by Jerry Mpufane (@JerryMpufane) South Africa has a Unique Demographic. But not for the reasons you think.
Yes, ours is a diverse racial and cultural population, but many nations have similar profiles. What we have — what defines us — is one of the world’s most-liberal constitutional democracies, guaranteeing individuals freedom in almost every possible pursuit you can think of. It’s little surprise, then, that marketing in an environment like this requires knowledge, sensibility and deep insight.
This type of environment is also one of the most-exciting places to market, because developing nations are true ‘green-fields’ in that they have a youthful market that is both consumption-ready and highly lucrative.
In SA specifically, 70% of our population is under the age of 30. Young adults are therefore enthusiastic first-time customers for goods and services across industry sectors and product/service segments. It’s important to be aware, however, that first-world experiences (even tried-and-tested ones) often don’t translate. Nor do ‘methods of old’ (even hugely successful ones) achieve automatic relevance among a cynical audience.
For these reasons, a dynamic ‘insight lab’ is the no. 1 piece of ammunition in a marketer’s arsenal. This provides the best way for marketers to get to know, and get to know, and get to know their consumers.
In saying this, I’m not discounting traditional marketing tools — for instance, the LSM measurement tool. This remains an important asset for any marketer, because it is continually refreshed to reflect inputs from the census. It also compares well with, and complements, other demographic studies.
Truths & myths
Perhaps the most-common misconception about youthful SA consumers is that they’re soulless, lack cultural identity, are oriented towards conspicuous consumption, and are uninterested in socio-political issues. Our research shows, conversely, that South Africans are very aware of their roots; substantial evidence points to a renewed passion for defining cultural and personal identity, based upon heritage, ancestry and family.
When choosing media platforms to speak to consumer segments, marketers would do well to remember that TV (still) makes the world go round. It delivers life experiences on a grand scale, while giving visibility to niche topics.
In any developing nation, access to infotainment is driven predominantly by economics. For this reason, radio (an almost-free medium) is an important touchpoint and will remain a significant part of the mainstream media sector.
There’s cellphone penetration, which has created a potent consumer touchpoint, and given new meaning to always-on, direct, personal communication.
Finally, Human Connections are a great driver of consumer engagement. But the cost of activating human connections may be prohibitive when carried out on a large scale and with the necessary frequency. I suggest, therefore, that ‘human’ activation campaigns go hand-in-hand with TV, radio and mobile.
People have been trading with other people since the dawn of time. But the last few years have shaken up the way we do things, and this is because of an uncontrollable shift in the balance of power. For the first time in history, consumers are ahead of marketers because of their ability to choose.
This, on top of SA’s unique demographic, our country’s many freedoms and its consumer youth bulge, makes ours an exciting and dynamic marketplace that requires the relentless gathering of insights and knowledge.
Jerry Mpufane has executive experience in both ad agency and client organisations. He’s only got one goal in life, which is to be an inspiring leader. Jerry is currently group MD, Gauteng, of M&C Saatchi Abel. His monthly column on MarkLives, “On My Mind”, focuses upon what it takes to run a great AND sustainable ad agency.
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