10 lessons for South African marketers

TRENDAFRiCA June 18, 2014

The last 20 years have been remarkable for South Africa. The consumer landscape is very different today, and yet the brand marketing environment has failed to keep up. Many brands are in search of growth across the continent when there are enormous opportunities for those that understand, respect and innovate for the unserviced market right here, in South Africa.

South Africa’s new middle and upper classes are hugely diverse, and will continue to diversify. Some customers will want first world innovation and the latest trends and technologies; others will want brands that celebrate Africa and Africanness, while others will just want you to understand the pressures they are under and make their lives easier.

Consumers will continue to become more informed and more demanding, and looking at them through the lens of demographics will become increasingly irrelevant. Only the brands that can give them exactly what they want, make them feel valued and drop the clichés will stand out and thrive.

South Africans love humour and community, low prices and access to new experiences. We want to feel plugged in to the latest trends, but also proud of the country and continent’s success. The secret to being a great South African brand for the next 20 years is generosity.

Disrupt your processes and products to give the customer and the employee more. Delight them with more value and better experiences, more opportunities and better engagement. The leading brands of the next 20 years won’t be those that just throw money at advertising campaigns; they will be those that re-humanise their marketing and put South African consumers first.

These are Yellowwood Future Architects’ 10 lessons for South African marketers for the next 20 years:

  1. Don’t talk down to people: Value your customers, treat them with respect, appreciate their feedback, speak eye to eye and seek to delight them – no matter who they are. Confront any prejudices in your business.
  2. Drop the averages: South Africa has a complex history and complex people – you can’t use averages or generalisations. Avoid the montages and be careful what you do with Big Data. There are no shortcuts to customer insight. Get to know the real people behind the numbers.
  3. Have a point of view: South African consumers relate to brands that have a story and values that they believe in. Bland, catch-all brands mean nothing. Nail your colours to a mast, and commit to the country and a point of view. Understand what’s important to your customers and the issues that make them hot under the collar and champion those. Make sure you know exactly why you are in business and that the opinions you hold are genuine and credibly aligned to your brand purpose.
  4. Reinvent your segmentation: Demographics, life-stages and identities are increasingly irrelevant to insightful, effective marketing. Segment your market on behaviours. Value systems and need states. Do you know why there’s a wealthy white woman in your PEP store? Do you treat a blue-collar worker decently in your fancy shop? Are you prescribing gender roles through your communications?
  5. Offer opportunities not just products: South African consumers are not just consumers:  they are humans with anxieties and pressures and lives. They love and relate to brands that help them out beyond the product. Offer jobs and internships, give opportunities to informal traders, collaborate with consumers and their favourite brands. Think about OUTsurance using pointsmen for their marketing, or Coca-Cola using local bottlers and distribution businesses.
  6. Be generous: With South Africa’s inequality levels, there isn’t a huge amount of money in the bottom half of the pyramid. But there are enormous opportunities for brands that figure out how to unlock the potential of the whole market. Disrupt for your consumers and disrupt yourself – reinvent business models and value chains. Be generous with what you offer – give more and better for less. Don’t skimp on quality or style. Find affordable ways to create great customer experiences. Be the customer champion – it’s working for FNB, Cell C and Capitec.
  7. Bring people together: In a nation where many people are still divided and find it difficult to find common ground, South Africans love the brands that help us transcend our differences and venture out of our bubbles. Nike Run Jozi brought different people together around their love of sport. Old Mutual’s summer concerts at Kirstenbosch unite people around music, and Red Bull’s Vlugtag draws all kinds of people together for bizarre, high-energy silliness. What made the iconic Castle ads of the 1990s so successful can be harnessed well beyond television advertising: In 21st Century marketing it’s about real-life events and collaborations with consumers.
  8. Help consumers help themselves: Make your consumers feel educated, informed and reassured. Give them the tools to look after themselves – whether this is in improving their financial literacy, or empowering them to make money themselves – such as MTN’s Mobile Money Reseller programme or Avon’s reseller model.
  9. Make the customer smile: Effective marketing is emotional. Leading brands are those that make consumers feel good – they don’t just make them buy things. Coca-Cola resonates with everyone because it is a brand centred on happiness and joy. Nando’s, Kulula and Wimpy make people laugh. Be playful in your marketing – humour is a great healing tool. But be very careful not to get the tone wrong. As a market, we have heightened sensitivities. The best way to ensure humour strikes the right balance is to have members of the target market in your marketing team.
  10. Get moving: South Africa has changed a great deal, but the change hasn’t stopped. We haven’t ‘arrived’ anywhere, and consumers will keep shifting and evolving in response to economic, technological and cultural factors. Global brands will continue to squeeze local ones – so start putting together teams that have the courage to be bold and the insight to be relevant.


Source: Yellowwood Future Architects



Leave a Comment

Login to your account

Can't remember your Password ?

Register for this site!