Life's a beach: how Brazilian brands went global

For the last few years, Brazil has been in the headlines for questionable reasons (who hasn't seen the violence between police and drug gangs erupting in the streets of Rio last year?).

But recently, more often than not, Brazil is capturing the world's attention for better things: the economy about to overtake the UK in the 7th top spot by GDP-PPP, a newly found political stability and some impressive success stories in the brand and communications world.

It is often good practice to look at success stories to get inspired and learn something to help us to improve in our private or business lives.

Being Brazilian, I have always been amazed at how Havaianas went from cheap but durable flip flops mainly used by the vast Brazilian working class to worldwide reknown and hype, seen on the feet of the beautiful people from the beaches in Leblon to the Greek Islands, Ibiza and beyond!

As a brand, Havaianas represents everything frequently associated with Brazil: fun and fun loving, relaxed, colourful, easy going. A recent report by Interbrand (What about Brazilian Brands?), highlights the Brazilian flexibility and creativity to find solutions to any situation (as well as newly found technical expertise) as core to the success of some Brazilian brands, including Havaianas.

Whilst these are all immensely positive qualities, and indeed special and differentiating, I want to go beyond the stereotypical and explore some factors I believe are part and parcel of the Havaianas story from the humble beginnings to the 'Brand Reinvention' phase which started in 1993:

Insight creatively and rigorously applied to drive a clear vision for the Brand

Havaianas was repositioned from a functional, commodity product into a fashion brand – it became an object of desire! Insight went beyond buying behaviours and statistics. Great focus was placed on how and where the product was used by real people, every day. Creative communication and association with the emerging cult of celebrity was a very bold move at the time, demonstrating the importance for a brand to be 'tuned in' with the times. The basic product range evolved and many capsule collections were created in association with leading Brazilian and international fashion designers.

Determination, resilience, commitment and consistency

With a history that started back in 1958 when it was created (modelled on the sandals used by Japanese immigrants working in Brazil's country side), the 'Brand Reinvention' is a relatively new phase for Havaianas. However, success did not come overnight. The brand has been reinventing itself for nearly 20 years, one step at a time. With a plan for global reach, every year has meant a step towards the brand vision. The alignment with international representatives and opinion leaders, the development and management of a complex global distribution network and a communication that consistently conveys the Brand Experience everywhere we go, requires flair creativity and flexibility – but also state of the art Strategic Brand Management skills, rigorously applied over time.

What I find really exciting about this story is the fact that it demonstrates how rigorous process and discipline don't have to diminish creativity and flair: they can set them free.

If life is not a beach, we certainly can learn from going to one!


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