Brazilian Cosmetics Company Breaks Rules to Build Brand

Quem Disse, Berenice? Helps Women Be Free and Colorful

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Juliana Dubois Fava was an up-and-coming category manager at Unilever when she got a call from her former boss asking her to help create a cosmetics brand. The startup would live within O Boticário,
Brazil's biggest beauty company.

Juliana Dubois Fava
Juliana Dubois Fava

During an intensive research and development period that coincided with a flood of new makeup brands in Brazil, one insight stood out. "We realized everyone was afraid of makeup and following the rules -- and that could be our main point of differentiation," said Ms. Fava.

Less than three years after the first colorful store opened in August 2012, the brand is all about breaking the rules. That spirit begins with the name -- Quem Disse, Berenice? -- a Brazilian slang expression that basically means "Who says I have to?"

"We wanted the name to be our elevator speech," Ms. Fava said. "It should be catchy and punchy. It's about questioning the rules and freedom."

The brand's agency, Santa Clara, devised the name and helped develop the brand. To convey the free-to-experiment message, a TV spot featured a life-size doll accessorizing her face from a
drawer full of eyes and mouths, then turning into a confident real woman. Other ads debunk traditional makeup rules, such as emphasize the eyes or lips but not both. Santa Clara also created the distinctive logo, a heart turned sideways to look like full red lips.

To spur innovation, O Boticário hired outsiders like Ms. Fava and her boss, Alexandre Gasulla Bouza, to create the brand and run the business. It's been so successful that Mr. Bouza was promoted last month to marketing head of O Boticário and Ms. Fava, who was originally in charge of channel development, succeeded him as marketing and sales director for Quem Disse, Berenice?.

To get the brand off the ground fast with a national presence, the marketing innovation team developed more than 500 stock-keeping units, and 100 stores opened in the first year.

In Brazil, only about 40% of women use lipstick and eye products, and 30% buy other facial makeup. Nail polish has the highest usage, at 50%.

"That's the main challenge, to develop the market," Ms. Fava said.

Day of the Kiss/Dia do Beijo
Day of the Kiss/Dia do Beijo

It's all about driving trial. Quem Disse, Berenice? seized upon an obscure April holiday called Day of the Kiss and invited women to try a bright new color and attitude by swapping an old lipstick -- of any brand -- for a new one to be ready for their kisses. On April 11, about 50,000 lipsticks were handed out.

The brand also distributed 250,000 products in a two-week activation called "No rules for friendship." Members could choose to email a friend a personalized video with a song about being adventurous, with lyrics like "Renata, this message is for you! Don't hide. Your mouth is nice. Thin lips are OK; orange lipstick isn't too much. An orange lipstick is waiting for you!" Recipients picked up their free gift at the store.

On a visit to a Quem Disse, Berenice? in Sao Paulo's Morumbi shopping center, where there are also Sephora and MAC outlets, the store was full of animated young women trying out products, helped by a sales associate with orange lipstick and blue eyeshadow. Packaging is simple, and prices are mid-range, at about $4 for nail polish and $10 for lipstick.

Best-selling items like a metallic green eye pencil earn a "Top Products" logo in stores and online. The brand does about eight product launches each year and the latest, Super Matte Liquid Lipstick, is so popular that stores struggle to keep it in stock. New products are tried out at a fully functioning store located in the Quem Disse, Berenice? office, where a four-person social-media team engages with the brand's fans, including 4 million on Facebook.

With Brazil's economy slowing, about 30 stores per year will open moving forward. "If not for the recession, we'd probably be growing faster," Ms. Fava said. Even so, sales are increasing by 10% or 20% a year. When budgets are tight, women are still likely to indulge in a new lipstick, she noted.

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