There are some interesting prospects out there for the South African marketing and media fraternity to consider this year, says Katharine Liese.
Growth in Sub-Saharan Africa is expected to sit at around 5.8% in 2015 according to the International Monetary Fund’s October 2014 forecasts. What this implies is that we will see a huge surge in middle class growth (since 2000, according to trendwatching.com, the middle classes of Africa’s 11 largest economies have grown from 4.6 million households to 15 million today) and an influx of people to the cities from the rural areas, which will bring with it its own pressures on infrastructure, housing, education and job prospects.
Things such as easier access to credit will also put significant pressure on consumer spending and how buying decisions are made. With rising inflation, cost of living and access to permanent employment being slightly less certain, how consumers spend and what they prioritise in terms of their income will become even more complex, driven more around immediate gratification, rather than long term planning. This will have a significant impact on the economy and our monetary culture in the future.
One of the biggest trends coming to the fore is the grassroots impact of technology. We will see a deeper penetration of mobile and the influx of low-end smartphones, which will amplify people’s access to information, persuasion and choice – affecting how and why they align to brands and why and how they buy products and services. This year will present us with an interesting microcosm of digital acceleration and a return to traditional media consumption. With rising costs, media consumption will be revised by markets – relooking at pay TV services, decreases (further) in print consumption – with a possible increase in specialist print media readership and a decrease in broad-based print media readership as more people move online for general information. Consumers will prioritise their discretionary income into very specialist/niche titles for in-depth journalistic interrogation. With on-going load-shedding on the cards for much of 2015, marketers will look at channels that provide opportunity to engage with the market in an uninterrupted way – with mobile, out of home and print benefiting most from this trend.
We are also expecting, from a communication perspective, a move to more cultural heritage manifestation. The recent attacks in Paris, resulting in a global surge of support for freedom of expression in the form of the Je suis Charlie campaign is a perfect example of how consumers are hungry for identity and something to align themselves to. Brands that take that standpoint in 2015 will stand out and create a stir in the cluttered media market. Allowing the consumer a mouthpiece through brand alignment will become even more important in generating brand love. Wayne Naidoo, from Duke Advertising Agency, notes that our notion of what a consumer is will change; historically we have believed them to be consumers of products and services, whereas the new consumer is the consumer of networks, ideas and alliances. With the advent of technology, the once mute mass audience is now transforming into digitally astute spokesmen, who are demanding to be heard.
In line with this change in consumer, a phrase oft repeated by Don Draper, from Mad Men, “Make it simple, but significant” has become much more relevant and I believe 2015 will bring us more brands returning to simplified brand representation that is reinforced in multiple channels rather than trying to build complex memory structures that are only recognisable or relevant to a few. A great example of a brand that is doing this quite effectively is the Robertsons Spices alignment to MasterChef South Africa. A great example of aligning to a property that seamlessly fits the brand’s ethos with numerous executions to reinforce your brand stand includes MasterChef SA, Feast (a programme showcasing the judges from MasterChef SA and their favourite meals) and the current Sunday night programme, Celebrity MasterChef. These three programmes, along with their digital assets – online cooking classes and a comprehensive website that really drives consumers to try out new and exciting foods and spices – all contribute to building the Robertsons brand in a simple, but very significant way.
In its 2015 Africa trends forecast, Trendwatching.com highlights benevolent brands becoming prominent. Consumers will be demanding that brands become nicer and act in a way that benefits both individuals and society as a whole. While a small player in the coffee world, my local favourite, Motherland Coffee in Rosebank, is manifesting this trend in the form of their share wall in-store, which allows you to buy a coffee for a friend (or a stranger) and pin it to the wall. Their philosophy in terms of fair trade coffee and social justice also promotes this trend. Consumers want to be seen to be doing something good – the whole philosophy of Woolworths (using sustainable farming techniques, local sourcing etc.) also illustrates this trend on a much larger level. The implication for brands is the requirement to showcase what they are doing to be nicer – whether it be through loyalty reward to customers, their environmental stance or their business approach.
A new emerging consumer market, Generation Z, will step up in importance in 2015 from a marketing focus perspective, overtaking the Millennials in terms of being a primary consumer market for marketers globally based on their fast adaptation of technology and the resultant influence they have in their social and reference groups (family, peers etc.). This generation, born between 1994 and 2010, distinctly lack brand loyalty. The products themselves are more important to Generation Z than the brands that produce them, and these consumers will change brands easily in search of higher quality, better value etc, forcing brands to be authentic and rooted vs. image focused and rarefied. They tend to be highly entrepreneurial and have a socially conscious mindset. They are much more highly committed to changing the world than Generation Y’ers and Millennials. They tend to be growing up in multi-generational homes, which mean that they are both the influencer and the influenced from other generation values, often taking cues from Millennials and Baby Boomers they find in their direct sphere of influence.
Connecting with them requires brands to connect with this sphere of influence, which implies that brands need to be authentic, while at the same time they need to be a little of everything for everyone. The implication of this for brands is that product (rational) messaging cannot exist in isolation to brand (emotional) messaging – to ensure that a brand is internalised and understood by the market, it needs to have a balanced projection of both its assets.
This year, 2015, looks like a challenging year, a year forcing brands to embrace new markets with specific media and brand needs, act consciously and simply while enabling consumers to elevate their social manifestos and heritage on the brand and of course embrace the on-going technological evolution of consumers. I will check in later in the year to see how these trends have played out in the market for 2015 and what the implications have been on brands and consumer markets.
Katharine Liese is group head of the Nedbank account at The MediaShop. This post was first published in the company newsletter, Shop Talk.