What is that? Especially in a country as diverse as South Africa, or even a world as diverse as the one we live in…
A quick scroll through social media over the last month, and especially over the last week, will show you that what we see as public opinion is not really public opinion per se.
Here’s what I mean, given that public opinion means a view that is prevalent among a public, it suggests that that public is one homogenous group. What I’ve seen over the last few weeks is public(s) opinions(s) because our diversity has once again raised our dis-similarities, divisions, marginalisations, self-interest, imposed invisibility, structured silences and uniqueness.
These subconscious themes of lived experiences determine what we participate in, how we participate, what we hold near and dear, how we style our hair and to a very large degree, our brand choices.
I’m trying to rethink the ‘one in many’ narrative. I want to at the very least remind myself as a marketer that the public and therefore the audience is even less homogenous when other layers of who they are, are applied.
I want to know what is systemic to them, how do they behave when savage inequalities are placed in front of them, what cultural influences do they draw from? These seem to be conversations steeped in psychology and even sociology, but I dare say that these are conversations important in marketing.
Because how do you put the customer at the centre when you don’t know who the customer really is? So, to be a 40+ black woman living in Sandton who strongly supports the plight of the EFF, and a 40+ black woman living in Sandton who is pro ANC, and a 40+ black woman living in Sandton married to a white guy… means you are dealing with varied expressions and therefore different women but it is in fact one person.
The rich diversity of the three-in-one lady
It is as rich in diversity and depth as what Coconut Kelz tries to get into in her satirical pieces. The public opinion of this three-in-one lady is as divergent as the threads we often see following a single post on Twitter.
So how do we apply the lens of diversity in our targeting?
Is it important to apply? I think that given where their world is, it is of absolute importance! I believe we can learn a lot from dominant opinions from social media interactions than anywhere else because that is where people feel less vulnerable and faceless, and to a very large degree are more themselves than not. This is the information that gives you depth.
Do we take into consideration the multi-dimensionality of our audiences? Who in the social realm are in fact micro-audiences, or are they micro-audiences because we’ve taken into consideration the many nuances that make them a group?
Pulling through this very complex layer can help brands remain relevant in how they show up in their responsible corporate citizenry efforts, because outside of brand promises, that’s the only other thing they want from you. Being a responsible corporate citizen is no longer about the legislated percentage points toward charity – your audience is watching and they see when you don’t see them.
During the lockdown, South African brands showed who they were and many were abysmal! The interesting thing is that they all chose to swim in the same sea – not one decided to take the first plunge so the others could follow! Spare me, the day you gave your staff off *eye roll*. I’m talking real relief that could have made a difference.
We (South Africa) stood and watched brands overseas give payment holidays, scrap interest for a few months, give free benefits for a period, send care packs etc… while brands in Mzansi kept quiet and kept collecting the money (unless of course you applied for relief, which required you to have data so you could hold on for long periods while the call centre agent gave you an automated/rehearsed line – because you know, Covid/remote working/short staff…*more eye rolls*).
What corporate SA did (not do)
That is what corporate South Africa did. It kept quiet and kept collecting the money. Thank goodness the government showed up some. Yes, it’s their role and job but nowhere is it true that a functioning country is one where government acts as sole agent and the corporate muscle holds no responsibility.
Yes, your response to this line is what is systemic to you…
Public opinion is something that is now louder than we’ve ever seen before and will only get exponentially so. We can’t talk audience segmentation, diversity, relevance and targeting without adding a social filter to audience beliefs about current public temperature. Brands need to stop shying away from public discourse and choose lucid corporate citizenry efforts and run with them. In that way, they will tap into something of depth that is important to their customers.
As I continue to dig into this subject of how micro audiences can support brand stories, I hope to have sparked a thought or a question with this piece.
This is an opinion piece about a space that I believe could help make our work more relevant and our customer connections better situated. I think research firms have a huge role to play here. I think client strategy teams have a huge role to play here, and I think voices of the young who play in the social streets and are therefore more ‘offay’ with what the ground is saying and the influence it has on customer actions, should be listened to attentively!
Kagiso Musi is the group managing director of Meta Media South Africa, a new data-led media player in the country. She leads the Johannesburg and Cape Town offices with a list of blue-chip clients. The agency focuses on analysing and uncovering insights from the most granular forms of data and utilising that data to help clients win.
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