Posts by Ken Fujioka - BrazilPage 2 of 2

Save-o-meter helps Fiat assert price worthiness

In tough times, brands customarily use “savings” and “economical” as the theme for their messaging. This is common practice in the Brazilian auto market, where roughly seven in 10 vehicles sold are so-called “affordable cars” (the industry’s basic models). But with so many automakers talking about savings, a brand needs to really walk the talk to stand out.

Fiat is doing something along these lines with a new feature for its “affordable” models. The “econometro” (roughly, the “save-o-meter”) is a dashboard gauge that shows people whether they’re driving at premium fuel efficiency, based on rotation speed and gears used. At a time when brands are being forced to assert their price-worthiness, this simple feature gives car customers one more reason to choose Fiat. 
—with contribution by Luiz Mastropietro.

Is it all in the head of the rich man?

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“The rich talk about the crisis, but the poor don’t even mention it,” says São Paulo native Maria Irece da Silva, born and raised in the Jardim Carumbé slum district. Maria Irece, recently featured in a TIME story on how business is booming in Brazil’s shantytowns, owns a beauty products store in the slum where she lives. Despite the crisis and the conditions of her community, her small business keeps growing, bringing in about US$200 a day. And she expects things to keep getting better, as she believes beauty products are basic-need items for Brazilian women.

Where does this optimism come from? A developing nation, Brazil has been through its fair share of economic crises, most notably the disastrous hyperinflation of the late 1980s. So while the current recession is a major concern, Brazilians are able to keep the faith—especially because they’re still better off than they were not too long ago. And low-income Brazilians believe that weaker buying power is something manageable. Marketing communications should acknowledge this optimistic resilience.

For Maria Irece, as long as people can buy the basics—her products included—the global crisis for those at the base of Brazil’s social pyramid will continue to be “all in the head of the rich man.” –with the contribution of Paulo Macari.

Brazilian retailer adopts purchase insurance

The strategy of insuring wary customers against unemployment has arrived in Brazil. Ponto Frio, one of the country’s largest retailers, has announced on national television a promise to “end the fear of buying” with its “Guaranteed Settle Insurance”: If customers lose their job, it will pay off all remaining monthly installments for items that cost at least 70 Reals (approximately $30). The offer applies to all purchases (TVs are highlighted in the ad).

Is there such a thing as a free lunch? Not really. But the initiative has not been perceived as exploitative. Brazilians are burdened with among the world’s highest interest rates, and they seem to be willing to accept a small additional cost—albeit one that’s not exactly presented in a transparent fashion—in order to have greater peace of mind.

The ad ends with one of the salesmen noting that “The crisis is for the others” in a tone somewhere between sarcastic and optimistic. Is it really? with the contribution of Joao Gabriel Fernandes.

Does it pay to address an issue head on?

Crisis is a veritable communication taboo in Brazil. As such, few brands have explicitly adopted the economic crisis as a theme for ad campaigns.

In January, however, Wal-Mart in Brazil decided to break the silence and aired a TV spot that said, “More than ever, this is the time to pay less and buy smarter” (read: “In times of crisis, you are better off shopping here”). One can’t help asking: Does this kind of message come across as honest—or opportunistic? What do you make of it? —with the contribution of Felipe Senise

Fun and crisis as Carnival kicks off

3228025691_971048a791_bStarting today until Ash Wednesday next week, Brazil will be commemorating its most traditional holiday: Carnival, the pagan celebration that has become one of its cultural icons. This five-day recess, however, does not mean that the crisis will cease to be on the minds of Brazilians. Actually, as they live in a developing country and have been through several economic crises over the last decades, Brazilians tend to believe that this is not the first, nor is it the last crisis they’ll face—so sit back and relax and make fun of everything, even the crisis. Well, until next Wednesday, that is. —with the contribution of Paulo Macari

Darwin and the crisis

origin-of-the-species2009 marks 200 years since the birth of Charles Darwin and the 150th anniversary of his seminal work, “On the Origin of Species.” In general terms, Darwin observed that adaptation to environmental conditions was a key factor in evolution; the fittest of the species survived, passing their traits onto the next generation. However, a natural catastrophe can accelerate this process—one of many theories explaining the fast evolution of mammals.

2009 also marks an unprecedented crisis in the global financial market. This catastrophe has already caused the extinction of a number of financial institutions and is killing off some century-old companies. However, that which causes death can also enable others to evolve. In times of crisis, therefore, one should not hope for the proverbial calm after the storm—holding on to things as we’ve always known them is the fastest way to extinction. Brands must understand the deeper changes under way in their industries, in their environment and in their relationships with people so that they can adapt to change and evolve. —with contributions from Paulo Macari

A lesson from Brazil’s largest advertiser

Casas Bahia, Brazil’s largest retailer and advertiser, built its empire on a business model that provides credit to low-end consumers. In other words, the company’s base has always been those who cannot rely on financial stability. Indeed, the only certainty these consumers can count on is the inevitable monthly payments; that’s how they’ve been able to acquire their fridges, stoves, furniture, TV sets … all bought in installments over many months.

And how did Casas Bahia talk these consumers into signing up for such long payment plans? One key factor has been to make clear that the company is open to negotiating the payment plan and doing all it can to ensure the monthly installment fits household budgets—no matter that they charge extremely high interest rates. In one campaign, they actually asked consumers, “How much are you willing to pay?” in an attempt to provide the comfort that comes from being able to choose the most suitable payment plan.

This is the moment for brands to provide consumers with choices (payment plans, different sizes, etc.), making them feel they have some control. What is your brand doing about that? —with contributions from Guega Rocha