Commentary on article: How to grow a brand responsibly in Africa


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Biz Community (whom I love) recently featured an article titled “How to grow your brand responsibly in Africa.”  The article was written by a formidable writer on brands and branding in Africa named Issa Sikiti da Silva.   His article followed the recent Brands & Branding for Good conference that took place in Johanesburg and draws much inspiration from the talk Nomahlubi Simamane, CEO and founder of Zanusi Brand Solutions gave.

In this talk, Mrs. Simamane started by describing the Africa that is perpetuated in the media and which is sadly often true: crime-ridden, violent, poor, uneducated, blah blah blah.  I’m not going to say that it’s not reality in most cases.  But those conditions do not reflect the desire of most Africans (and most humans).  But it’s these conditions that cause many brands to skip-over Africa, underestimating, undervaluing, and misunderstanding the potential consumer market there.   Like in all marketing, Mrs. Simamane stated that you must understand your consumer market in order to know how to engage them.  She stated that

“Africa is not a consumer-led society and [is] a continent where corporates are not trusted, so an aggressive consumer education is required.”

Firstly, this tells me that there is a lack of cultural and pyscho-graphic understanding of African consumers (though I know you can’t lump them into one segment, but bear with me).  But reading this more closely, this SCREAMS out to me opportunities for utilizing CSR as key part of the “aggressive consumer education.”

BRANDS! Are you reading  this!  This is your opportunity (forget whatever you did or didn’t in the past) to educate an entire market about your brand, essentially, on your terms.  And using experiential CSR initiatives i.e. community education partnerships, health related initiatives (as long as it makes sense for your brand) is a great way to win consumer fans and likely loyal brand ambassadors.   Bottom line: the slate is clean; treat consumers well now (with good products and services) AS WELL as respect them as human beings and I see a pretty clear path to winning a lot of market share.

What’s great about this article and what Mrs. Simamane is saying is that it’s  coming from a South African and being reported on a South African web site.  Brilliant.  Give the people what they want I say!

Further in the article, Mrs. Simamane continued to describe some CSR-sounding things that companies/brands could do to to win-over consumers.  Even more brilliant!

Ensure that there is market stability, reinvest into the country, employ local people and create partnerships with local people – you cannot go to those countries and believe that you can do everything on your own.

Become a good corporate citizen, pay your taxes, respect the environment and address welfare and health issues of staff.

“Utilise eco-friendly materials and packaging, manage waste efficiently and effectively. Don’t go into Africa with an arrogant attitude. Instead, engage people like real people and not like your slaves.

Ensure future talent, offer bursaries, develop future skills and improve lives in the countries where you operate. Give excess stock to needy people, get involved in community projects, source from poor communities and establish standards and train.”

You don’t have to listen to me here, but this is coming straight from a leading South African brand strategist!   Her talk supports the notion that there are opportunities for brands to basically build their market; by investing in communities, people, skills, resources you are building a sustainable (and likely loyal) consumer based.  If I was brand in South Africa I would looking at the upcoming World Cup as the perfect opportunity to “educate” the South African (and African) consumer on what I was all about.  As long as it’s authentic and comes from a good place, I think this would position a brand well for growth.

To read the full article go to:

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