South Africa is not for sissies. South Africans are survivors in a tough country. We’re a little rebellious but we’re also unhappy and have a sense of hopelessness. We’re also much more sceptical of big brands and big business and we think twice before handing over our money and our loyalty. How brands and businesses give back to our society is important, and our decision to buy their products could depend on how they deliver their corporate social responsibility mandate.
This are just some takeouts from the first wave of wide-ranging, but in depth research by Ask Afrika for the Compass 24 study into South African communities and their patterns of consumerism. It looked at Media24’s local newspaper titles falling in the Ads24 sector, the local papers of competitor companies and daily and weekly newspapers to gauge the impact of content, readership and advertising relevance.
Managing director of Ask Afrika, Sarina de Beer, explained that in 2011, 15 000 respondents were interviewed. This has more than doubled, with 33 000 interviews conducted this year to “deep dive” into the mindset and shopping habits of South Africans across a broad spectrum of society.
Just what is the status quo? De Beer says South Africans are not immune to global influences, and that our trust levels are dropping. Technology is “increasingly creating transparencies and ‘speed of truth’. The global economic meltdown, the Arab Spring, natural and nuclear disasters – all of these factors are playing a role. Bring it back home, inequality is recognised as a “drag on growth” and the slowdown in growth is attributed to “structural problems in the country”.
Nevertheless, the “massive” rise of the middle market has spurred companies and brands to compete for this new business – the research found that 57% of Ads24 readers fall into this market. This does present challenges for advertisers, says De Beer. Consumers’ touchpoints excellent customer service, coupled with trust, effort, relationships, and “humanness”. All this boils down to “effective social contracting”, says De Beer. That means local newspapers, that serve communities, “have a responsibility to deliver public service and the content and purpose lends itself to these attributes”.
Corporate social responsibility is important with 30% saying how brands inspired them to participate in their communities was a decided factor in purchasing decisions, says De Beer. “Companies who choose to be humble about their CSR could be losing out because consumers are choosing those who are doing good,” she says.
The research found Ads24 newspapers reached 5.5 million people within its footprint of 7.4 million. Those that had read one of the titles in the last seven days was 4.7 million people (84.8% of readers) while 51% read almost all of the paper. A whopping 85% actively read advertising inserts in local papers while 59% said community topics are dealt with properly. There are also low levels of attrition. Interestingly, the research disproved thinking that young people only read digital titles as 43% of those interviewed who read local newspapers were under 35.
Another myth debunked was that households have just one influencer making buying decisions. “It’s an outdated concept,” says De Beer. “Consumers are living in bigger households, which implies multiple influencers and this influence shouldn’t be underplayed. It’s a complex set up that is influencing the growth of the middle market. Advertising should talk across generations. In 50% of instances, other members of the household influenced decisions.”
In terms of local newspaper content, readers are interested in community news, crime and policing, local government news, advertising and promotions, social news and then corporate social responsibility.
For advertisers, the research shows what kind of opportunities can be tapped.
Content opportunities – building communities
- Perfect platform to connect emotionally
- Provides platform to tap into critical consumer/service dimensions (trust, effort, humanness, CSI)
- Strong national reach
- Readership is increasing
- Low levels of attrition
- Only print platform in growth
- Comprehensive readership per copy
- Broad base editorial relevance – engagement
- Speaks to influencers & decision makers