Havaianas: Flip-Flopping Entrepreneurship on its Head in Rio de Janeiro

By August 23, 2016 News, Sport No Comments

The summer Olympics made its way to South America for the first time ever, taking place in Rio de Janeiro. And as Brazil welcomed 15,000 athletes from 205 countries, the popular and innovative Brazilian flip-flop brand Havaianas, also received the Olympic guests by creating a specially designed flip-flop collection…

As lovers and supporters of all things ‘innovative’ and ‘entrepreneurial’, and as a company which helps other companies to grow, Mitra Innovation takes a look at this amazing, and much-loved, Brazilian brand.

In Brazil, pretty much everyone from millionaires to socialites, minimum wage earners to construction workers, as well as the people who live in the country’s hillside ‘favelas’, wear Havaianas. It is a brand that is loved by all. A brand which launched in 1962 and has become not only a world favourite for its durable rubber soles, but also a national symbol of Brazil because of its history and roots.

The brand started as a basic shoe for poor plantation workers in Brazil, and managed to transform itself into a premium brand through a strategy that combined constant product innovation, consistent global marketing, and speedy and adaptable responses to consumer preferences. Havaianas did all of this whilst ensuring they continued to pay special attention to their home market (which also served as a test bed for new products), and producing sandals that were suitable for various climates and events, as well as socks, bags and soft washable shoes.

Marketing success

The marketing behind Havaianas has had a lot to do with the company’s success. Their marketing message has always suggested innovation and aspiration and has been careful to identify with the Brazilian spirit that embodies simplicity, bright colours, youthfulness, sensuality, joy and fun, amongst the other positive characteristics that consumers love about Brazil

Furthermore, the company has always known the importance of reacting quickly to market intelligence. For example, they noticed that sales deteriorated when the flip-flops were made outside Brazil, so they opened a new plant in the southeast of the country. Also, when they observed that customers liked shops with a full range of their flip-flops, they quickly opened stores in Rome, Paris, London and New York.

Globalisation: Sao Paulo to the world

Today, Havaianas are sold in over 80 countries and the brand not only manages to remain popular with all classes of people in Brazil, but also sells well as a premium product internationally. Their transition to a global brand was achieved through good planning and the ability to combine diligence and creativity to constant innovation. They also maintained a clear product focus and were careful to remain flexible. Additionally, Havaianas focused on as many markets as possible, making it harder for competitors to gain a foothold. Finally, Havaianas international recognition has also had a positive effect back home in Brazil, making domestic consumers proud of its success.

Havaianas and the Olympics

Havaianas has always had a long history of taking advantage of major world sports tournaments. They did this in 1998 by creating a version of the flip-flop called the ‘Brasil’, which was launched as a celebration of the 1998 World Cup,and which ended up being one of their best selling styles. This year – in support of the Rio 2016 Olympics and in collaboration with the Olympics organising committee – they launched a range of four very colourful styles that feature Brazilian landscapes and athletic depictions: two come decorated with patterns and symbols of the Rio 2016 Olympics, one pair features Sugarloaf Mountain, and a final pair features Christ the Redeemer.

At a time when all eyes were on Brazil, Havaianas alongside some other branded goods had an official license for Rio merchandise which is expected to generate $1 billion in Brazilian retail sales as part of their association with the Olympics. This is likely to help in boosting the companies brand even further because it is one of the country’s most international products. It is a great opportunity and time for them to communicate that they are Brazilian and remain unforgettable in the minds of its consumers.

Havaianas: an inspiration

Havaianas is inspiring for all entrepreneurs; especially those from emerging countries that are developing brands that they hope will rival the big names from the west. At Mitra Innovation, because we help start-ups launch and grow their products and services to global levels, we find it interesting and encouraging to see how this simple Brazilian shoe went from a start-up to a global brand by embracing its culture.

We hope that entrepreneurs in other emerging markets will be inspored by Havaianas and look for cultural aspects of their countries which can be used to culturally brand their products. This allows for product differentiation, and helps to conquer difficulties in the reception of products from emerging markets.

Where many ventures focus more on the product than its sales, services, operation and product evolution, Havaianas has understood the importance of a well rounded strategy, and we believe that lots of young brands can learn from this.

The 2016 Olympics has just finished. We’ve enjoyed it, and we hope you did too. Whilst Olympics fever is still in the air, perhaps it’s time to grab yourself a pair of the Olympics branded Havaianas!

Iya Ahmad

Iya Ahmed | Associate Marketing Executive
Mitra Innovation