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What we have to say on effective marketing.

Brand Relevance is all about Context
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Relevance is such an easy word to say but a very difficult word to be. Why? We think that marketers spend too much time looking to other markets to see what is new and exciting ‘over there’. Terms like Big Data, Gamification and Predictive personalisation abound but how relevant are these trends to South African brands?

Trends are useful as they help brands connect with consumers in new ways and while we do acknowledge that technology is changing the way marketing works, big breakthroughs only occur when technological advances make possible what is desperately necessary. Do marketers fully appreciate the minimum requirements for being relevant in South Africa and as a consequence how many brands truly understand their local context?

We believe that a deeper understanding of context will help brands to better differentiate.

Here are the shifts we feel are the most important in the South African context:

Truth: Be Yourself in Every Way

We are a nation still scarred by a history of untruths. Authenticity has been a global trend for a while, but for us South Africans it cuts deeper, it's more emotional. We don't trust corporations that hide their agendas, and we don't like being lied to. And yet we are still surrounded by untruths - from greenwashing to exaggerated product benefits.

If you are disarmingly truthful you will cut through the clutter and connect with your customers in a way that is still so rare and this will earn trust.

  • Be proactively transparent - disclose your goals, track your progress
  • Bring the back story to life - share what life is like in your factories, in stores, in your marketing department, warts and all
  • Equip and align staff to deliver the story in their own personal way

Empowerment: Nurture Entrepreneurial Spirit

Legislated empowerment is all well and good, but most South Africans still feel disempowered and if you're looking to resonate, start by being genuinely empowering. Empower your supply chains your and employees. Source innovation from small start-ups and empower your consumers to create with you.

  • Innovate by giving generously - create new business models that share revenue with collaborators
  • Build participation into your marketing in a way that connects your employees to your customers
  • Give people tools to create new ideas and extensions to your brand

Transformation: Help People Transcend their Limitations

Transforming and integrating South Africa isn't just about warm fuzzies - it's the pathway to an integrated, functioning and stable market for your products and services. Your brands can play a positive role in integrating South Africa. Move past the trade-off mentality and embrace shared value - creating value for society while creating value for your business.

There are enormous untapped opportunities in healthcare, energy, social enterprise and service delivery. Think of OUTsurance's pointsmen, or Paperright (allowing copy machine owners to download and print books in remote areas where textbook delivery fails)

  • Do business on purpose all the time
  • Partner but think micro-macro - small things can make a big difference
  • Start a movement and be the cause that makes people feel good together

Leadership: Create New Knowledge

The nature of brand leadership has shifted from bought leadership to thought leadership. Covering stadiums or putting up billboards that have no reason for being other than pure presence should be a thing of the past - true brand leadership comes from inspiring and guiding others. Help people feel smart, optimistic and good about themselves.

  • Equip through owned academies, coaching and mentoring programmes
  • Offer how-to tips and inspiring educational material
  • Filter, curate and provide enriching but simple experiences

South Africa's context has changed so dramatically over the past twenty years. Words like Truth, Empowerment, Transformation and Leadership have become part of our lexicon, they form the basis for our recent context as a nation.

We believe that brands play and important role in social progress and so brand owners should look back to understand context before they look forward to trends that connect in new ways. Do you meet the minimum requirements for being relevant in a South African context? 


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