Postcard From Brazil

Wednesday, 09 July 2014

by Erin Weinberg

The statement “What a World Cup” has taken on a whole new meaning. 

After close calls, last-minute goals, over times, penalty shots, red cards and injuries, we have the Brazil collapse. Since I arrived in Brazil for my second tour of duty this tournament, it has been a sea of green-and-clean clad, happy fans. Every store front, restaurant and hotel was draped in banners and flags. It was clear that the great feeling about the team’s continued advancement had helped quiet the protesters and loud voices of opposition. People were optimistic – and not just the fans. Yes, there were isolated protests during the first few weeks, but no more than you see in Times Square on any given weekend in New York. The love of the game and Brazilian pride had taken over and it was a great thing to see and be part of. As Americans, we root for our teams, wear our jerseys, celebrate victory and suffer defeat  - but not the way Brazilians do. Soccer is a religion, simply put. When the national team plays, the country literally shuts down. Offices close, schools let out early and there is no apology for it. It’s the Brazilian way. So when Brazil took the field against Germany, the entire country was upbeat – almost euphoric – at the opportunity to play and vie for World Cup trophy on their home turf.    

And then it happened…one goal for Germany…then two, three, and so on. The stadium, the fans…the entire country was devastated. The utter disbelief gave way to humiliation, which is a feeling that translates in any language, and Brazilians wore it on every face. It was painful to watch our Brazilian colleagues literally suffer as if they had been physically beaten-up. Grown men cried. The night was filled with firecrackers and people on the street, but more so to make their way home instead of celebrating with their friends and countrymen. There were some moments of violence – a Molotov cocktail thrown, stores broken into – but for the most part, people just wanted to suffer in peace

The next morning as I made my way to a meeting, it was noticeable how quiet the city of Rio was and how everyone who had been wearing their Brazil pride had put their shirts and flags away, at least until Saturday. They will suffer the pain of defeat for now and unfortunately carry the loss into all future World Cups given the unbelievable outcome...but what happens beyond is the question. Given their captain Thiago Silva and superstar Neymar Jr. were missing from the line-up, the country could have forgiven a 1-0 loss. But 7-1? No doubt there will be plenty of Brazilian fans in the stands on Saturday when Brazil plays the Netherlands for third place, but what is the long-term impact? It will reverberate into everything Brazil does in the foreseeable future – including the Presidential elections in October. This will unfortunately scar a country so passionate about football that it bleeds green and yellow. It will be the asterisk next to Brazil’s name whenever they talk about the 2014 World Cup Brazil. Ultimately, I know Brazilians will stand and support their team but when they get up off the floor is the question.    

Five Considerations for Brands at the FIFA World Cup

Friday, 13 June 2014

By Mary Scott

The FIFA World Cup kicked off yesterday. As fans, we’ll be cheering for our favorite teams, rooting for compelling storylines and feeling riveted as the competition unfolds. But as communications counselors for companies and brands looking to tap into the unbridled passion of the games, we will be paying just as much (if not more) attention to the action off the field.

So how does a company get the most out of a sponsorship or activation while managing the surround sound and avoiding becoming a vehicle for someone else’s agenda? Here are five critical components to consider:

  1. Be True to Your Brand – Don’t change your story to match the asset. Leverage the asset in a way that maximizes value while remaining true to your brand. The connection to the event only works if it’s done in an authentic meaningful way.
  2. Don’t Get Lost in TranslationA common mistake – a brand fails to embrace the local culture of a market. Brazil has a culture all its own. Don’t force an American-centric concept and expect it to automatically translate. Be sure that programs are authentic and tailored for the local market perspective.
  3. Own, Don’t RentBrands are most vulnerable if they appear to be “renting” equity of the local market, swooping in for a brief activation and leaving abruptly once the tournament concludes. Brands should aspire to be a part of a solution and leave a positive legacy, which gives them the best chance of achieving results that last beyond the event’s conclusion.
  4. Words Mean EverythingWhile sponsors are a natural target for protestors, don’t make it easy. As an example, McDonald’s #CheersToSochi Olympic social program became a platform for consumers worldwide to share their political views about Russia. Careful thought and attention to language will help prevent similar situations.
  5. Be PreparedAnticipating the unexpected long before the tournament begins allows stakeholders to prepare for any eventuality. Taking executives through live simulations and table-top exercises is invaluable. Then setting up a virtual 24/7 war room to monitor activity across all channels is critical to determine when to join or walk away from the conversation.

