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Local is Lekker
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Key learnings that SA brands can take from one another.

Engager study proves that local really is lekker.

Why is it that we tend to overlook some of the great local brands - and rather seek direction from the seemingly bigger players in Europe and America? Taking into account that six out of ten brands of Yellowwood's Engager study were born and bred in South Africa (i.e. Pick n Pay, Clover, Shoprite, Woolworths, Handy Andy and Standard Bank) demonstrates that consumers are loving local. So why are marketers taking so long to wake up and smell the boerewors?

I have recently attended a number client immersions and brand strategy presentations where the topic of branding best practice routinely emerges. Time and time again the same set of brands are mentioned as best practice. They are the usual suspects, the big international icons such as the Apples, Nikes and Coca-Colas of the world. It's like déjà vu every time; and although I have great admiration for these brands, I always hope and wish for the mention of a great local brand. But alas, no such luck.

If you really take time to think about it, South Africa is probably one of the hardest markets to crack with such a melting pot of cultures; one of the highest GINI coefficients in the world; 11 official languages; highly differentiated consumer segments; a population mixed between being deep rural and highly urbanised; and so the list goes on. Surely if great brands can make it here, they can make it anywhere?

Bearing this in mind, South Africa has a number of homegrown brand gems that I believe both local and international companies can learn from; and upon further examination, when looking at these local success stories there are a number of themes that emerge.

Be Challenging

Capitec has been experiencing phenomenal growth in the last decade and this isn't a coincidence. They've accepted the challenge and turned banking in South Africa on its head. Capitec tapped into a market segment not being catered for correctly and contested the 'norm' in banking at every touch point -from the introduction of Sunday banking to partnering with retailers to make banking more accessible. They've done some great marketing and advertising; most notably aligning with South Africa's most loved soap opera, Generations, to launch their new campaign a few years back. With the brand laced into the storyline, it was product placement on a level never seen before. What is even more commendable is that although Capitec targets the mass market, unlike many others who typically pitch their brands at a lower level, Capitec's marketing and advertising has been slick with great production quality.

Be Bold

Nothing makes me smile more than a brand with a bit of 'chutzpah' and given the success of Nandos both locally and on a global scale, it seems I am not the only one who appreciates this quality in a brand. Nandos' boldness and courage has turned this food outlet into a brand icon and local zeitgeist; and never fails to disappoint consumers when there's a political campaign, celebrity, or even another brand that's asking to be teased. I doubt that there is not one South African who hasn't sniggered about or forwarded on a Nandos advert after a topical event.

Be Relevant

In a world where consumers are overloaded with technology and constantly bombarded by marketing messages, relevance is critical for consumers to sit up and take notice. Checkers is a brand that has done this really well despite the turbulent economy; and has experienced incredible business results for its efforts. The 2008 recession made consumers re-evaluate their shopping habits and Checkers responded really well without positioning themselves as "cheap and nasty". With their campaign line of "Don't change your lifestyle, change your supermarket" they tapped into the psyche of the local market without trying to wage a dangerous price war.

Be Local

Finally, a characteristic of great brands is that they embrace their roots and don't try to be something that they're not. Klipdrift is a brand that does this particularly well by tapping into local nuances without any offensive stereotyping. The use of everyday characters that South Africans can relate to makes the brand endearing and irresistible. Who doesn't think "met eish, ja" when ordering a Klippies & Cola?

Although I have focused my attention on four great local brands, that doesn't mean that there aren't a host of other great South African brands that can provide marketers with compelling case studies and learnings. Think about your favourites - be proud and punt them. As they say, local really is lekker!

(This article was published in Saturday Star & Weekend Argus 22 October 2011)


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