"Musical, uniquely expressive, and informed by a diversity of cultural influences, no country speaks quite like Brazil—and, in the best of ways, it appears the world is beginning to notice."
A rich tapestry of unique words, witty proverbs and colorful figures of speech, Brazilian Portuguese allows Brazilian brands to communicate with a particular flair that resonates in countries around the world. However, at the same time, the complexity and nuances that make Brazilian Portuguese so beautiful and distinctive pose a challenge for growing native brands that are striving for consistency and clarity in a global marketplace.
Our tone of voice
Given the cross-pollination of cultures, the pervasiveness of music, and the exuberance and beauty of Brazil’s people, Brazil’s general tone of voice might best be described as vivid, captivating, and melodic. Each and every word is expressed with spontaneity, energy, and optimism. As poet and composer Vinícius de Moraes once wrote, “It’s better to be happy than to be sad / Happiness is the best thing that exists.” Or, as Brazilian writer Adriana Falcão used to say, “Felicidade é um agora que não tem pressa nenhuma,” which translates to “happiness is right now, there is no rush at all”.
Indeed, Brazilians take their time, enjoy the pleasures of life, and are also very friendly. We greet each other with a kiss or two on the cheek. We say “hello” more often than “sorry,” and we’re more likely to say, “Join us” than “I’ve got to go.” We are casual and easygoing, we call people by their first names, and we love to use abbreviations and nicknames. Whether in an elevator with strangers, socializing at work, or cheering at football matches, Brazilians effortlessly find ways to connect and bring people together.
But bringing these cultural characteristics to a brand’s voice is never easy. As so many poets and lyricists have shown through the years, Portuguese is a language of endless possibilities. Thus, defining guidelines that are creative and flexible, yet consistent, is one of the biggest challenges for Brazilian brands and branding professionals.
Those of us who work in branding know that the way we articulate a message or an idea determines the impact it will have. In Brazil, we aim to create brand voices as distinctive as our Portuguese—and make the most of this vibrant and expressive language.
Consul finds its roots
To illustrate the difference tone of voice can make for Brazilian brands, Consul, a leader in home appliances, comes to mind. For years, Consul dominated its market in Brazil—more than 50 percent of all Brazilian households own a Consul appliance. However, in more recent years, its popularity began to slip. While still a household name, the brand’s essence, once so creative and lively, needed revitalization.
In 2012, Consul decided to reinvigorate its brand essence and revamp its brand identity. To reconnect with the Brazilian people, Consul crafted a new brand voice that is friendly, more informal and much more engaging. Connecting through the idea of “Parte da sua casa” (“Part of your home”), Consul used language to create a sense of intimacy with consumers, portraying its brand as an integral part of Brazilian homes and family histories. Through storytelling and a human touch, Consul has begun to strengthen its relationship with consumers by reminding them of the positive presence the brand has in their lives, and that it understands what Brazilian consumers need and value.
The Usiminas way of doing things
Another example that demonstrates the transformative power of language for Brazilian brands is Usiminas, one of the largest producers of steel in Latin America. Eager to shed its complicated brand architecture, with multiple identities across its companies, Usiminas sought to streamline, integrate, and adopt a simpler, stronger, more consistent identity. In the course of its rebrand in 2008, Usiminas emphasized the idea of excellence in production and sales, world-class practices and performance indices, and Corporate Citizenship.
With simplicity and the company’s ideals in mind, Interbrand suggested that Usiminas incorporate the word capricho into the company’s brand values. Like saudade and cafuné, capricho is a word that only exists in Portuguese. Doing something with capricho means to do it with care, attention, and commitment. Brand managers loved the idea. To them, capricho summed up Usiminas’ conscientious approach to manufacturing and distribution. In this case, a single word—one that was precise, evocative, and aligned with the spirit of the business—helped bring a company’s values to life.
What about the future?
“Poetry is what gets lost in translation.” — Robert Frost
Those who speak Brazilian Portuguese will appreciate its poetry and idiosyncrasies, but the very characteristics that give it its unique flavor are also the qualities that make the language so challenging for brands to apply it effectively and consistently. In fact, in 1990, Portuguese-language countries came together to define a New Orthographic Agreement: an international treaty that would establish one—and only one—official version of Portuguese. To achieve that goal, it would be necessary to unify two divergent sets of orthographic rules, one in Brazil and another in the other Portuguese-speaking countries, including Portugal.
In the years since, the agreement (as expected) has been challenged on technical, political, economic, and even legal grounds. As a result, the majority of Portuguese-speaking countries have not adopted the new rules for grammar, usage, and spelling.
Since global brands are always striving to achieve consistency around the world, this predicament poses a great challenge for Brazilian companies that are extending their reach. Developing a verbal identity can be particularly problematic and, when translating a tone of voice that is filled with proverbs and clever wordplay, the poetry can indeed get lost.
On the other hand, Portuguese is becoming more popular in the business world. According to a 2011 ranking by Bloomberg, its business idioms are the world’s sixth most commonly used. Musical, uniquely expressive, and informed by a diversity of cultural influences, no country speaks quite like Brazil—and, in the best of ways, it appears the world is beginning to notice. As we Brazilians learn how to harness the beauty and richness of our shared language—and use it strategically—we will create greater verbal impact and stronger brands.