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Portugal: Lessons for branding and using travel to sell products

Portugal is a hot destination – with demand becoming year-round and exciting new tourism products in the pipeline. Last year American travel media lined up to call Portugal the place to go in 2017. And yet – step into any high end store and look for Portuguese shoes, clothes, pottery, oils, wines… well anything, and you may come up disappointed. That is not to say that Portugal does not produce some world class products, from the VW Eos convertible to Atlantis crystal- to amazing red wines – Portugal’s consumer products are as good as the travel products. They just don’t sell as well due to a lack of awareness.

So what can be done and what can we all learn from this?

First, it all starts with a brand. Portugal has a separate travel brand for wines, shoes, cork and travel. And while the “Can’t Skip Portugal” campaign is quite interesting – especially at a time that Portugal is rising to the top as a destination. And, it has limited cross over to products.

So, the lesson is start with a powerful brand position that can encompass travel and products. Look at more established brand, like Italy and Spain - their brands easily cover their foods, consumer projects, wines and even industrial products. The power of their brands sells their wines and olive oils that are associated with quality – and they are able to get a premium for many products based on that brand.

Second -tell a story. Portugal has a great story to tell – especially when it comes to food and wine. Portugal has more than 200 indigenous grapes. Visitors to Portugal are well-rewarded with a hands-on view of modern wine trade steeped in history; the Douro Valley in Northern Portugal is probably the last of the world’s major wine regions still to be pressing significant quantities of its grapes by foot - in shallow, open wine-fermenters, called lagares.

And, it is no surprise that grapes and olives grow side by side. And great olive oil is like great wine - the soil, the climate, and human care make it world class.

There are many great oil regions in Portugal. The Portuguese take their olive oil, called azeite, very seriously. There is an enthralling tale here of people, land, places and history… But it is not getting out, and the oil and wine sectors are not linked to the travel brand.

And they bring us to The Alentejo - a mystical place of gliding plains, sudden mountains, and the largest cork forests in the world. The Alentejo’s un-named Cork Country is a lightly populated region with open horizons where the rhythm of life follows the rhythm of regional songs. And this fertile land produces more than half of the world's total cork supply.

Lastly, people in Portugal have worked clay since prehistory – it is part of who we are. Travel the country and one finds glazed tiles everywhere- on churches, houses, and palace façades and in gardens. You see traditional red and black clay as every region has both. And, many areas offer amazing museum reproductions such as Viana do Castelo and Coimbra. Link that to tourism and you get a stronger brand – and you get travelers to explore outside of Lisbon

Surely the truth of great products will find its way out sooner or later – but it makes more sense to control that brand by linking it to every touch point for the experience.

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