If you’re in business, or just interested in society, you’ll know how important the concept of ‘previously disadvantaged individuals’ (PDIs) is to our landscape. But while the action continues on affirmative fronts with genuine attempts to find a more suitable and equitable socio-economic balance, the expansion at the upper end of South African society continues apace. Indeed, while we’ve been worried about PDIs, a horde of ‘currently ascendant individuals’ (CAIs, aka the affluent black market) has stormed the castle.
The problem with the wealthy, however, is that it’s near impossible to get past their security gates to ask them any questions. That’s why traditional research methods fail dismally to paint a picture of the upper echelons of South African society. Take AMPS, for example: a perfectly good tool if you’re wanting to find out about the ‘fat middle’ of South Africa’s consumer market, but almost useless when it comes to the rich – because those researchers just can’t get to them. By implementing a completely different, online strategy, RamsayMedia Research Solutions (a joint venture between RamsayMedia and Bateleur Brand Planning) managed to vault the walls and gain unprecedented access to more than 10 000 South African households with a monthly income in excess of R30 000 per month.
I extracted raw, unweighted data from the TopEnd survey: a sample group of over 1 400 black South Africans living in households with an annual income of R300 000 or more – spread evenly between males and females. In other words, the black TopEnd.
This sample group is almost twice as big as the nearest alternative: the 724 black individuals that AMPS manages to identify as earning R20 000 a month or more. Put simply, TopEnd takes over where AMPS becomes unreliable. As a result, the conclusions below are extracted from the single largest survey group of its kind on the simple question: what media do you consume? And here’s what they said…
In the magazine sector, health and wellbeing is the primary category by a fairly significant margin, followed by business and news, home décor, fashion and beauty and travel – all of which garner 25% or more of the magazine reader market. Not surprisingly, women continue to be the primary market for magazines.
The unquestioned magazine of choice for health and wellbeing is Women’s Health. Voraciously consumed by younger and older females, we’re talking 42% of the category readership – and that share is likely to increase given that the recently withdrawn Shape comes in second place.
In general, we can conclude that if you’re looking to target affluent black women aged 35 and over, it’s the health mags you want to be in – starting with Women’s Health under the leadership of the 2012 editor of the year, Kate Wilson.
When it comes to targeting black males, the business and news mags hold the most appeal, holding a 31% share overall – and inside that, almost half the love (49%) goes to Financial Mail. Although weighted slightly towards older males, the title also attracts a significant percentage of 35- to 50-year-old up-and-comers. Entrepreneur, Finweek and TIME are also in the game, but there’s no doubt that FM rules the roost with financial males.
In the home décor and fashion categories, House and Leisure comes in first – again with a bias towards older females – with SA Garden and Home coming in second, surprisingly with a slant towards older male readers. Apparently, when it comes to keeping the home in shape, in this segment of the market there’s a clear distinction between who gets to work indoors and who puts on the gardening gloves.
As for fashion and beauty, the category is in fact led by ‘other’ – a clear indication that readers are getting their fashion and beauty tips from more general women’s interest titles. That aside, ELLE seems to be flavour of the moment for younger women. Continuing that line of reasoning, in the female interest segment TRUELOVE, not surprisingly, comes out on top by a country mile, gaining 70% of readership in the category – followed by COSMOPOLITAN and O Magazine, and Glamour a distant fourth. What’s perhaps of interest here, however, is the age breakdown, which shows distinct leanings: while TRUELOVE seems to cross age barriers (and has an impressive male readership), COSMO is clearly read by the youngsters and O Magazine appeals to the 35-plus female audience.
Perhaps most interesting of all the magazine sectors results, however, is the fact that the travel and holiday category places not only fifth, but significantly higher than either male or female interest – or sport. Top of the tile pile, with an overwhelming 65% of readers, is Getaway; National Geographic is second with just 30%, then NG Traveller with 24%, followed by SA Country Life and the rest. When TopEnd was first conducted in 2012, one of the major insights into the wealthy sector of society was their love of travel – indeed, they rank travelling to new and interesting places above eternal happiness and financial wellbeing on their dream lists! Take a holistic view and you start to get a picture of the travel bug transcending racial barriers.
Moving from briefcase to broadsheet, the data set is naturally narrower, but the results are quite clear – and once again, follow a general ‘TopEnd’ trend. With a majority 60% of respondents claiming to read it, the Sunday Times is the clear winner with wealthy black readers of all ages. To put that into perspective, the Sowetan comes in second with just 39% – and a distinct bias towards a male readership. City Press, The Star, Sunday World and the Mail & Guardian feature next on the list, but after that, it’s a bit of a lottery, with regional dailies, in English, Afrikaans and vernacular, almost off the radar. Whatever the Sunday Times is doing, when it comes to appealing to the affluent mass market, it’s doing it right.
Radio, likewise, renders some rather definitive answers. Garnering 59% of respondents, Metro FM is far and away the radio station of choice for black TopEnders. Although there is a significant skew towards younger female listeners, the station does attract a reasonably wide audience, but the fact that it scores so highly in relation to the runner-up, Kaya FM on just 32%, speaks volumes for the power of the station. The remainder of the top six positions are taken up by YFM, SAfm, Talk Radio 702 and 5FM. After that, the remaining stations attract less than 20% of the sampled audience’s ears.
Finally, there’s the flavoured medium of the moment: despite the advent of PVR allowing viewers to eradicate advertising from their evening viewing pleasure, marketers continue to believe in the power of the visual medium – and in the case of the TopEnd, the results would seem to justify this position. A staggering 86% of black TopEnders subscribe to DStv. But it gets really interesting when you start to delve into the types of content they are consuming – and in TopEnd 2013, this included an interrogation down to over 100 channels under nine categories. In other words, it’s a very detailed picture.
Not surprisingly, general entertainment and movies (M-Net, movie channels, SABC, e.tv, etc) are what most people are watching: 75% of respondents ticked that box, with a strong leaning towards younger women. In third place, with 57%, was sport, followed by news on 56%. Again, not surprising and, as you would expect, loaded in favour of male viewers. And after that, music, religion and children’s programming share the spoils. But what stands out as a bit of an anomaly is the programme choice that comes in second place with 61% of respondents: documentaries.
Digging down into this fascination with the ‘learning channels’, you’ll discover that black male TopEnders appear to spend more time watching Discovery Channel, National Geographic and the Crime and Investigation Network than they do watching soccer on SuperSport. Indeed, with the exception of ignition TV, the smorgasbord of documentary channels all attract a fair amount of interest from this sector of the marketplace – clearly hungry for more information about the world around them, history and general knowledge.
It’s always dangerous to generalise, but having been exposed to the results of various groundbreaking surveys over the past two years and having the opportunity to interrogate unique sets of data, I’m increasingly convinced that the expanding upper echelons of South African society, economically speaking, are starting to show their true colours. Language and cultural differences will, of course, continue to have an impact, but at the end of the day, affluence opens the same doors to everyone. As such, TopEnd is as fascinating for the differences it pinpoints as it is for the similarities it identifies between men and women, black people and white people, the rich and the poor. And it’s only through understanding that we’re likely to leave the world a better place than we found it.
Brandon de Kok is the creative director of RamsayMedia. For more information on TopEnd, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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