Yellowwood Presents Latest White Paper Findings

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Sign Africa attended the Yellowwood Future Architects event at Sundown Valley Crescent in Sandton, Johannesburg on 25 February 2015. Yellowwood presented the findings of their latest white paper: African Attitudes: Marketing Beyond The Numbers.

With economic growth sluggish in South Africa and markets booming north of the border, many businesses and brands are rushing to take part in the new land of economic opportunity. The ‘Africa rising’ narrative has become commonplace, and yet so much of the story is about numbers: GDP growth rates, rising income levels, the growth of the middle class in many alpha markets, declines in military rule and rises in education levels.

All of these statistics are valuable for context and they help business size the opportunities, but for marketers to really excel at building brands that drive business growth on the continent, they need to understand the people they are trying to market to. They need to get under the skin of the consumers in the markets they are entering. What makes them tick, what excites them and what makes them pay attention?

There are a few common myths about Africa that need to be dispelled:

1. There is no such thing as ‘the African consumer’.
The term ‘African consumer’ is thrown around as the exciting new target of global brands, but it is entirely meaningless. Africa is perhaps the most diverse continent on earth, more than a billion people in over fifty countries speaking hundreds of languages, subscribing to numerous religions and living in contexts that range from shanty-towns to subsistence farming to expensive high-rise apartment blocks. It is of no value to generalise to a continental level and of little value to generalise at a country level. Attitudinal segments with an economic lens provide the best guidance for marketers.

2. It’s not just a volume game.
With 60% of the continent still living below the poverty line, it’s common for marketers to approach Africa as a volume game: selling the highest quantities at the lowest prices. However, this bottom-of-the-pyramid thinking does nothing to grow the market or create new wealth for consumer spending. The brands really making it big in Africa partner with locals and offer opportunities rather than just products.

3. The consumer isn’t a moron.
This should go without saying but numerous people we interviewed made the point that brands entering their markets treat the consumer like a moron, from advertising being ‘dumbed down’ to businesses trying to dump sub-par products. Only the brands who treat their customers with respect will survive as these customers fill the ranks of the middle classes with their memory of how you treated them before.

4. African archetypal consumers.
Although no two people are the same, there are similarities in the way we behave, interact and think. Freud and Jung pioneered the idea of universal human archetypes that we all recognise and relate to the ‘trickster’, for example, or the ‘rebel’, and found that we can slip into these archetypal roles in certain contexts (the ‘mother’) and usually have natural defaults that feel most natural to us.

From Yellowwood’s experience of segmentation and market clustering strategy across the continent, they have found attitudinal similarities in some of the key segments in different markets. Though particular expression differed, there was something archetypal about these roles and attitudes. Yellowwood thus developed a model to split out the primary attitudes finding patterns in the beliefs and behaviours and cultural and economic context. We believe there are two key axes that help to map and cluster attitudes in Africa two primary relationships that define how people respond to the world around them.

The first is whether a person seeks security or whether they seek change, partially, but not entirely, on an economic axis. The second is how much importance they place on themselves versus their community.

This gives eight archetypal African consumers, ranging from Traditionalists to Go-Getters, Survivors to Optimists, and four quadrants of meta-behaviours.

Styling and striving Go-Getters, for example, are typically young, energetic and confident consumers who are working hard, playing hard and determined to get to the top. Imagine an economics student at the University of Kinshasa who works every weekend at a bar and on his studies to help with his dream of being a CEO.

They typically don’t have much wealth yet but expect to be recognised for their potential as much as for what they have achieved to date. They are sociable and fun-loving, but ambitious and concerned with status. Often they are shouldering very high expectations from their parents. Go-Getters are a fairly small, but highly influential segment of consumers. They are plugged in to tech and trends and will spend their money on things that make them look good.

Far from Go-Getters and their partners in the Agitator quadrant, there are the Traditionalists. Here you would find people like Sayyada in Tanzania, who is a strict disciplinarian with her children and is skeptical of outside influences. She is friendly with those she trusts and protective of her community. She likes the stability of knowing the rules and is fiercely proud of local customs. Her relationship with brands is functional and cautious but once a brand has proven its value, she is fiercely loyal.

African Attitudes

Some of the most common attitudes that marketers will need to understand and tap into if they hope to connect with consumers on this diverse continent have been highlighted and the implications of what each means for marketing strategy have been outlined.

Generosity, for example, means that marketers should seek to invest, rather than extract from the markets they enter, by investing in skills development and capacity building of local teams and taking calculated risks to help build the markets they are entering. Aliko Dangote attributes his success to the fact that he was willing to invest when others were ‘waiting and seeing’. In a continent with Africa’s history, nothing puts off potential customers more than an extractive, neo-colonial operating model.

Togetherness means that businesses should embrace convergence and find opportunities to leapfrog technologies, borrow from different categories and break down whatever unnecessary walls exist between industries to meet consumer needs. Safaricom credits much of their success to ‘ignoring formal boundaries between what you can and can’t do’.

The attitude of togetherness is also really powerful in marketing campaigns, and it imbues brands with a sense of warmth and loyalty when they bring diverse people together. Kelechi Nwosu of TBWAConcept in Nigeria believes brands should ‘seek opportunities to create unity out of the diversity’ and ask themselves ‘where is the common ground that will let me get into the hearts of people?’.

Yellowwood hopes that exposing some of the most common attitudes and consumer typologies across Africa will help marketers devise strategies that put human insight at their core. They believe that to be successful in pan-African brand building and regional growth, strategy needs to focus more on attitude than on proximity, since two neighbouring markets may have less in common than markets at opposite ends of the continent.

Very few brands are yet able to get under the skin of consumers in most African markets, relying as they do on superficial insight and solutions from other parts of the world. This report aims to start the journey to smarter market clustering, more useful segmentation models and more effective brand-building for the marketers who read it.

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