The following is a guest post by Brazil-based marketing executive Antonio Pedro Alves:
Brazil is a tropical country, so we often say a foreigner who has adapted to our climate, culture and way of living is “tropicalized.” The same can be said for multinational companies and their brands.
As a native of Brazil, I’ve watched numerous multinational firms arrive in Latin America and make lots of mistakes—often losing considerable amounts of time and money, occasionally having to completely shut down operations.
Take Avon, for instance. Despite being in Brazil and Latin America for a long time, Avon still makes cultural mistakes. Fragrances are a huge category loved by Brazilian consumers—so why would the brand launch a “cemetery scent” fragrance? Well, weird or not, that’s how a white flower scent—made up of lilies, chrysanthemums and other flowers—felt for Brazilians. Avon ignored this fact and launched several white flower fragrances in Brazil anyway, only having to eventually back off and remove them from the sales floor.
KFC’s famous chicken was a flop in Brazil because the brand failed to understand and study the market accordingly. The US fast food chain assumed consumers would accept their product with no restrictions. Brazilians, however, don’t like eating greasy foods—especially not with their bare hands. And chicken is often seen as part of an entire meal that would require rice or another side dish. Thus, serving greasy chicken alone in a bucket was not a successful venture.
Walmart’s arrival in Brazil was also problematic. The brand’s product mix was not aimed at typical local consumers. Walmart offered golf bags, fishing accessories and gardening supplies in one of the main store sections. However, the giant US retailer didn’t realize that Brazilians are not particularly interested in golfing, sport fishing or gardening. The results were disappointing and Walmart lost its way for several years, until it finally adapted its supercenters to the Brazilian environment.
To thrive in Brazil, companies must understand how to sell “tropicalized” products and services that make sense in the local environment.
Antonio Pedro Alves is a marketing executive in São Paulo, Brazil, and has worked with multinational businesses including Newell Rubbermaid, Avon, Reckitt Benckiser and Walmart.