Trade & Investment director for Brazil John Doddrell advises: “Collaboration with people with local knowledge is absolutely critical for getting established here. Just to come in and think that a British model will automatically work in the same way is naive. The best way to come here is to get to know the market, and often go into partnership with local companies or at least to get advisers on board, who can help steer through some of the pitfalls and address the issues in the most sensible manner.”

Luxury car brand Bentley employed this strategy when it launched in Brazil in 2010, with its headquarters in São Paulo operated by a board of Brazilians. Kim Airey, director of operations for Bentley in The Americas, says: “We were looking to leverage partnerships that capitalise on the expertise of knowing our brand and using local partners to find about the channels they want to use to reach our audience with the values we want to communicate.”

With the amount of time needed to build lasting relationships and thoroughly investigate the market, Brazil shouldn’t be thought of as a region in which to make a quick buck. But with an appetite for British brands, upward social mobility and access to digital media, Brazil is a country that should be on every marketer’s radar.

Brazil – the issues UK marketers need to know about

Import tax

Brazil is a protectionist country. Many brands get round this by manufacturing in Brazil or partnering with local companies, but this takes time, research and investment, especially as manufacturing laws are complicated and the minimum wage is high.

Long-term commitment

Launching in Brazil often requires a long-term commitment, as business is very much based on relationships.

Difficulties for small brands

Economic issues and a preference for well-known brands may make it difficult for small businesses wanting to set up in Brazil. Brewdog co-founder James Watt, who is in the process of taking the craft ale business to Brazil, explains: “Import taxes will always be a challenge. We have grown 280% since starting in 2007, and retailing outside of the UK still works out very lucrative for us. Brazil is a very obvious contender minus the taxes and manufacturing laws.”


Brazil is a Portuguese-speaking country and marketers shouldn’t think that English will see them through in all their business meetings. UK Trade & Investment director for Brazil John Doddrell warns: “You will almost certainly come up against business colleagues, often very highly educated contacts, that don’t speak English.”

Conservative media market

All media buying in Brazil is done by creative agencies. The country’s largest media owner is Globo, which controls around 75% of ad spend in Brazil, according to an Ebiquity report. Outdoor advertising has also been illegal in São Paulo since 2007, which is another reason that many marketers opt for digital campaigns.

Brazil facts

GDP $2.5trn (£1.6trn) in 2011,compared with $2.09trn (£1.3trn) in 2010, according to CEBR

Growth 3.5% in 2011, compared with 7.5% in 2010, according to government figures

TV Accounts for two-thirds of Brazilian ad spend

Online advertising spend Accounts for 10% of Brazil’s $3.1bn total advertising market. Of this, 50% goes on search and 50% on display, according to the Interactive Internet Bureau.

Top brands in Brazil

(millions of users)

Coca-Cola (38.7)
Colgate (37.6)
Omo laundry brand (33.2)
Veja magazine (32.2)
Moça condensed milk (31.2)
Hellman’s (31.1)
Ypê FMCG brand (30.2)
Bombril FMCG brand (26.9)
Knorr (26.7)
Nissin noodle brand (26.3)

Of the above brands, only Ypê and Bombril are Brazilian-owned. Source: TGI Brazil

Case study: Johnnie Walker

Johnnie Walker is probably the best known Diageo brand in Brazil. The company has a global brand platform that it uses for all campaigns in all markets called Keep Walking but the key to implementing it in Brazil was bringing out the local relevance.

When Diageo launched the new Johnnie Walker campaign in October 2011, it tapped into the current feeling of opportunity and growth in the country by using the global strapline to personal effect – Keep Walking Brazil. Further blending the global campaign platform with a local flavour, Diageo picked an idea that tapped into both the geography and aspirational mood of the country. In the TV, print and digital advertising, Sugarloaf Mountain in Rio was depicted as a giant who was waking up and walking into the sea.

Johnnie Walker brazil

Diageo Latin America marketing director Olga Martinez Garcia says: “It was if Brazil itself was awakening and filled with momentum. This concept connects with Brazilian consumers as it is based on a Brazilian legend that also tells the story of a sleeping giant.

