Rebranding Brazil Part 1: The Bad

'Brand Brazil' finds itself shackled to a cliché - a beach party with a samba soundtrack. It seems odd that a slither of Brazilian culture has come to dominate the brand narrative, considering the vastness and rich culture of Latin America’s most populous country.

Brazil's Quagmire

Curiously, the samba nation has been here before. It took decades for Brazil to begin to shake off the cartoonish brand of tropicalia - not to be confused with the musical movement Tropicália - epitomised in the 1940s by Carmen Miranda and her basket-of-fruit hairdo.

Brand Brazil, as we know it, can trace its origins back to the unprecedented 'national' identity creation project of populist dictator Getúlio Vargas during the 1930s. Half a century later, so mutated was the evolution into the Brazilian bombshell's surreal pastiche that it became detrimental to brand Brazil - in short, it became a joke. 

Carmen Miranda - Jose Medeiros

Arguably, Brazil has yet to comprehensively move on. Today, almost every Brazilian concept launched outside of Brazil involves the beach, in some shape or form, or the ubiquitous twirl of verdant green tropicalismo. Beach, samba & football dominate. At a stretch, a zest of Amazon rainforest may make the menu.

But how has an immigrant nation, larger than the contiguous United States, with a population of over 200 million souls, home to the largest descendancy of Italians, Japanese and even Lebanese, outside their ancestral lands, not to mention the rich African heritage, come to have such a narrow brand narrative?

Even the upcoming Rio de Janeiro Olympics in 2016 stands as yet another wasted opportunity to advance Brand Brazil beyond its stereotypes.

(Check out this video on how the Rio 2016 Olympic Games emblem was created)

But there are explanations as to why Brazil finds itself in this predicament. This series aims to delve deeper into branding in the ‘country of the future’ and will explore the history of consumer-facing brands - the good, the bad and the ugly - while also casting its gaze to the future.

Moving away from the traditional, inward-looking, marketing focus of Brazilian businesses, a hangover from the colonial and military junta past, it is important to shine a light on Brazilian branding on the global stage.

To earn a place on an increasingly international stage, Brazil must broaden its image. It must be brave, it must look beyond the beach. Encouragingly, there is much to show the world. 

These are three international Brazilian brands with vivid shortcomings:

1. OSKLEN

Surf culture, although not inherently negative, has become the proverbial albatross around Brazilian fashion's neck.

Nonetheless, Osklen, known as Brazil's first global luxury brand, managed to ride that wave all the way to the bank while countless surf and bikini brands are still paddling out in the hope of replicating their success.

The company was founded by orthopaedic physician Oskar Metsaveht in 1989 selling simple, but good quality, men's sportswear out of a tiny store in the wealthy neighbourhood of Ipanema in Rio de Janeiro. Since then, womenswear has became the main revenue generator while even an eye-brow raising snowboarding range has been added.

Today, one can find an Osklen store in every major fashion metropolis in the world. On paper, Mr Metsaveht's beach brand is a roaring success story for Brazil.  

Yet, Brazil must move on. 

surfer

The fates of Australian surf brands Billabong, Quiksilver and Rip Curl should serve as cautionary financial tales. The garish stores and increasingly tacky designs of Osklen's eye-wateringly priced garments are an ominous harbinger for the future - an all too familiar scenario for high-end Brazilian brands. Brazilian fashion is in danger of becoming a one-trick pony. 

2. PETROBRAS

Started in the rapidly industrialising Brazil of the 1950s by corporatist President Getúlio Vargas, the state petroleum entity became the jewel in the crown of the government and a great source of national pride. 

Petrobras

Once considered one of the most promising listed oil companies in the world because of its huge offshore reserves, Petrobras is now reeling from allegations that former executives and contractors conspired with politicians to extract kickbacks and bribes from the company. 

Petrobras corruption

In April, Petrobras wrote off $17 billion in corruption-related costs and costs associated with inflated contracts. Alarmingly, prosecutors still consider the estimate to be conservative and are in little doubt that the losses are significantly larger than what was announced. So staggering are the levels of corruption and mismanagement that the company is even threatening to bring down Dilma Rousseff's current government.

Petrolão

Following the trending hashtag '#petrolao' on twitter has now become better - read 'more scandalous' - viewing than even the popular local television soap operas.

3. TAM

Set up as a regional air taxi operation in the early 1960s, TAM, or Táxi Aéreo Marília, eventually benefited from the dictatorship’s division of the country into 5 air transport regions during the 1970s, winning the concession for servicing the South East and Central West of the country. 

TAM

Ultimately, they would go on to win the race to became the national carrier, after their pedigreed and better branded rivals - Varig and VASP - eventually folded in the early years of the 21st Century due to gross mismanagement.

Varig

Today, the TAM brand has become dated, offering a bland impression of the airline, risky in a safety-oriented sector and made worse by the competitive marketing of slicker international rivals. 

Real Aerovias

Yet, is there a glimmer of hope? The Brazilian national carrier is in the process of being rebranded as 'LATAM' after its record breaking merger with Chilean rival LAN and may emerge with a more enticing offering.

Don't hold your breath.