Carlos Ferreirinha asked us to meet him at Cafe Octavio in the centre of São Paulo’s business district.
We’ve arrived early and are enjoying a fresh juice and watching people rush by on their way to work. “So Carlos is the man to go to if you’re interested in working in the luxury sector in Brazil, is that right?” Anouk asks.
“Yup, Carlos is your man – he’s got years of experience. Knows everything about the Brazilian market and, perhaps more importantly, about how foreign luxury brands can penetrate it. There’s a cool example of how Tiffany had a store in São Paulo, based on the US model and it wasn’t really working.
They met up with Carlos and he told them that Brazilians want to be pampered: they want to be served coffee, have access to private lounges and receive special attention as part of their shopping experience. Tiffany took his advice and business picked up immediately!”
“Wow,” says Anouk, “just goes to show that local knowledge is priceless right?”
Ten minutes later Carlos strolls in, casually yet smartly dressed. “Hey guys,” he says with a smile, “great to meet you!” He orders an espresso and we start chatting about his company, MCF, a consultancy firm he founded 12 years ago. Today he has a team of 35 people working for him.
It’s clear that he is dedicated to the company and to his employees, as he tells us that he would sooner sell his car than fire staff. “My goal is not just to make money, but also to enjoy life, work on projects I love and teach my team how to grow,” he says.
“So tell us about your work in the luxury sector,” says Anouk. “How have you seen the market evolve since you started?”
“Well I started 20 years ago at Louis Vuitton,” says Carlos with a laugh, “so let me tell you there has been a lot of change! But Brazil is a work in progress, it will never be ready, so there is constant change – that’s very important to remember.”
“What do you think is the greatest challenge for foreign luxury brands entering the market here?” I ask.
Carlos considers the question for a minute, then says: “There are many, it’s hard to know where to start. But I’d say the main thing is your approach. You basically need to press the reset button, forget everything you ever learned elsewhere.”
“Wow, really?” I ask. “That radical?”
“Yes, working in Brazil requires a huge amount of creativity and flexibility. And you need local expertise. There is no way you can enter this market without speaking Portuguese and knowing the subtleties of business here.”
“And that’s where you come in!” says Anouk.
“Exactly!” Carlos says. “That’s my main role: I am a translator, bridging the cultural and linguistic gap between foreign luxury brands and the Brazilian market.”
“What about Brazilian brands? I ask. “Have you seen them growing stronger over the last decade?”
“There is some growth, but we’re not there yet,” says Carlos. “It could be a lot stronger: we are the largest producer of commodities like coconut, oranges and coffee, but we have no international brands to speak of. If you ask me we should have a patent on beachwear in general and the bikini in particular!”
Anouk laughs. “So how do you think the Brazil brand can be strengthened? Beyond the image of Brazil as football, samba and beach parties, what should it stand for?”
“Ha interesting,” says Carlos, “Brazil as a brand… that’s another way of approaching it… well I think you can’t get around the fact that samba, soccer and beaches are a part of who we are and have shaped our national character as relaxed, fun-loving and music-loving people. Beyond that I think we are also a country that embraces progress and new technology, we’re an agricultural powerhouse…”
“Ok but if there were one attribute that represented Brazil what would it be?” I ask. “I mean if the United Stated stands for entertainment, Europe for culture and luxury, and Asia for spirituality and technology, then what is Brazil?”
“Brazil is the country that translates human touch. It is the country of touching, fun and smiling,” says Carlos.
© 2013 CoolBrands – Around the World in 80 Brands
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Tags: Anouk Pappers, Maarten Schäfer, CoolBrands Influencers, Influencers around the world, Around the World in 80 Brands, Storytelling, Meeting Carlos Ferreirinha, Carlos Ferreirinha, MCF, consultancy luxury sector Brazil, consultancy luxury brands Brazil, luxury brands brazil, foreign luxury brands entering Brazilian market