Paulo Marinho is head of corporate communictions at Brazil's Itaú Unibanco, one of the world's largest banks.

Marinho was in New York recently for Aberje's Brazillian Corporate Communications day, explaining the challenges involved in taking a Brazilian bank global. Here, he expands on these views in an interview with the Holmes Report, noting that 'Brazil's moment' offers genuine opportunities for the country's companies.

Why are Brazilian brands interested in 'going global'?

Over the past decade, thanks to the stabilization of our economy, Brazil has become part of the global economy. Not only are foreign groups investing strongly in Brazil to tap its dynamic growth and market, but Brazilian groups and brands are feeling increasingly confident and moving outside of Brazil.

Part of this is just the natural force of globalization, part of this also reflects Brazil’s position as a gateway to Latin America, but part of this is also linked to what I would call 'Brazil’s moment': International events such as the upcoming 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympic Games will attract global brands to Brazil and Brazilian brands understand there is an opportunity to leverage those to build relationships and partnerships that can be sustained both domestically and abroad following these milestones.

Brazilian companies such as Itaú that have seen their businesses buoyed by domestic growth and foreign investment understand they are well-positioned to use this momentum to explore ways to leverage their assets abroad and offer their consumers additional goods and services in a global marketplace.


Also, in our specific case, we do have the role of helping Brazilian companies do their business and expansion abroad. So naturally we also need to position ourselves as a global Latin American bank.

What are the key PR challenges they face when it comes to expanding beyond Brazil? How can they overcome these?

Language and culture. The fact that Brazil is Portuguese-speaking  and its very specific culture are a limitation in a global marketplace. In order to reduce the barriers that language and culture create, Brazil will need to develop messages and positioning that engages – at minimum – a bilingual audience.

Nationalistic posture. Brazilian companies can oftentimes be limited by an insular posture/perspective that does not fully consider a foreign audience. Making the Brazil-specific heritage and values behind the brand relevant to the target markets is key – there is indeed a fine balance between globalization and localization.

Brand(s) will more or less carry in it certain values derived from the national brand – be it Carnaval, beaches, rich resources, racial mix, expertise in agriculture, football etc.

Media engagement. Brazilian brands face the challenge of making themselves relevant to journalistic audiences abroad. Brazilian companies need to engage traditional and digital/social media to position stories that raise awareness about how they are relevant in the global marketplace and how their products benefit a global audience.

What lessons can they take from their domestic PR experience, which they can apply internationally?

We cannot talk on behalf of all Brazilian companies, but we can tell a little bit more about Itaú. Building candid relationships and stakeholder engagement to build up a strong reputation are at the core of Itaú’s way. Itaú has focused on reaching out to all audiences domestically for a long time now, and has accumulated many success stories in the process. We therefore believe we can replicate some of these stories globally.

However it is crucial that while one stays close to the core Brazilian values and Brazilian ways, the company needs to respect the international perspective and adapt appropriately. There is indeed a fine balance between the two.

How can PR firms help your international expansion plans?

Advice: A strategic advisor with international perspective and experience will help you develop a targeted strategy that enables you to identify goals, challenges and opportunities.

Positioning: An advisor with a global footprint will help you align your strategy and core messages in order to engage stakeholders in multiple markets.

Direct support: An advisor with a global team can directly support execution of your strategy and delivery of core messages locally to maximize impact.