“As a brand, you will have to understand and become part of the local culture and blend this with your marketing. When we have implemented Johnnie Walker campaigns in the past we have had to be very careful about tailoring the overall messages of progress to the different regions – in one place this means pride in family and local heritage, in another it is more about individual success.”

However, not all Diageo campaigns are on such a large scale. When promoting its Smirnoff Nightlife Exchange Project, the company used the social dynamics of Brazilian culture to its advantage and focused on Facebook to drive home its message. Martinez Garcia explains: “The average number of friends of a Brazilian user on Facebook is so much higher than the global average, reflecting the social nature of the culture.

“This was therefore a very powerful network for us in Brazil to create a large fan base of over 1 million people and being able to leverage the event as part of our conversation with them. Understanding the dynamics of the social element was critical for us.”

Q&A:Thomas Fabre

EMEA Marketing director, Havaianas

Marketing Week (MW): Why should UK-based brands be interested in Brazil?

Thomas Fabre (TF): The size of the country and population alongside a growing medium-income class is creating strong growth of consumption.

MW: Which UK skills and industries would be particularly transferable to Brazil?

TF: Both countries have a fantastic sense of humour and even if it is very different could become an amazing combination. When Havaianas paid tribute to Royal Ascot by creating stylish hats, British people really welcomed it.

Even if Brazil has fantastic fashion designers, the British style is unique and so elegant, so that is a good selling point in Brazil. From a marketing perspective, the UK’s digital skills would transfer well to Brazil.

MW: What are the pitfalls that marketers should be aware of when launching their brand in Brazil?

TF: The size of the country, language barriers, cultural differences, pricing complexity due to the uncertain inflation rates, distribution complexity, inverse seasonality compared with Europe and protective barriers.

MW: How is your brand activity different in Brazil to the rest of the world?

TF: Brazilian strategy is bottom-up and European strategy is top-down. Our brand awareness in Brazil is 100%. Most of our marketing is focused on new product stories using mainly TV and press campaigns. We also use out-of-home or brand consumer experiences and events, such as make your own Havaianas, to connect with consumers in a more friendly and warm environment.

In Europe, the brand is younger and has started from the top of the consumer pyramid at the end of the 1990s. Havaianas is creating a lot of storytelling highlighting the emotional part of the brand thanks to the Brazilian spirit. This Brazilian spirit is a direct link to what every European consumer loves about Brazil – vibrant colours, joy, fun, positivism, simplicity and sense of humour.

MW: How will major sporting events like the FIFA World Cup in 2014 and the 2016 Olympic Games influence your brand activity?

TF: Havaianas is not directly linked to sports, but it is linked to the Brazilian spirit. We will be looking to jump on the opportunity that Brazil has with its spirit in the spotlight of the whole world. It will allow us to connect our brand DNA in a strong and more impactful way with the world.

Viewpoint: Marcio Chaer

Managing director, Mobile Marketing Association Latin America

“Since a new middle class consumer segment of Brazilian society emerged (called the C class), it has become a new market for brands. But marketers need to invest in the development of new products and different ways of communication and advertisement to get to those consumers. Communication through mobile, smartphones and tablets is essential to engaging and building relationships with this audience.

Mobile communication should be an integral part of a brand’s marketing mix, especially if the brand’s goal is to talk to the new emerging class. Smartphones and tablets are no longer unreachable for the C class. According to research conducted by Brazilian publisher Editora Abril, 25% of C class consumers plan to purchase a smartphone in the next 12 months, and 27% plan to buy tablets.

The C class consumes the largest amount of mobile content, games and videos. With the ease of access and the low prices, many are making mobile devices their first screen. They don’t have computers at home or laptops, but connect with brands online and engage with social media through their handsets.

Although Brazil might lag behind in terms of harnessing mobile for relationship marketing, the demand is there and brands are beginning to wake up to the possibilities.

Banks in Brazil, for example, are investing in mobile technology for transactions.

It is hard to imagine that mobile is still not being considered as part of the marketing mix by companies or media planning agencies. We have users consuming more mobile, but brands’ knowledge about how to put together mobile strategy and explore all of its possibilities does not fit actual consumer behaviour. Mobile marketing is going to explode when this gap closes.”