Brazil’s country branding has a long history of failure

. Aug 27, 2019
Brazil visit and love us Embratur country branding Brazil visit and love us Embratur country branding

Last month, the Brazilian tourism board (Embratur) unveiled its new branding campaign to attract foreign tourists to the country. “Brazil, visit and love us” became an instant case study of bad marketing—ranging from the unauthorized use of a font created by a French designer, to a shocking translation which turned the slogan into a sexual innuendo it wouldn’t carry in Portuguese.

</p> <p>This time around, Embratur decided to break with the tradition of writing the country&#8217;s name in its original, Portuguese spelling: <em>Brasil</em>. For experts—and voters alike—that is a problem and a disrespect to national symbols.</p> <p>Former publicist Ricardo Freire <a href="">wrote a long piece</a> on his website explaining some of the main mistakes of the new Embratur branding. &#8220;The new ‘Brazil’ country branding campaign is an embarrassment to Brazilian design. It was proudly announced as having been made internally, in a short time, saving public money. All these qualities are apparent in the result: it is amateur, unfinished and poor,&#8221; he said.</p> <p>To make matters worse, the slogan has echoes of similar branding campaigns from the military regime. “[It reminds us of] the old &#8216;Brazil: love it or leave it&#8217; motto,” says Sérgio Tavares Filho, a Ph.D. in Digital Culture from the University of Jyväskylä in Finland, and a senior consultant at Idean, one of CapGemini&#8217;s creative branches. This motto was used by then-president Emílio Garrastazu Médici, one of the ruthless dictators of the military regime. The link is particularly disturbing given President Jair Bolsonaro&#8217;s fondness of the dictatorship and his approval of the use of torture against prisoners.</p> <p>Of course, foreigners will be unaware of this link—which doesn&#8217;t make the slogan any better. Mr. Tavares points out that the motto doesn’t work in English either and there is an ambiguous reference to sex tourism between the lines. “A good marketing professional always exploits positive ambiguities and removes the inadequate ones,” he says. Well, that wasn&#8217;t the case with Embratur&#8217;s latest work. <em>Americas Quarterly</em> editor-in-chief Brian Winter tweeted that “the slogan is creepy and embarrassing and any international consultant—or native English speaker—could have told them that.”</p> <p>Brazil is already a major sex tourism destination, an image President Bolsonaro himself reinforced earlier this year, saying men are welcome to come to Brazil to have sex with women—as long as they <a href="">are not LGBTQ</a>.</p> <h2>Brazil&#8217;s country branding: a land of beautiful women</h2> <div class="wp-block-image"><figure class="aligncenter"><img src="" alt="Embratur guides country branding" class="wp-image-22984" srcset=" 640w, 300w, 610w" sizes="(max-width: 640px) 100vw, 640px" /><figcaption>Embratur guides, 1977 and 1978</figcaption></figure></div> <p>The president&#8217;s statements—and the &#8220;visit and love us&#8221; slogan—mark a major shift from Brazil&#8217;s recent efforts to reposition its branding as no longer as a land of sex, beaches, and football—but rather as a dynamic land of diversity and business. Those efforts began in the late 1990s and were consolidated in 2003 with the creation of the Tourism Ministry and the launch of a rebranding campaign by the Lula administration.</p> <div class="wp-block-image"><figure class="aligncenter"><img src="ção-da-Embratur-de-1988.jpeg" alt="brazil country branding embratur 1988" class="wp-image-22985" srcset="ção-da-Embratur-de-1988.jpeg 640w,ção-da-Embratur-de-1988-300x187.jpeg 300w,ção-da-Embratur-de-1988-610x380.jpeg 610w" sizes="(max-width: 640px) 100vw, 640px" /><figcaption>Embratur ad, 1988</figcaption></figure></div> <p>Between 1966, when Embratur was created, and 1985, nearly every single piece of advertisement about Brazil abroad included beaches and semi-nude female bodies. &#8220;Women were the &#8216;made-in-Brazil product&#8217; being sold to foreigners,&#8221; <a href=";set=a.123663917725334&amp;type=3&amp;theater">wrote</a> Christian Fausto, a historian at the State University of Maringá.</p> <p>After the military left power, in 1985, Mr. Fausto continues, &#8220;there was a shift of focus—to natural landscapes and historical sites. But it was too little, too late. The damage had already been done. In subsequent years, the number of tourists coming to Brazil searching for a land where women were part of touristic products to be consumed was not small.&#8221;</p> <h2>A change on the way?</h2> <p>After French graphic artist Benoit Sjöholm called out Embratur for using his Fontastique font without permission, Embratur admitted to the mistake and said the new branding strategy would be reviewed. It remains unclear whether Embratur will only change the font, or if it will rethink the whole idea altogether. But the fact is that the negative reaction could contribute to an already deteriorating image of Brazil on the international scene.

Raphael Tsavkko Garcia

Journalist and researcher at the Ph.D. program in Human Rights of University of Deusto, Spain.

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