Graciana Méndez
Graciana is a Mintel Trends Analyst for the Latin America region. She has worked as a trendspotter and content writer for over 10 years, in companies like The Futures Company and JWT Intelligence.

A massive truckers’ strike, now in its second week, has crippled Brazil’s economy as concerns over rising fuel costs have led to state-wide protests. Fuel and food shortages, reduced public transportation, non-urgent surgeries cancelled, working from home as a norm, closed universities, delayed flights, fake news saying “everything will stop” and the culling of millions of chickens due to lack of feed in the world’s largest poultry exporter.

Amid a challenging and changing scenario, brands are launching innovations to tackle shortages and boost consumption.

Fuel as currency, horses running deliveries

Fuel has become scarce, and for that reason, a valued commodity. Some brands have even gone a step further by positioning fuel as a currency. Enjoy Pizza, a Brasilia-based pizza place, is accepting fuel as payment, with a big pizza valued at 3 litres of diesel.

Other players are raising the bar by incorporating old-fashioned means of transportation to keep their businesses running. For example, 389 Burger, a Brasilia-based burger joint, has decided to tackle the lack of fuel by using friends’ horses to run deliveries.

With no clear end to the strike in sight and a long weekend approaching, Marina Confiança, a Bragança Paulista-based hotel, has announced that it will be rewarding those who stick to their holiday reservations at the hotel with 20 litres of gas. However, those who decide not to cancel their vacation plans will surely need to fill up their tank to get there. But no worries, Waze will help them make it there with a new feature for these hectic days, notifying users where they can find a gas station that has fuel in stock, plus where there is price gouging.

Adopting a new mindset

20% of Brazilians say they would pay more for products from environmentally responsible brands.

Other brands are using this crisis to highlight the need for a new, environmentally-responsible mind set, encouraging consumers to adopt greener forms of transportation. Indeed, bicycle manufacturer Caloi is calling consumers to adopt cleaner, healthier and more affordable forms of transport by converting the price of their bicycles into litres of fuel. Mintel research on middle class Brazilians shows that 20% of consumers say they would pay more for products from environmentally responsible brands.

The role of social media

Real-time messaging and social media have become vital tools for people to stay informed and plan for the future. However, there’s also been a spark of fake warnings. Truckers say they have organized the strike across the country through WhatsApp and Facebook — not through the unions, which they claim they distrust. Mintel data shows that 88% of Brazilian consumers say they use WhatsApp several times a day. While truckers are using social media to organize themselves, Brazilians are also relying on it to vent their frustrations through funny memes such as recipes to make “natural” diesel to toy-like transportation methods.

Lessons learned for brands

  • Rapid response and flexibility are critical. Events change minute to minute and brands should be ready to react and adapt to the changing realities.
  • Lead with empathy and confidence by showing consumers you know what they are going through. When the crisis is over, consumers will remember the brands that offered support and a shared understanding of their crisis.
  • Optimism is a central part of the Brazilian culture and some responses to the crisis can be light-hearted. Remember that out there, horses are running deliveries.