Natura &Co Media, Content and Communication VP Carlos Pitchu joined the Brazilian personal care and cosmetics company early last year just as the pandemic was unfolding. Having worked with the brand for some time as president of Tribal Brazil, he was quite familiar with it, but COVID put his job in a new context since he had to meet both the marketing needs and the economic needs of many Brazilians. Both the Natura brand and the Avon brand, which Natura also owns, are sold by sales reps, many of whom are women entrepreneurs. Natura also owns The Body Shop. For WARC’s Spotlight Brazil, WARC US Commissioning Editor Cathy Taylor talked to Pitchu about how the brands have been helping their sales reps through the pandemic, about Natura’s new Communication Hub, and about the brand's longstanding sense of mission.
This article is part of the August 2021 Spotlight Brazil series, "A close look at LATAM's largest market." Read more
Some topline insights:
- Natura &Co has augmented its marketing through its new Communication Hub; launched in 2020, the Hub allows the company’s many sales consultants – particularly for the Avon and Natura brands – to build custom posts from a vast library of options.
- A central focus of the Communication Hub is gamifying content, helping sales consultants not only to spread the word about products and promotions, but also some of the company’s missions; Natura has been involved in causes such as saving the Amazon rain forest for decades.
- As the pandemic unfolded, the company needed to provide additional support for its consultants, many of whom are women entrepreneurs, so it increased the ability for them to social sell, introduced “no touch” delivery, and gave them more time to pay Natura’s portion of their sales back to the company.
- For all of Natura’s brands – which also include The Body Shop – there will be a need to evolve the roles of both the physical store and e-commerce, since even those who go to the stores continue to have an interest in direct and social selling.
WARC: Walk me through what your roles are. I know your title is Media, Content and Communication VP, but what really happens under the hood of the title?
Carlos Pitchu: It's a new position here at Natura. Last year, Natura integrated Avon in our operation, and with this movement, we promoted substantial operational changes here. One of those was the creation of what we call the Communication Hub. The Communication Hub is an area that’s very, very expert in orchestrating all kinds of tools and communication: advertisements, CRM, and social selling, owned content, all the owned channels, the PR, the earned media, all types of media you can imagine.
In this area, it’s transversal. We cross brands, and we cross regions, geographic regions, in LATAM. So this is the Communication Hub. And a year and a half ago, my boss, invited me to come by and assume this position to take this project out from Keynote, from PowerPoint, and bring it to reality.
How does the Communication Hub help the different people who sell your products? Avon, for instance, is a different model than The Body Shop.
This is the perfect question. Because this is one of the main reasons to bring all these capabilities inside the company. The ability to create content, to create communication pieces to be distributed in a network of systems and tools is key for us to give instruments to all of the sales force. Communication for us is more important in activating the channel than creating awareness in paid media. So, to control and understand this system, these mechanisms, to have this ability inside the house is very, very strategic for us.
One of the missions we are pursuing is understanding this all-new dynamic of social selling and social commerce and live commerce and all sorts of digital apparatus that people are using to sell, to convince consumers to buy our products. Thinking between Natura and Avon – that have a direct selling model – and The Body Shop for instance, we are facing a convergence right now. Because when the stores were shut down, were closed, the sellers of the stores needed to start contacting people through WhatsApp, for example. And they came for a more direct selling-like model, so all this technology, and all this capability, of creating content and creating these art pieces was very useful in that moment. So now, when the stores are opening again, these techniques are not being left behind. They still, people still, even with the stores open, people are still social selling, and it's a huge convergence. So, it makes a lot of sense to have this structure of the Communication Hub right now inside the house, for all the brands.
What were some of the tools you launched that were all of the sudden moved from a longer timeline to a shorter one because of the pandemic?
