Havaianas: Brazil’s Democratic Brand
Interbrand São Paulo Executive Directors Daniella Giavina-Bianchi and Beto Almeida in conversation with Havaianas brand manager Carla Schmitzberger
Daniella Giavina-Bianchi, Executive Director, Interbrand São Paulo, and Beto Almeida, Executive Director, Head of Identity, Interbrand São Paulo, in conversation with Carla Schmitzberger, Director of the Sandals Division at Alpargatas, the parent company of the Havaianas brand.
Daniella Giavina-Bianchi - Tell us a little bit about your story and brand, Havaianas.
Carla Schmitzberger – I'm head of the sandals business unit at Alpargatas. It's been exactly seven years that I've had the privilege of managing this brand, a brand that was already successful when I arrived. So now, we've been trying to keep it successful and keep it growing, both in Brazil as well as internationally.
DB – Havaianas is one of the most democratic brands that we have here in Brazil, and this is an attribute that is perceived by almost all the consumers in touch with the brand. Can you tell us a little bit about how you built this, and how can you made it fashionable for everyone, in all walks of life, here in Brazil?
CS – That's quite a story. Havaianas used to be worn by poor people in Brazil. In fact, until as late as the 1990's, mostly poor people wore them. However, there was a small group of wealthier people that were wearing the product; but they were wearing them at home, and they were embarrassed to be seen with them because they were considered a poor person's footwear.
The repositioning of the brand in the early 1990's had to do with making the brand more aspirational. It already had very good functional attributes and that’s why people wore them—because they are simple, comfortable, durable—they are a good product. And so what we had to do was make them a little more aspirational for other people to want to use them. And we successfully managed to make them aspirational for the upper levels. People were no longer afraid or embarrassed to be seen in Havaianas, and that made it possible for people of all social classes to wear them. The beauty of this is that the wealthy people wear them, and are proud of wearing them as much as the poor people today.
DB – Havaianas is one of the first Brazilian brands to become a global success. Can you speak about the paths and the challenges that you had throughout this process?
CS – Havaianas started becoming international in the late 1990's with people coming to Brazil, taking the product, putting them in their suitcases and literally taking them back (home)…because they have good functional attributes, they’re better flip-flops than other flip-flops. They’re more durable, more comfortable, and so people were taking them home.
In the late 1990's we started putting the Brazilian flag on the Havaianas. We did that for the World Cup in 1998, which in fact, Brazil ended up losing to France. But we kept the style, and renamed the product from "Brazil Cup" to "Brazil," and today it's one of our bestsellers. And so people started taking the Havaianas back to their countries, not only because they were good and durable, but also because they were something from Brazil, they had the Brazilian flag. So late in the 1990's people started taking the product home more and more, and in the early 2000's, we started working more effectively with distributors worldwide to start exporting the product. We took the product from having something like 1 percent of total net sales from outside of Brazil to, by the end of 2009, we were probably at 12-13 percent of all volume being sold outside of Brazil, in about 85 countries.
Beto Almeida – Let’s talk about how digital is helping Havaianas to grow.
CS – Clearly, digital is critical, so much so that we unified Facebook [because] we had different Facebook accounts in different countries.*
BA – And which languages do you speak on Facebook?
CS – We use multiple languages, but it's one Havaianas official Facebook page. That way, in each country, we are able to post local Havaianas news but it's one global Facebook page; because we need to be consistent in the world, and that is why digital is so important.
Today when you do something right or wrong on one side of the world, two hours later the other side of the world knows exactly what went on; so it's very important that you keep things consistent. So one of the things we have to work with now is making sure that the brand positioning, that the communication, that everything we say about the brand, is consistent globally.
*Note: Havaianas unified its Facebook pages using Facebook’s Global Pages tool, which lets global brands maintain multiple regional pages with local content using the same URL, so facebook.com/havaianas automatically directs users to their local Havaianas Facebook page.