“Brands are welcome on this journey, particularly those that invite people to try new experiences and consider more emotional ways of perceiving the world. These brands will find their positioning enhanced and emphasized, and their values and ideals reinforced. If conducted in an authentic and genuine manner, the likes, retweets, and conversations will follow naturally.”
Sorry for any inconvenience caused. We are fixing Brazil.
—Protest sign, June 2013
“It’s not only about the 20 cents.” This phrase might not be recognized across the globe, but it did become a mantra of the protests that took place in Brazil this past June. Sparked by a twenty-cent bus fare hike, it became a symbol of the changes demanded by the population—and of the bigger issues that were at stake as the political system of Brazil was being questioned across the board.
The power and scale of these protests was indeed impressive, as thousands of citizens rallied and stopped traffic in the main avenues of Brazil. Yet, what was truly amazing was the way such events were organized and disseminated. Once one protest came to an end, the next one was already being planned, with thousands of people signed up to participate. Facebook, of course, was the primary hub connecting organizers and protesters.
Would the events have been as efficient or as impactful without the ease and influence of social media? It’s highly unlikely. In the midst of protesting, individuals would post real-time images, pictures and opinions of what was taking place on the streets. Others, at home and at work, followed the events virtually, sharing content and helping spread the news. Traditional media, meanwhile, was barely on the scene. Brazil’s press corps initially paid scant attention to what was going on. Once reporters did start following the story, many lacked the digital and social agility to follow the dizzying flow of events and activities. Midia NINJA, an independent media group, proved the most adept at using social networks to get the word out. In subsequent days and weeks, NINJA became one of the most reliable and popular sources of information about the protests.
According to the 2013 Net Insight report, a study conducted by the Brazilian Institute of Public Opinion and Statistics (IBOPE) on media usage, Brazil ranks third worldwide for internet usage, with an estimated 52.5 million citizens online. USA ranks second with 198 million online users, and Japan third, with 60 million users.
Brazil also ranks third globally for the number of Facebook accounts. Data from Anatel, Brazil’s national telecommunications agency, projects that by the end of 2013, there will be an average of 1.34 cell phones per Brazilian resident—meaning there are more handsets than people in Brazil. What’s more, we spend an astounding 27 hours every month on Twitter, out-tweeting most nations’ citizens on the popular microblogging platform.
What explains this national passion for social media? Well, let it be said that Brazilians are not shy or introspective people, either online or offline. No doubt this makes Brazilians more open to digital sharing. Our country’s improving economy also makes it possible for many Brazilians to buy technology, from personal computers to cellphones and tablets, at reasonable prices.
This fast-adopting, digitally inclined culture makes Brazil attractive to brands with content and ideas to share. Brands, of course, don’t exist in a bubble, and these days, must meet consumers halfway in order to create real engagement and a meaningful exchange. Branded experiences, more than ever, are being built collaboratively and in real time, as exemplified by the success of nimble, responsive outlets like NINJA.
Join the conversation
In order to join the national conversation and establish trust, brands must have a clear and defined point of view and voice on digital and social media. Only then is it possible to connect and send clear and direct messages to help the brand strategy stand out. With the right approach, tone of voice, and spirit, consumers can become digital brand ambassadors, helping disseminate brand values and ideas.
Consider these examples of successful digital and social engagement in Brazil. During the summer protests, a hip and plugged in cafe in São Paulo, the Coffee Lab, used Facebook to promote that a cup of coffee was now only 20 cents—a timely reference to the 20-cent bus fare hike that sparked the protests in the first place. This proved to be a clever nod to the vox populi, and a tacit way of expressing support for the protests while establishing the brand’s street credibility with the digital generation.
Also tapping into the zeitgeist in a smart way, Grow, one of Brazil’s most recognized toy brands, posted an image online of its new trivia game, which included questions related to the turmoil going on across the nation. The French Hotel Group Accor also posted messages on social media expressing support for the popular movement. In addition, several stores and companies gave the public free access to Wi-Fi, allowing people to share content in the midst of the protests.
For all these brands, being digital means more than having a Facebook account. It is about having an ingrained and natural digital mindset as part of the brand culture and strategy.
Brazil’s social media brand leaders have a lighter side too, of course. Consider Guaraná Antarctica, an Anheuser-Busch InBev-distributed soft drink beverage brand, which in 2012 released Ex-Lover Blocker, a mobile app to block impulsive calls to an ex-boyfriend or girlfriend. Beyond increasing the number of mentions on social and creating buzz, the success of this digital experiment showed how brands can tell great stories and provide creative content and experiences. The goal was to bring the target audience into the brand’s world in a fun way, and it more than succeeded.
Guaraná Antarctica also became Brazil’s most commented ARG (Alternate Reality Game) in 2007. ARGs combine real-world interactions with digital interaction, from solving a quest to finding hints in an everyday routine. Guaraná’s Zona Incerta, or Uncertain Zone ARG, depicted a fictional company, Arkhos Biotech, with an evil and audacious plan to privatize the Amazon.
The plot of the game sparked a national debate and awareness, all the way up to the federal government, and the game’s creators were ordered to explain their intent. This may seem extreme, but consider that the game had 70,000 active registered players and nine websites with forums created to talk about it, and you can see the power that a simple piece of branded entertainment can have on a population.
Another case in point: Itaú, the most valuable brand on our just-released 2013 Best Brazilian Brands report, has developed its digital tone of voice and messaging platform. The bank also launched offline campaigns to reinforce its understanding of digital messaging. The strategy demonstrates that the gap between the online and offline worlds no longer exists for consumers who easily move between both.
Earlier this year, Itaú engaged in a friendly online dispute against Santander. It all started when blogger Vyktor Berriel tweeted: “I’m not sure if I open my bank account at @santander_br or @itau. I guess I’ll stay with the freestyle winner.”
@santander_br rapidly responded: “Santander is a cool bank. Here you save a great amount. Don’t wait too long to come open your account” After seeing the bank’s reply, Vyktor started to urge @itaú to respond. And so they did: “With @itau you find ATMs everywhere. Great online banking and amazing customer care.”
The back-and-forth even became amusing when @BancodoBrasil chimed in: “Sorry to interrupt, but I don’t see why not. Here’s the bank, no matter how much you’ve got.”
This is a great example of brands not only listening, but responding to their customers in fresh and engaging ways, and showing they have a sense of humor, too.
Non-Brazilian brands are also leading the way on social. In 2012, the British retailer C&A, realizing that its enormous inventory might be somewhat overwhelming, launched a social effort to help shoppers (especially women) get over any insecurity. The result: Fashion Like, a campaign that posted garments on Facebook so everyone could vote on their favorite pieces.
Meanwhile, in C&A’s physical stores, the related clothes hangers sported electronic counters that displayed the number of likes the items were racking up on Facebook in real time. More than 8 million people participated, which not only attracted a slew of new page likes for C&A, but also boosted sales significantly. Not surprisingly, the campaign earned five Lions awards at the Cannes International Festival of Creativity in 2012.
A new world of opportunity
This is just the beginning. Brazilians are becoming more connected and digitally engaged every day. And the great news is that we’re learning to use social media to connect with each other and the world, to open up debate on a multitude of topics, from serious to fun.
Brands are welcome on this journey, particularly those that invite people to try new experiences and consider new, more emotional ways of perceiving the world. These brands will find their positioning enhanced and emphasized, and their values and ideals reinforced. If conducted in an authentic and genuine manner, the likes, retweets, and conversations will follow naturally. In fact, #youcanbetonit.