As the world headed into the recession, most people thought that the tightening credit restrictions would lead to a slackening value system. However, the opposite occurred and economic restraint has led to bolstered values.
Consumers have to think more carefully about what they buy, and this had led to taking greater stock of what really matters on a personal level, and on a global level. Social connection is being based on values rather than on material value. To be a winning brand, value for money, quality, and a commitment to a sound ethical strategy that promotes sustainability are important. Cheap and nasty or expensive and nasty are not the order of the day for the critical consumer.
These are some of the findings from research company, Ask Afrika’s studies into consumer attitudes and preferences through its ICON Brands survey.
The general mind state and emotional tone of the country will impact powerfully on consumer behaviour and trends. To gain ‘iconic’ status, a brand has to be accessible to all South Africans across all racial, socio-economic, language, cultural, and demographic divides. The survey therefore reveals insights that accurately represent the current local consumer landscape and can be generalised to the entire population, says Sarina de Beer, managing director of Ask Afrika.
“South African citizens find themselves at an interesting junction at this point in history. The attitudinal milieu is facing a dichotomy, on the one hand there is are still celebratory undertones of freedom, emancipation, access, aspiration, empowerment, and social mobility, and on the other hand there is rising discontent,” said Sarina de Beer, MD of Ask Afrika.
State of the nation
The democracy is still in its infancy and through a retrospective lens, Ask Afrika finds that South Africans are still celebrating the rainbow nation, and the lives of millions have improved since 1994: consumer confidence is up, and South African’s have some appreciation of how bad things can be with the influx of migrants from war torn or economically stressed states in the rest of Africa. However, unemployment in South Africa remains stagnant at 25% from the 23% in 1994; 70% of the unemployed are youths under the age of 34. Many South African’s continue to face economic hardship and brands must relate to the status quo with a balanced perspective, the research house advises.
The South African consumer context creates a plausible cause to indulge. The Ask Afrika ICON Brands winning results show that there is an increase in escapism and a bigger spend on leisure activities, travel, and particularly on fast foods and at restaurants. At the same time, social capital growing in significance, consumers are asking what brands are giving back to society.
“External validation is the driving force behind utopian behaviour, people are not necessarily being more internally virtuous but they are supporting causes and it is important to be seen as doing good. The up side of this is that to appear to be doing good usually involves actually doing some good. Consumers want to engage with brands that promote their utopian ideals and image of being a concerned and responsible citizen,” added De Beer.
Consumers’ emotional states have a direct impact on how they rate service and quality in products. The good news is that 2% more of the South African population is happy this year, as compared to last year. The not such good news is that only 56% of the population say that they are happy. There is a trend to appear happy in selfies on social media, to show photos of a happy family holiday. Perhaps some of the facade of happiness will rub off and translate into true happiness?
Quality of life
Despite the satisfying of pleasure principals already mentioned as a reward for tough times, South Africans are wanting to connect more. This is good news for tele-communications and network providers. Consumers are seeking out a better quality of life, more people are buying pets, there has been an increase in the uptake of financial services, and a focus on DIY and gardening.
South Africans are valuing flexible working hours and managing their own time. Routines based around three meals a day are disintegrating, people are eating on the move, and when they feel hungry. They shop when it is convenient for them. Individual choice and preference is becoming more important. Consumers want a say as to what ingredients are in their food, and under what conditions products are produced.
Brands which shift the focus from aspirational to inspirational brand messaging, and which showcase their brand identity through values with which consumers identify, will be the brands which can sustain over time, according to Ask Afrika.
Source: Ask Afrika