Gilda de Araujo, SABC Radio’s national brand sales manager, answers the questions asked by marketers and strategists about the broadcaster’s vernacular language radio stations.
I have been asked the same questions repeatedly about our African Language Service (ALS) stations. This newfound fascination seems similar to people’s interest in digital in that more and more advertisers are itching to get their feet wet, knowing that to grow exponentially, they really should dive in. Lack of expertise, and maybe a bad experience in the past, keeps them peering through the window from the outside, rather than partaking of the feast.
Here are my responses to a few high-frequency questions about the 23 million-strong ALS listeners.
To what does the ALS audience aspire?
The truth is, there is no magical answer. As Wayne Bishop noted in his recent Advertising Media Forum column in The Media (May 2015), within an LSM grouping, and certainly within an entire radio station, there’s no one ‘thing’. The SABC’s 23 million ALS listeners are not a homogenous mass of consumers. They are united by language and cultural commonalities, with each station broadcasting in what is usually the listener’s first language.
In terms of their aspirations, it depends on who they are. A 22-year-old listener, earning R2 500 per month, may aspire to own a smartphone and items that enhance their image, like the right pair of sneakers, for instance. A 42-year-old listener, earning R2 500 per month, will have entirely different aspirations. At this age, listeners may already own some of the basics, like furniture, a sound system, TV and so on, so their aspirations and priorities will possibly be focused around their children’s tertiary education and home improvements.
A younger listener, earning R10 000-plus per month, may aspire to own their first car, a ‘starter pack’ or further their education and improve their career options. At the same time, a 40-something listener earning the same amount may aspire to own a bigger house, and very possibly they may be saving up with the very popular dream of starting a small business on the side.
And that doesn’t even take into account gender, marital status, number of children, educational background and other vital issues, all of which impact on aspirations.
What is important for most ALS listeners is that they are able to give their loved ones a decent burial, hence the high uptake of funeral policies.
Why can’t I just reach this market in an English medium?
If English is your first language and you’re struggling to get your head around the deep loyalty and connection that the ALS stations have with their listeners, try this exercise. Imagine that you live in a country where English is not the language of business, where English is not the language of sign posts, national newspapers, official documents and the like. You are always translating to stay ahead of the game. Now imagine that you find an English South African radio station to tune into. Bliss. Peace in the brain. Perfect understanding of what’s being communicated. Cultural resonance.
As the South African workplace and public environment are predominantly English, an ALS station offers, in effect, a ‘home for the ears, minds and hearts’ for everyone whose home language the station broadcasts in.
Because of this, listeners span the broad range of our population. You have toddlers listening to children’s programmes, teens and young adults following chart-topping music trends and rural and urban adults sharing opinions, coming together for the dramas, jazz, gospel, talk shows and the updates from back home. There are also the gogos who want to hear their stories and the daily funeral notices. The ALS stations purposely create programming to capture listeners from city to shack, from cradle to grave.
I’m not sure that the ALS market is ready for my product yet
The truth is, some portion of this market is ready for a product or service like yours, and if you’re not ready to talk to them, they’ll find it elsewhere.
ALS stations deliver listeners across all LSMs, from an ever-decreasing LSM 1-4 consumer (30%), a burgeoning LSM 5-7 listenership (59%), to a rapidly growing LSM 8-10 market (11%).
The same broad range of listener is true for incomes, education, and consumerables, with a rapid upward growth that has long since flattened in the overly sought-after white market.
This story was first published in the August 2015 issue of The Media magazine.
IMAGE: SABC Radio
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