In addition to fans, marketers will be watching Brazil and the FIFA World Cup with even greater interest, given this is the first of a doubleheader, with the Rio 2016 Summer Olympics a mere two years away. Never has the pressure been greater on Brazil and sponsors, as this is really about so much more than a game.

Mary Scott is general manager, MATTER.

Image by Thomás.


Tuesday, 13 May 2014

by Abby Fass

In the music industry, there has long been a system for new album releases: Get singles on the radio, book TV appearances, and work with retailers to make product available on a release date.

These are traditional, tried-and-true methods, but in today’s music landscape, there is a lot of competition. Whether it’s through Pandora, Amazon mp3, iTunes, Band Camp, Best Buy, Beats, Spotify, or countless others, there seems to be no single way that consumers access music.

What does this teach us?

In the music industry – and most any other modern-day industry – it’s no longer enough to be the loudest or the shiniest. The biggest advertisement in Times Square doesn’t always win.

To cut through the clutter, you have to show up differently – which MATTER challenges its clients to do every day.

Here are a few examples from the music industry that inspire us to rewrite the rules:

Leverage & defy expectations


Although it had been a while since the band had released a record, Radiohead was still extremely popular in 2007, supported by sales of well-known albums such as 1995’s “The Bends,” 1997’s “OK Computer”, and 2000’s “Kid A”. But when it came time to release their 2007 record “In Rainbows”, piracy in the music industry was rampant. To cause a splash, Radiohead needed to do something different.

On October 10, 2007, Radiohead digitally released “In Rainbows” via the band’s own Web site with one directive: “pay what you like.” In an industry driven by sales and riddled with piracy, this was a revolutionary concept—will people elect to buy music when given the option? The answer turned out to be yes; however, the method was not without consequence. On one hand, according to NPR, the album was pirated at 10 times the rate of new releases from other top artists. On the other hand, although the income of the album was never released, according to Radiohead’s publisher, “In Rainbows” made more money on the “pay what you like” site than they made total on their previous album, “Hail To The Thief.”

In the months leading up to the album release, Radiohead sold 3 million digital downloads of “In Rainbows”, and by October 2008, had sold 1.75 million CDs and 100,000 special disc-boxes.  As Pitchfork put it, it was “Not bad for a thing you could get for free.”

Leverage secrecy


In 2013, the world knew a lot about Beyoncé. She was riding high from her enormous recent personal and professional successes: Her 2008 album “I am…Sasha Fierce”, her 2011 album “4", the birth of her child- Blue Ivy with husband Jay-Z  in 2012, and the release of her 2013 HBO biopic, “Life Is But A Dream”.  Needless to say, Beyoncé was having trouble getting press.

By December 2013, there were fans who would tell you they knew everything about Beyoncé. But they didn’t know that she was about to drop another record-breaking album.

On December 13, 2013, Beyoncé released “Beyoncé”, her fifth studio album, without any advance notice.  Her Marketing team took a gamble in this approach, and all they could do was hope that this stunt helps rather than hinders sales.  Not only was this released with no prior publicity, it was a visual album, only available via iTunes.  The album, thanks to its innovative marketing strategy, debuted at the top of the Billboard 200 chart, and sold one million digital copies in just six days—setting an iTunes record.

Leverage rarity

Wu-Tang Clan

The Wu-Tang Clan is one of the most beloved rap groups of all time. Widely respected for its experimental style and broad influences, the group is often referred to as a band of artists. For their latest album, Wu-Tang clan’s goal wasn’t album sales—it was to create a unique music experience, not unlike the experience of visiting an original painting.

So, how do you make something rare and newsworthy? You only make one copy. The Wu-Tang Clan will manufacture only one copy of their latest album— “Once Upon a Time in Shaolin” to be sold to the highest bidder. According to the LA Times, as of April 3, 2014 the bidding was up to $5 Million.  Wu-Tang Clan plans to tour the U.S. with the album—premiering it during ticketed listening sessions at venues such as museums and music festivals. The goal is to elevate the album as an artwork, as a one of a kind. With a strategy as innovative and risky as this, it just may work. It will be interesting to keep an eye out for the results, but if the media coverage is any indication, it is sure to garner some attention, and become the must-see (rather, “must-listen”) exhibit of the year.

To reach your audience, you’ll need a nuanced approach—especially if you’re brand is not Radiohead, Beyoncé, or The Wu-Tang Clan. When you’re ready—MATTER knows how to do it.  Whether it’s by partnering your brand with an athlete, celebrity, or TV show, we are always looking for ways to do it differently, and make a splash.

Abby Fass is an assistant account executive in the Los Angeles office of Matter, Inc.