Branding and marketing – key learnings

Gary Harwood, a director and founding member of design and brand strategy agency HKLM, defines a brand as a reputation that encompasses the product, service and company or organisation that offers it – applying to both internal and external audiences.

Harwood views Africa as the new frontier where brands are in their infancy, and competing mostly on product quality and price. However, he believes that brands which deliver on experience, emotions and social responsibility will build trust, loyalty and love in the long term. Drawing on his 12 years of experience assisting clients to launch their brands in various African markets, Harwood offers the following five ideas as key for marketers and agencies to achieve success on the continent:
1. Partnerships and local knowledge. Collaborate with local partners and work in the environment where you want to launch your brand. This will help you to understand how it operates and to develop messages and campaigns that resonate with consumers in that particular market.
2. Encompass everyone. By acknowledging, respecting and celebrating individual cultural backgrounds, beliefs and languages.
3. Find your inspiration at the source. Tell African stories to add depth and integrity to your brand and campaign. We for instance, spoke to guides from the local community when we were developing a brochure for Singita’s lodges in the Serengeti, and incorporated their stories into the final product to make it unique and locally relevant.
4. Embrace both the formal and informal sector. It’s important to address the dual markets and economies within a country and to adapt your branding for consumers in well-developed major centres and people living in outlying areas, which are very much more informal than those in the South African market.
5. Think beyond traditional abovethe-line advertising. We developed a competition with the theme Inspiration lives in Africa for Standard Bank. It was successful across five different markets because it celebrated people doing positive things in their communities. It also built affinity among staff members and customers, who shared their stories of inspiring upliftment projects.” Graham Pfuhl, Multichoice’s marketing and sales director agrees that Africa is a continent of contrasts that is changing extremely quickly. “We learnt some valuable lessons early on:
• Use Africans to market to Africans. Our initial strategy of using South Africans to develop marketing strategies and advertising campaigns from Johannesburg failed horribly.
• Talk to consumers in their own language – use local vernacular that resonates with your target market(s).
• Local is lekker – DSTV looks at language niches and already caters for Portuguese speakers.
• Get involved at grassroots level.
Because Africans have such a massive love of soccer, we have appointed people to build soccer leagues and run them efficiently. This helps to get them on TV – a winning scenario for us and our subscribers.”