Boom, don’t bust in Brazil

24 Oct 2012|Added Value

Brazil is booming. It’s now the sixth largest global economy and is expected to be fifth by 2013. As Western economies continue to wither, brands are increasingly looking to emerging markets like Brazil for growth. Here the ‘middle class’ now represents more than 50% of the 185 million population. That’s a lot of people, with a lot of newfound spending power. But making the most of this opportunity depends on recognising that the ‘middle class’ in Brazil and other emerging markets is not the same as that in developed markets. It’s not even a single cohort. And woe betide any brand that treats it as such.

So, what’s the gap? Traditional models of what constitutes the middle class do not recognise the newer members of the group – who, though affluent, have a different context in terms of life values, attitudes, behaviours and knowledge of brands. It’s this ‘emergent middle class’ that is changing the social structure dramatically. Hungry and striving for more, they are imaginative and flexible, confident and seeking to disrupt the status quo. They look for brands that mirror their own ambition, optimism and sense of momentum.

Compare this with the second generation ‘established middle class’ who are more settled in their social position. This group’s focus is to maintain what they’ve built and secure a legacy for the next generation. For them, change is unwanted; brands need to make them feel settled, stable and socially safe.

And let’s not forget the effect of the changing social structure on those at the top – the social elite. As more people rise upwards, their status and standing is under threat. They’re driven by the fear of losing what has been a longstanding right and must battle to stay at the top, personally and professionally. Brands for them need to have badge value, feel exclusive and elitist.

Whiskey brand Johnnie Walker shows that it is possible for a single brand to gain traction across the three cohorts. Their universally motivating proposition, coupled with a tiered offer which facilitates multiple access points to the brand ensures that there is a compelling emotional connection with each social group.  So for the established middle class Johnnie Walker is the go-to whiskey brand because of its tradition, heritage and international reputation. For the emergent middle class the brand’s inherent confidence, momentum and ambition (exemplified by the tagline ‘Keep Walking’) speaks to their drive and energy. Finally, for the social elite the Johnnie Walker range feels covetable and sophisticated, with the more premium parts of the range delivering the exclusivity they seek.

Any brand owner in an emerging market must think about connecting with their audience in light of this social readjustment. Further, they’ll need to consider their take on the age-old localism versus globalism debate. National pride runs high amongst the middle classes of Latin America, especially in Brazil with the world spotlight now on them. Brands which reflect the cultural traits of imagination, resourcefulness and adaptability fly. But so too do those which are true to their own national spirit and preserve their global stature. Budweiser recently managed a ‘big bang’ launch capitalising on the boldness and aspirations of the American spirit.  Whilst local brand, Melissa shoes, embraces the Brazilian spirit creating stylish eco-friendly shoes from locally sourced rubber. Attracting the attention of high-end designer John Paul Gaultier, the brand has been propelled onto the international catwalk. Ultimately there’s a place for both global and local in the new expressions of national identity we see in Brazil today.

For sure Brazil presents growth opportunities along the scale of China and India. But, just as with these markets, brands need to respond the cultural nuances to join the party in this colourful nation. With 90 million middle class consumers, it is a market that no brand can afford to ignore.


Written by Amy Harrison, Qual & Brand, Added Value UK

*TNS BRIC report

Image source: Mellissa Shoes



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