Brazil’s tourism marketing fail

“Brazil, visit and love us” is an embarrassing slogan

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Embratur or Brazilian Tourism Institute is the name of a special department of the Ministry of Tourism of Brazil. They have recently unveiled the new slogan to promote Brazil abroad, “Brazil, visit and love us”. The slogan was accused of promoting sex tourism, as well as containing a number of errors ranging from grammar to basic marketing.

“The slogan seems to want to unfold the old motto ‘love it or leave it’, in a kind of intertextuality with the military period” says Sérgio Tavares Filho, PhD in Digital Culture from the University of Jyväskylä and senior consultant at Idean.

The slogan “Love it or leave it” was created in the 1969 by the counterinsurgency unit Operação Bandeirantes (OBAN) inspired in the “love it or leave it” motto used in the US during the Vietnam War. The slogan was popularised at the beginning of the government of the then dictator Emílio Garrastazu Médici (1969–1974), one of the periods of greatest repression of the military dictatorship that lasted from 1964 to 1985.

The phrase, along with others like “Nobody can hold back this country”, “You Build Brazil”, “Brazil Deserves our Love” or the song “Forward Brazil [Hail our National Football Team]” sung during the 1970 Football World Cup in which Brazil became three-time world champion, was used to encourage patriotism and to send a message to those unhappy with the regime amid a period known as “economic miracle” in which the country was going through a phase of economic growth and technological advances — and to mask the tortures in police stations and military facilities as well as the tremendous and persistent economic inequality in the country

Tavares adds that the slogan also doesn’t work in English and “there is an unquestionable ambiguity in the slogan; the reference to sex tourism. A good marketing professional always exploits the good ambiguities and questions the inadequate ones, to choose the best ones” — that is not the case here.

To make matters worse, the typography (Fontastique) was created by a graphic artist, Benoit Sjöholm, who lives in France and did not give permission for its use by the Brazilian government. “The typography is free to download on the internet for non-commercial use and Embratur used the typographic type without being aware of their license,” explains Angelo Souza, Brazilian graphic designer. The federal tourism agency confirmed the mistake to newspaper Folha de São Paulo informing they will make changes to the typography.

For experts and ordinary citizens manifesting on social media, the use of “z” in Brazil instead of the common form in Portuguese, with “s”, would also be a problem, a disrespect to the national symbols and a significative change from the previous brand.

However, the biggest criticisms were due to the supposed sexual connotation of the phrase “visit and love us”.

In English the pronoun -it- is used for things, places and animals, but there’s no equivalence in Portuguese, therefore the use of -us- makes sense in Portuguese, but not in English. Also, a literal translation would possibly make the verb -love- refer to a sexual act to any English-speaker. Americas Quarterly 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”.

To make things worse, Brazil is already a major hotspot for sex tourism and several local governments have tried their best to tackle the issue. Embratur’s original idea was to translate the phrase “visite e encante-se” that in English would read “visit and be enchanted” or “visit and be amazed” — without any possible sexual or geopolitical connotation — but they have failed to do so.

Not to mention the use of “us” might be misunderstood for the U.S. — curiously, the relationship between the current Brazilian government, led by far-right Jair Bolsonaro, and Donald Trump’s U.S. is the closest in the past two decades decade.

Souza explains that “the symbolic brand of a country embraces a semiotic complexity that dialogues [with] its sociocultural diversity, being an image capable of constructing and deconstructing concepts and showing the personality of its people, combining the symbolic assumptions of cultural identity and dialoguing with the notion of state, country and nationality,” but in Embratur’s new brand “the semiotic aspect of the state prevailed over all cultural aspects.”

One of the most significant aspects of Bolsonaro’s government is the attempt to bring back the memory of the military dictatorship (the president has often openly defended the regime and even practices such as torture), and the official slogan of Brazilian tourism could not be different, with a “childish representation of the Brazilian flag that reminds us of the 1970’s brand, which promoted the Brazilian woman [thus, sex tourism] and carnival,” adds Souza.

Ricardo Freire, former publicist and writer specialized in travel, wrote a long article on his website explaining some of the main mistakes of the new Embratur brand.

“The new ‘Brazil’ brand 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 well evidenced in the result: it is amateur, unfinished and poor,” he said.

The Brazilian flag, says Freire, “applied as a mere civic symbol to our tourism brand [and] adds absolutely nothing to what the lettering already informs: it is a Brazilian brand.” According to Embratur, the flag was inspired by the rose of the winds, but it doesn’t convey an idea of movement as “it is necessary to explain to the receiver that the flag is a stylized rose of the winds,” explains Freire

Both Freire and Souza agree that the previous brand, from 2004, “represented the Brazilian diversity much better,” says Souza and “it was the fruit of a very rich planning,” sentences Freire, even though, he explains, he’s encountered several problems with the old brand.

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Old brand

It is not clear if Embratur will search only the use of the fount, or if it will rethink the whole idea, but the fact is that the negative opinions of specialists and ordinary Brazilians accumulate and the choice of a bad branding can damage the image of the country abroad.

This article is a longer version of “Brazil’s country branding has a long history of failure”, originally published at The Brazilian Report.

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