Jerry Clode
Aug 13, 2012

OPINION: Brazil provides branding role models for China, India

Brands from Brazil are capturing global attention and allegiance, while their Asian counterparts among the 'BRIC' countries, China and India lag behind, writes Jerry Clode, who leads cultural insight in Asia-Pacific for brand-development consultancy Added Value.

Jerry Clode
Jerry Clode

The acronym BRIC captures the new wave of economic dynamism and consumerism in Brazil, Russia, India and China. However in terms of leveraging success to create international brands—the acronym is probably best pronounced with a strong B, weak R, and almost silent I and C.

While Brazil’s brands are capturing international attention and allegiance, China and India’s attempts have largely been have incoherent, awkward and exhibitied an unhelpful level of self righteousness.

Examples of the momentum Brazil has gained in creating international brands from domestic success include newcomer FB Collection and determined achiever Natura Cosméticos.

FB Collection is a lifestyle range based around the Brazilian beach bat game of Frescobol. At the heart of FB Collections’s increasing global appeal is a very honest and genuine expression of Brazilian beach style, or more specifically the vibrant Carioca culture of Rio de Janeiro. Not an expression of sport prowess imbued with Olympic formalism, the focus is on the innocence and spontaneity of a sport Carocans invented and enjoyed as children.

To express their local roots, FB Collection has recently worked with local artist Caio Locke, whose work focuses on capturing Rio’s unique topography and the diverse cultural heritage expressed in the city’s carnival parades. Prints of Locke’s fantastical paintings have profused the vibrancy of Copacabana onto a new line of FB Collections luxury beach trunks (right).

Conscious of the increasing power of Brazil-liness, the lifestyle brand has also collaborated across luxury categories and with local celebrities. FB Collection has teamed up with specialist Brazilian luxury travel agency Dehouche to offer tailored itineraries to their customers. Iconic local celebrities such as stage and soap opera legend Sylvia Bandeira have become an intimate part of the brand’s core message emphasizing Brazilian’s buoyant and endearing attitude to life.

Also building success on compelling Brazilian attributes is cosmetic giant Natura Cosméticos. A decade before Unilever’s influential “Real Beauty” campaign, Natura built its reputation with its “Truly Beautiful Woman” campaign, which communicated beauty as an expression of positive self-esteem, rather than anxiety.

Identified as one of the world’s most sustainable companies, Natura’s commitment to ethical and environmental principles is symbolized by the brand’s Ekos cosmetic line created from raw materials gathered through sustainable methods from the Brazilian rain forest. In this way Natura takes the stigma of global environmental crisis, and becomes an active proponent for resolution, reflecting a powerful consumer movement within their native Brazil.

Not obsessed with winning in mature markets, Nature has localized their community-based strategy to entrench the brand in resurgent, and cosmetic-hungry markets of the Americas – particularly Chile, Argentina and Mexico – where their non-retail spaces Casa Naturas, a place where consumers trial and share knowledge on products, are hugely popular. 

Natura is proving an independent and refreshing narrative in the global cosmetic market where major concerns have recently swallowed up many smaller brands—L’Oréal bought Britain’s Body Shop in 2006, Japanese direct seller Pola Orbis purchasing Australia’s Jurlique in 2011.

While Brazilian brands are enjoying a degree of global attention due to the upcoming World Cup 2014 and the Rio Olympics in four years, there are more fundamental reasons underlying their success in creating international brands.

First, a confidence to create brand narratives that genuinely focus and communicate Brazil’s human and natural energies – consciously avoiding or creatively re-presenting tired stereotypes.  Secondly, a scrutinizing and outwardly focused elite consumers that provide brands with a tough litmus test locally before considering international extension.

Closer to home

Looking at our two Asian BRICs, China and India, we see increasingly discerning and globally literate middle class consumers who are placing increasing expectations on local brands. But a concomitant confidence to tell local brand stories that move beyond quixotic foreign stereotypes seems largely absent.

The richness of both nations’ culture should be heaven sent for creating globally appealing brand propositions. India’s spiritual richness, China’s colourful history, the unique regional diversity of both nations provides an enviable palette to engage global consumers.

However Chinese and Indian brands seem bound by a rationale that they must always project a recognized and accepted part of the nation’s culture, rather than exposing refreshing, challenging and creative perspectives. This lack of confidence and imagination leads directly to a corresponding inability of brands to differentiate and premiumize in an international context.

This conservatism, or proverbial “chip on the shoulder”, can be seen by the sensitivity shown in China to the re-imagining of the martial arts tradition in Kungfu Panda, and more recently by Oprah Winfrey’s comments about “still eating with hands” in India.

A more confident and reassured cultural perspective will allow Chinese and Indian brands to take a less rarified tone-of-voice when presenting narratives to global consumers. Rather than cultural torchbearers, brand creators in these Asian giants must expose new perspectives on the cultural equity they hope to derive value.   

In this way we will see brands that communicate and expose the unknown character of these mega-nations—such as the cultural impetuousness of Chongqing city in West China, or the decaying beauty of Calcutta. Not “postcards” of a utopian future, but culture that feels more raw and unmediated to excite global consumers, cutting through their current expectations.

Brazil’s discussion with the world through an increasing number of international brands is reflecting a cultural confidence to tell its own story. China and India need to stop sermonizing their national culture through brand creation, and start inspiring—otherwise there is no room for them in this important and valuable global conversation.