By Chris Lee
Think Brazil and the clichés of football and flamboyant samba may come to mind. Yet Brazil is one of the most active social networking countries in the world with a burgeoning digital economy. As one of the four key growth markets known collectively as the BRICs (Brazil, Russia, India and China), the world is finally sitting up and taking note of Brazil’s digital prowess. With the FIFA World Cup 2014 and 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro to come, this truly is boom time for Brazil.
Brazil overtook the United Kingdom as the world’s sixth largest economy in spring 2012 and boasts more than 79 million Internet users, or 39 per cent of the population (Internet World Stats, April 2012). Add 220 million-plus cell phone accounts and you also have one of the most mobile economies too.
According to Raymond Girard, President of Content Marketing at content marketing agency Spafax anyone wanting to break into the Brazilian market needs to leave their preconceptions behind.
“In many ways more developed than we are. Early adoption and use of social media, consumption of content on mobile devices, dynamic airlines with superb service, fashion trends and architecture are just a few areas in which they put Western markets to shame,” he told NMK. “They just rightly wonder why it’s taken the rest of the world so long to take notice – and so do I!”
Ahead of the online game
Mark Hillary is an author and advisor based in São Paulo. For him, Brazil is often thought of as an “emerging market” but in social media adoption at least is really is only second to the US globally and, he says, in many ways is innovating faster.
"Ride a bus in São Paulo and the on-board video advertising uses Twitter to solicit customer feedback. Almost every major TV show has a live backchannel online and major football teams such as [2012 Club World Cup Champions] Corinthians update team status real-time during games,” he said. “The clothes store C&A uses hangers featuring a live numeric display showing how many times online shoppers have ‘liked’ that item on Facebook. Complain about your Sky TV package online and they will respond online.”
In terms of digital skills Hillary said marketing jobs now demand social media skills and he is forever running into social media professors from the local universities.
Fostering a digital economy in Brazil
One such social media professor is Professor Elizabeth Saad Corrêa of the School of Communications and Arts (Journalism and Publishing) at the University of São Paulo. For Professor Saad, universities are playing catch-up when it comes to the wider digital adoption in the country.
“Brazilian Universities don’t have a formal and planned strategy to foster digital [skills],” she told NMK. “Most of them are behind the state-of-the-art and the public ones face a very complex bureaucracy aiming curricula changes. The private universities invest – at first on hardware, software and different labs – but don’t make any movement to change the courses content and faculty training.”
Professor Saad believes that Brazil’s growth will inevitably even out after the period of growth.
“I don’t think that we will be at the same developing level that we are facing now,” she concluded. “Maybe we are experiencing kind of a bubble of optimism.”