Last week Anglos-German consultancy Thomas Manss & Company opened it first South American office in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, the country that is set to see a boom in marketing and design activity as it prepares to play host to the 2014 football World Cup and the 2016 Olympic Games.
Alongside these hugely high-profile events, Brazil’s booming economy and status as a BRIC [Brazil, Russian, India and China] country seemingly make it a nation laden with opportunities for UK design consultancies.
However, UK Trade and Industry is yet to take a design mission to the country and UK consultancy outposts are scarce. Reasons cited by designers for this include the language barrier, expense and time needed to travel to Brazil and hugely different working practices.
Thomas Manss & Company’s expansion into Brazil is largely triggered by its designer Maria Clara Rezende retuning to her home country to head up the office, which will initially consist of two staff, serving both Brazilian clients and European companies that are targeting the Brazilian market.
Consultancy founder Thomas Manss says, ’There are obviously the clichŽs about the World Cup and the Olympics, but in the financial crisis, Brazil was one of the few countries that was quite resilient when the rest of the world was collapsing.’
He adds, ’[The Brazilian scene is] very different from the way Thomas Manss & Company produces design. I saw an opportunity to relate to a very different kind of clientele through someone who knew the country and the design team.’
In Brazil, no one speaks English. personal relationships and chemistry make it. The key to the success is the people
Jacob Benbunan, Saffron
Manss points to his company’s high-end design specialism as an advantage for the consultancy. He says, ’I think the higher-end, luxury sector will grow in Brazil’.
However, Manss recognises the significant challenges for British consultancies wishing to expand to Brazil, namely the ’enormously rigid legal system’ and bureaucracy.
’You wouldn’t go there unless you had a very good reason,’ he says. ’In design here, you frequently use puns and sophisticated ways of communicating ideas it’s far more difficult in Brazil. It’s not a natural market for UK communication.’
Branding consultancy Saffron opened a São Paulo outpost in September 2010, with a locally staffed team of four focusing on branding and business development. Jacob Benbunan, Saffron’s Madrid-based global chief executive, says, ’The World Cup and the Olympics will create a whole new set of opportunities, but the reason we set up in Brazil is much more to do with the dramatic growth of the economy there.’
While it’s not unusual to hear of consultancies launching outposts in other BRIC countries such as India or China, Benbunan feels Brazil is a far trickier proposition, with many Brazilan companies looking to advertising agencies rather than branding or deign consultancies for design work. He says, ’In India, everyone speaks the language; and people set up in China because of the sheer opportunities. In Brazil, no one speaks English. It’s very, very different personal relationships and chemistry make it. The key to success is the people.’
Brazilian consultancy Casa Rex has made the opposite move to Saffron, setting up a UK office in Brighton last year, though this is all staffed with a native British team. Gustavo Piqueira, partner at Casa Rex, says, ’Some things [in the UK] are completely different. It’s much more structured, but in Brazil there’s a lot of flexibility in the fees, the hours we work, the rewards we get. In the UK there are huge agencies in Brazil we’re considered big, and we have 35 [staff].’
Though Piqueira agrees with Manss that personal relationships are undoubtedly crucial in winning projects and gaining recognition, he feels this is rapidly changing.
He says, ’The whole process is a lot more informal. It doesn’t mean it’s all based on personal relationships though they are important it’s like a professional relationship handled in a personal way.’
Piqueira adds, ’Demand for design is definitely increasing, because the country as a whole is booming. We have a growing middle class it’s different from the UK in that people came out of poverty. They like colourful, shiny stuff.’
Brazilian-born Fabiane Lee-Perrella is the director of Flour, a UK-based studio that concentrates on design for public spaces. It collaborated on a major installation for the Southbank Centre’s Festival Brazil last year.
Lee-Perrella agrees that Brazilian design is typically far less subtle than in the UK. ’In many ways, unless it’s very high-end conceptual design, it’s very difficult to convey the idea of less is more,’ she says, adding, ’Brazil is behind with Web and graphic design they’re still trying to copy what’s been done in Europe, but with product they’re doing their own thing, and there’s some very good stuff coming with exhibition and theatre design.’
Lee-Perrella predicts more British consultancies will head to Brazil in future due to increased disposable income in the country. However, the lack of outposts suggests UK groups remain reticent to make the move.
Piqueira says, ’The market is definitely under development. With the attention round the World Cup and the Olympics, a lot of people are talking about coming to Brazil, but it hasn’t happened yet. People are still making up their minds.’
Time to samba?
- Brazil’s tourist board, Embratur, aims to grow tourism by 300 per cent over the next decade
- Martin Sorrell, WWP chief executive, told journalists last yearthat ’Brazil must not be defined as emerging. It is a strong economy with rapid growth’
- Some 100 delegations will use Brazilian cities for training in preparation for the Rio Olympics in 2016
- Brazilian tourist spots will be promoted to 300 000 visitors during games time