Our country's tagline, 'It's possible', is spot on. It reflects our entrepreneurial spirit and our can-do attitude. Unfortunately, however, many South African businesses underplay their inherent ability to take new ideas to market and because of this we limit our own success.
Perhaps it's because of our own insecurities - historic, political and geographic - that we often look to 'developed' markets first, to inform the local direction of our business ideas, rather than first consulting our own innately creative South African minds to take our ideas to them.
A consequence of this is that we're being outrun by global players in other emerging markets. They are quickly gaining footholds before we're even there. Surely, we're better equipped as South Africans to take on the global brands at this game? Instead they're hiring our people to do it for them. We have to shed the limiting belief that our marketing ideas must follow international trends and that our marketing domain is limited to Africa.
So-called 'developed markets' suffering from the economic crisis hangover have margin myopia. Right now they're focused on efficiencies, cost-cutting and new regulatory frameworks, making it difficult for them to innovate. As a nation that thinks differently, the time is ripe for us to think big, be bold and conquer the world. Let's show them how we can market on a mass scale, at a low cost, add value and innovate all at the same time.
Examples of companies that have had the 'Mrs Balls' to give this a go abound. SAB Miller is now one of the largest alcoholic beverage companies in the world. Discovery transformed its industry before branching out globally, first through PruHealth and more recently through American wellness loyalty programme partner, Humana. Nandos' bold marketing has contributed to its global success, and it now has significant representation in the UK and Australia.
From humble beginnings supplying a few small stores, Carrol Boyes has developed a brand with a strong retail footprint and is now available internationally. Meanwhile, Sally Williams - who used to make nougat for her friends and family from her garage - now retails in the UK, USA, Japan, Netherlands, UAE, Australia and Canada. Another food entrepreneur, Tracy Foulkes, started a small company from her Cape Town home in 2000, and the Nomu brand is now renowned for its stylish food products. Aspen Pharmaceuticals, started from scratch in the 1990s and through its recent Sigma acquisition will make it the largest pharma company in Australia. Finally, Vida e Café is also making inroads into international markets with a number of stores in London.
I wish we could see Capitec, OUTsurance, Kulula and Kauai in
other markets across the world to challenge and disrupt the
traditional players - there are so many ideas out there but we seem
to keep most of them under the local mattress. Surely there must be
capital available to take these ideas to the global market.
With our innate ability to challenge the status quo, tap into relevant cultural nuances and inspire with creative communication, we should be thinking that 'It's possible' to take on the world.
We should be beating the global brands; not only at marketing in emerging markets but on their own doorsteps too.
Article as published in The Journal