Advertising Africa Part Three -Made in Africa

Traditional marketing wisdom pushes the concept of 'the four Ps’: price, promotion, place, and product. But modern thinking is questioning this mantra.

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Dawn Rowlands

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Dawn Rowlands, CEO of the Dentsu Aegis Network in Sub-Saharan Africa points to a Guinness campaign as an example of how to successfully adapt a global campaign for local conditions.

“The reality is that excellent content will drive downloads across sub-Saharan Africa. We proved this with the Guinness Made of Black campaign across the region.”

The ‘Made of Black’ campaign linked the colour of Guinness to the vibrant spirit of young Africans, while dovetailing with its global ‘Made of More’ campaign.

Saklani says the kinds of employees global brands have on the ground in Africa are also playing a role.

“Increasingly, we also find that the brand and marketing managers at work in local/regional companies tend to be ex-marketers out of globally established names such as P&G, Unilever, Coca-Cola, Nestlé and so on. They bring their knowledge, experience and understanding and often find an environment where they can more easily shape a brand's architecture, be innovative not just with the product but also with all other aspects of it, such as packaging, communication,” he says.

This could finally allow African advertising to come into its own, especially in terms of awards and global recognition. But there’s a lot of work ahead on creativity and innovation, says Rowlands.

“Having judged awards across sub-Saharan Africa, I am concerned about the level of innovation and quality of execution. Lack of competition creates a very unhealthy environment, as it does not grow the talent base, limits the quality of the creative product and frustrates clients.

"While clients seek effectiveness in their communication plans, they are looking for the rapid levels of growth that only innovation will deliver. There is huge scope for businesses that can deliver ‘world firsts’ in Africa as opposed to replicating European campaign ideas,” Rowlands says.

The African Ps

Traditional marketing wisdom pushes the concept of 'the four Ps’: price, promotion, place, and product. But modern thinking is questioning this mantra.

Writing for FastCoDesign.com, Jens Martin Skibsted and Rasmus Bech believe the digital revolution could put paid to three of them: promotion, price and place, arguing that companies can no longer use them to gain competitive advantage.

They believe the decline of promotion “does not mean that brands don’t matter; it just means that their value hinges less on costly marketing campaigns”.

Place, too, is less important, as more commerce moves online. As for price, comparison applications such as Tripadvisor, PriceCheck and PriceGrabber.com have allowed “raw market forces [to] determine the price of their products”. Which leaves only product.

“The only real way for a company to build a growing brand," Skibsted and Bech write, "is to design products and services that are so good that they become marketing vehicles in and of themselves”.

Saklani says brands new to Africa often make the mistake of “succumbing to the common Africa narrative of ‘poor consumers’ who can’t afford to spend as much. They end up over focusing on price and sometimes ‘over promoting’. Telecommunications is a typical sector here,” he says.

“Instead, brands that invest in developing and sustaining a forward looking, innovative, trendy and somewhat aspirational imagery tend to connect better with the values and aspirations of the increasingly discerning African consumer, and in this way, ensure better their present and future success,” Saklani says.

“This is one of the underlying factors that has enabled local/regional brands to succeed in their categories, often competing against and outperforming established global brands who tend to succumb more to the somewhat outdated understanding of the African consumer.”

Brands for Africa

Thebe Ikalafeng, founder of the Brand Africa 100, whose 2014 winners were announced in the Nairobi Stock Exchange, says that before 2011 there was no independent measure of the value or performance of brands on the continent.

"One of the primary drivers of Africa’s growth lies in stimulating and growing thriving African and global businesses and brands in Africa,” he said. Coca-Cola was revealed as the most admired non-African brand, while MTN was acknowledged as Africa’s most admired brand.

Rowlands says brands of the recent future such as WhatsApp, Twitter, Facebook, Google and Microsoft are leading the charge and have far exceeded the local social media platforms in every market. Rowlands says WhatsApp, Twitter, Facebook, Google and Microsoft are leading the charge and have far exceeded the local social media platforms in every market.

“Nigerian women are purchasing fashion online, and many global retailers are relying on this growth. It is not uncommon to see courier deliveries by the dozen in our office in Nigeria. Uber is going strong in South Africa and has just launched in Kenya. Airbnb is already making its mark across the region, where hotel rooms come at a huge premium and are sparsely located. What3Words has huge benefit in markets like Ghana, where street names are not used. Useful things will always be adopted – Africa is no different,” she says.

Saklani maintains that great FMCG (fast-moving consumer goods) brands launched by Unilever and P&G are facing huge threats to their existence. “Even Coca-Cola is being challenged by local brands in certain markets,” he says.

“Consumers have high expectations and cannot be fooled into thinking that brands are relevant if they do not even meet basic expectations. The game has changed and brands need to innovate and be different. For example, Uber and Airbnb have really made progress in leaps and bounds in a short space of time by challenging the status quo. They have certainly appealed to the global consumer on many levels but have addressed the emotive challenge with a functional, practical and relevant solution.”

Saklani's work involves evaluating and monitoring the health of world-leading brands as well as homegrown ones. "Brands of Asian origin are making a play in Africa, in a variety of product fields from telecoms, noodles, soft drinks, alcohol and detergents to digital brands," he says.

“We have seen that generally in Africa, brands have a more level playing field as consumers do not necessarily get swayed by big, established brand names, but rather are keen to try out innovative brands that deliver on value, are more in tune with their needs and identity, and have over a period of time established trust with consumers.”

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