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Insight

Understanding Africa

I read with interest an recent African Attitudes: Marketing beyond the numbers, article that explored the most prevalent attitudes of consumers across the continent.

 

What the study found was really no surprise to those who understand Africa, but for those that are sitting in other geographies, looking at Africa and licking their lips, this insight may be of use. After all, in all markets, not just Africa, the most successful brands are those that understand culture, trends (not fads) and change, using this to gain disproportionate loyalty and capital return.

 

Generosity is very important to most African consumers. Brands that build generosity into their business models and marketing have proven to be popular with consumers. Shoprite for example, which operates on the simple promise of giving shoppers more for less, has grown to become the continent’s largest retail chain. Why? Because it makes a simple promise that connects to it’s customers and it keeps.

 

Ambition is also important in African markets, particularly amongst younger people. A brand that has really understood this attitude and connected with it in its communications is Guinness. Guinness Nigeria’s “reach for greatness” campaign taps into Nigeria’s strongly aspirational culture by telling the story of a village boy dreaming of life in the big city and his big brother who made it. Using well-researched local phrasing (“my senior brother”) and imagery, they create a profoundly local and relatable rags-to-riches story that plays to consumers’ ambitions.

 

Some of Africa’s most well-known and successful innovations have been in the mobile telecommunications space. The brands that have really disrupted and created new industries in Africa are those that have embraced convergence and found ways to bring industries together in the service of unmet consumer needs. Perhaps the most famous is Safaricom’s M-Pesa which pioneered mobile money transfers and now handles transactions responsible for 31% of Kenya’s GDP.

 

Similarly, GT Bank, one of Africa’s largest financial services providers, allows consumers to open bank accounts via Facebook – using social media to get where physical branch infrastructure can’t. This attitude of togetherness is a core component of Africa’s psychographic make-up, and when used to bring people and industries together it can spur huge growth for brands.

 

In summary, it is really clear that taking time, avoiding short-cuts and really understanding what makes your consumers tick will help you to win. A deep and profound understanding of this will help businesses structure their messaging to the extent that it connects with consumers in a profound and meaningful way... this is not unique to Africa, but for some reason, marketers seem to think Africa is different. It is not. Companies that do well here, make the art of communication look effortless, believe me, it isn’t. They take time, pause, think and then deliver with simplicity, passion and panache... that's the secret. Like a karate master elegantly practising moves, effortlessly simple, but the simplicity masks an art mastered over years.

 

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