Tuesday, 6 July 2010
Veja shoes in Brazil?
Veja has the potential to do well in Brazil. The French footwear brand, which is currently sold in Europe, is made in Brazil – and trades off its manufacturing roots – and the product itself looks good, too.
But Veja, which means “look” in Portuguese, is also the name of a well-known cleaning product in Brazil. “That’s the problem,” says Sébastien Kopp, one of Veja’s co-founder. “Lots of people have told me they want the brand in Brazil but we need to look at the name.”
Even though the brand is French and its headquarters are in Paris, Veja’s other co-founder, François-Ghislain Morillion, says that the spirit of the brand is very much linked to Brazil. “When we go to São Paulo we meet people from its arts scene and get inspired in the same way we do when we visit London,” he says. “The original concept [for Veja] was to create a nice shoe that respected the environment, but there’s an energy about Brazil too.”
Veja uses sustainable and ethical techniques to make its shoes, including buying its organic cotton from a Brazilian collective and using rubber from the Amazon on the soles of Veja shoes. The process turns latex into rubber sheets without any industrial intermediary processes.
“Brazil has amazing natural resources and lots of energy in its people,” says Morillion. “The country has been resolving social problems too over the last six years, but at the moment it’s only a production country. [It has the potential] to be a big market in its own right.”
So, what can Veja do about its name to maximise its potential in Brazil? Most of its designs feature a V, so perhaps the brand could shorten its name over there?
John Kerswell, senior consultant of brand consultancy Interbrand, offers some solutions.
“This illustrates perfectly one of the dilemmas faced by brands when they go international. Should you change who you are to better suit a new market? When launched in France, the name Veja will have seemed relatively abstract to non-Portuguese speakers, those who did speak the language, will have got the reference to fashion and pride in the translation of ‘look’. But moving into new markets can create new problems for brand names," Kerswell explains. "Many change their name, which can cause headaches with new packaging, advertising and PR campaigns. Others simply re-align their worldwide portfolio to keep the name consistent across markets. This is all well and good for most low involvement FMCG brands, but for a fashion brand where image is everything, it can be a little more challenging.
"Which brings us back to Veja in Brazil. The way I see it, the brand has three options:
1. Keep the name. Interestingly, Veja trainers already have a strong Brazilian connection. They’re inspired by Brazilian volley shoes from the 1970s and made from fair trade organic cotton and natural latex from Amazonia. This gives them a credible Brazilian story to tell and there may even be awareness of the brand that would distance them from detergents. The word ‘look’ is commonly used, so to many the name will suggest this, rather than a cleaning product anyway. Plenty of products from different categories share a name. In the UK for example we have Polo mints, VW Polo cars and Ralph Lauren Polo shirts, all happily co-existing.
2. Change the name for the Brazilian market. A new name, while a sign of admitting defeat, could signify a different approach to the Brazilian market. The Veja brand name isn’t splashed all over the shoe designs, just referenced on the back. Replace this with the distinctive V logo and the same product could be sold under different names.
3. Develop a new name. Changing the name worldwide probably isn’t the best approach to maintain brand value, but creating a new endorsed sub-brand under the Veja masterbrand could help navigate any problems."
Veja is certainly doing well in the UK, which makes up 20% of its total sales. It has about 22 stockists in the UK, including iconic department store Selfridges and super-cool independent retailers like Oi Polloi in Manchester and Kiosk 78 in Leeds. Since it launched five years ago, Veja has always made a profit, according to Morrilion. Last month, Veja threw a party at its newly opened showroom in east London.