The inside track on working in Brazil

Brazil is the country of the moment, with the Rio 2016 Olympics and next year’s World Cup providing the spotlight. Significant increases in cultural exchange are taking place and companies are heading out to Brazil to discover what makes the country tick. And, coming the other way are Brazilian businesses and agencies looking to share and learn with Europe.

I recently met Gustavo Piqueira, principal of Brazilian consultancy Casa Rex, which has offices in Sao Paulo in London, to talk about consultancy and client life in Brazil.

Casa Rex principal Gustavo Piqueira
Casa Rex principal Gustavo Piqueira

How would you describe the design consultancy landscape of Brazil?

Brazil’s graphic design market is somewhat new; its biggest agencies have only developed recently over the last ten years, following the country’s social and economic changes. Because it is a market still consolidating itself, it is too soon to spot any real pattern to fit Brazilian agencies into.
  We don’t live in isolation though, far from that, our work has gained more and more of an international reach. To the rest of the world, we are novelties – we offer a fresh perspective. 
In our case, Casa Rex has been working with different brands from around the world — from a Chinese toothpaste to a Hungarian shampoo — showing that outside brands are truly on the lookout for something new, something they are not finding locally.
That said, many other Brazilian agencies still mainly work within the local territory.

What sets Brazilian design work apart?

Brazil is ‘plural’ – it’s a multi-ethnic and multi-cultural country built upon a wide mixture of heritages and backgrounds. There’s also our great social disparity, which results in a complex market composed of a myriad of audiences with extremely different references and aspirations. 
It’s exactly by working with this highly complex scenario, with its variety of visual codes and consumer bases, that Brazilian agencies have become capable of working amongst many cultural differences, and present a variety of different approaches and solutions. We’ve had opportunity to respond to a unique ‘creative freedom’, a ‘Brazilian flexibility’ and benefit from an essentially Brazilian characteristic in the innate way in which we relate to others. We are known to keep things on a personal level, and this doesn’t extend only to our close relationships, it also reflects the way we handle our work; we are prone to taking on more than a strictly professional persona — business is not ’just business.”

What are the challenges face by clients based in Brazil and brands coming into the country?

The Brazilian market presents a set of different challenges. The need for agility to keep up with the broad social varieties and economic changes (things are moving fast around here) demands a great deal of adaptability from clients.
 From the other perspective, the biggest difficulty outside agencies have is to understand exactly ‘what is Brazil?’. The picturesque opinion of the country is slowly falling, as people are discovering that we do not fulfill the ‘tropical paradise’ stereotype. However, we are not about to become a new USA or EU. 
It is fairly difficult to grasp, what characterises Brazil, as I believe it is something much more subjective, closer to a ‘way of being’ than anything else. It can’t be visualised with a color, texture or aesthetic, only through how people relate to one another, how they work, talk, think etc. And we commonly see that the biggest difficulty people from outside Brazil have is understanding this, because they can only begin to perceive it when they come here and truly ‘live’ it and by experiencing it first hand.

What are clients’ expectations in terms of the agencies that they work with?

Not much differs from any client’s expectations for a project: ‘We need to increase sales, we need to do it fast and we have a limited budget.’ You’ve heard it before, right?
But of course, there is a certain particularity in the local market. Not only is the recognition of Brazilian design still fairly recent, but the overall understanding of the place design takes within companies is still being developed. The thought of even approaching a design consultancy is actually a new idea for some companies, and in this context, some are still discovering what they are looking for when doing so. Of course this is not a rule, there are already clients that are in full understanding of design’s role, and the expectancy is that in the next ten years this scenario will achieve a new level of maturity, paving the way for further opportunity.

Gustavo Piqueira is principal of Brazil- and UK-based consultancy Casa Rex. Thanks also to Marco Loschiavo of Casa Rex for his input into the piece.

John Scarrott is membership director at the Design Business Association. His DBA blog, Conversations With, is here.

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