One example, one hero we have here is a function in the consultant, or representative app, that’s called “My Posts.” So, if you are a Natura consultant, you can open the “My Posts” feature; there are hundreds and hundreds of art pieces that you can customize. You can put your contact [information] in, you can put your link in, you can embed the discount you want to give to your clients. So, the system generates this final art, you download, and you share. And when you share this art piece, we can track it, because it has a link, so people have a bank, not only of images, but promotions. All these pieces and all this content, are arguments to start a chat and boost sales, so this tool is a champion right now. But the idea is more and more gamifying, giving missions and not only pushing to sell, but pushing our causes too. We want to propose to people to share our ideas too, not just promotions.
I was kind of blown away by like the breadth of the corporate mission at Natura on some very big issues.
The fact is that this proposal, all these missions are in the roots of the company. Natura was talking about the Amazon, the climate change and plastic and everything decades ago, much earlier, before people even started to think about it. So, 30 years ago Natura already was in the middle of the Amazon, thinking how to keep the forest standing, how to make a live tree valued more than the wood. This was the idea from 30 years ago. It's very, very in the deep roots of the company.
I always say to people that, one very emblematic fact, in Natura, is the fact that all this content [does not rest ] with me. I'm the advertisement guy. And all these subjects are not with me. It's a good signal, because in other companies, sustainability is with the advertisement guys. And in Natura this is not true.
The most passionate, the most fascinating impact that we generate, in my opinion – it’s my take, my personal take – is [what] we generate in the people that are selling Natura, and Avon too. We change a lot of lives. People start to be an entrepreneur, women are getting power … It's a game changer for a lot of people for many reasons, so, the social impact, connected to the direct-selling system, it's something very, very interesting. In countries like Brazil and in South America, and the undeveloped countries, it's very, very meaningful.
I wonder about your thoughts on how your company has helped during the pandemic, helped a lot of women feed their families, which is what it comes down to, right?
Yes. My first meeting at Natura was a meeting with the board to discuss exactly this; it was in April of last year, 2020. So, everybody was in this virtual room, and the subject of the meeting was we need to help stop the contamination [of the virus], and help people to make the economy still circulate, help people to be safe in terms of health, and make people still be able to sell, still be able to make any money. It was my first meeting in Natura, and there, we decided to create a fund to help people, and this fund reached hundreds of millions … and for all the region for all South America, Mexico, and LATAM. And it was very, very important to help people in many ways.
The other thing was to very quickly create a new way of direct selling, a very, very, very safe way to contact people, to deliver products. We started to deliver directly, with no touch. We started to provide all the digital tools possible to people to start to communicate through the digital platforms. And we gave people time to pay their bills to us. We expanded the time a lot. Months more.
Coming out of this, how do you think it's going to be different? We've all gotten much more accustomed to just buying stuff online. How do you think this is going to work out in the end? Because it is fun to go to a beauty store and try things and all that.
I believe both the physical store and e-commerce have the opportunity to evolve, and evolve in terms of role. The combination of both can be rethought now, so the kind of experience you provide in the physical store needs to be different. And the kind of experience, the kind of convenience that you provide in ecommerce, needs to be better. So, this new recombination of roles, it's a huge opportunity.
How do you think Brazil will be different coming out of the pandemic?
The Brazilians believe, since they are born, that we are social people. We need to touch, [things are] impossible without being together. We are used to [having meetings] for anything, for silly things that we need to meet, we need to have lunch, to discuss anything. So now, people are seeing that a lot can be done virtually.
The other fact here in Brazil is the political situation we are living in.
I was going to ask you about that. Coming from the US, it sounds somewhat familiar.
There are really two pandemics at the same time here.
How does that impact what you do as a marketer, because here in the US, marketers are constantly having to choose sides on things. That's where we've ended up and it's not comfortable, but it's the reality.
Natura is a company that has a positioning. We have a voice. We are pioneers in communication, adopting symbols and messages earlier than other companies. So, in this political moment we are living in, Natura sometimes is a target for a group of people, very, very conservative people, so it affects us.