‘Think African’ marketing campaign to woo consumers

Companies in Africa do not spend enough time and money promoting brands, advertising and engaging consumers to build loyalty. This is evidenced by the fact that only 0.47% of the global advertising spend goes to Sub-Saharan Africa.

International companies operating in Africa have been criticised for using global campaigns that fall flat and occasionally offend consumers. Unilever has fallen foul twice in South Africa for failing to understand the cultural sensitivities when crafting marketing campaigns. The first instance was in 2017, when an ad showed a black woman turn white after using Dove soap in a ‘real beauty’ campaign. In 2020, a TRESemmé ad described Afro hair as “dry and damaged” while Caucasian hair was “normal”. Failing to adapt to local context has resulted in many failed campaigns and a reluctance to do more.

African companies, on the other hand, rarely venture beyond the basic television, radio or newspaper ad. While many companies are increasingly using price promotions as the primary marketing tool, there is little attempt to truly understand consumers, determine the factors that influence buying behaviour and assess whether the marketing campaigns are effective. Leveraging targeted marketing campaigns by using data-driven consumer insights, could propel leading African brands into regional and global players.

Ongolo has selected three sectors where African companies have the potential to increase market share in Africa and start taking on global players:

#1 Airline industry

Travelling across Africa can be such a challenge that it is sometimes easier to travel from one African city to another via international hubs in Dubai, Paris and London. This is an unnecessary headache and missed opportunity that can be fixed if the airline industry in Africa works together to meet consumer needs and market these solutions on the continent and beyond.

Ongolo recommends a code-sharing agreement between four airlines that are known for their comprehensive network coverage of major cities in Africa and/or exceptional service: Ethiopian Airlines (ET), South African Airways (SAA), Royal Maroc Airlines (RAM) and Air Mauritius (MK).

In order to have impact and become a game-changer for travelling in Africa, this code-sharing agreement would need to do the following:

  • Allow consumers to book flights seamless on individual airline sites and be able to earn and redeem the points in the normal way. This would give passengers more freedom to choose routes and will help airlines manage costs by optimising services
  • Create multi-city routes to promote intra-Africa tourism. For example, a passenger in Jo’burg should be able to use the same ticket to fly to Accra on SAA, to Casablanca and then to Dubai on RAM and, return to Jo’burg on ET via Addis Ababa. Or the passenger could choose to travel to Shanghai via Mauritius on MK and return from Beijing on SAA.
  • Allow consumers flying under this code share agreement and visiting two or more countries, to enjoy visa-free privileges. One of the greatest barriers to intra-Africa travel is the need to get multi-visas. Airlines would need to work with local authorities to grant visa waivers to passengers travelling under this code-sharing agreement
  • Shared lounges: the Virgin Atlantic lounge at Heathrow was one of the biggest selling points that the airline had over its arch-rival, British Airways. ET, SAA, RAM and MK could pull resources to create exceptional African-themed lounges at major international airports in New York, London, Paris, Dubai, Mumbai, Singapore, Shanghai and Sydney. The lounge creates excitement and expectation about the journey and would shake the notion that everything about Africa is basic
  • Promote the advantages African airlines have over other airlines: one of the reasons for the early adoption of ET was the generous luggage allowance of two pieces of luggage, each weighing 23kg in economy. This demonstrates an understanding of consumer needs and has given ET gives the edge over international airlines. SAA is one of the most generous airlines when it comes to alcoholic beverages served in economy. These advantages need to be marketed widely

#2 Beverages

Even though Africa makes great beer there is not one beer from the continent covered by Beer Advocate which claims to be an authority on beer. At the minimum, any global list should include two of the best-selling beers on the continent: South Africa’s Castle Lager and Kenya’s Tusker Beer.

Tusker lager
Tusker lager

Tusker is produced by East African breweries and is part of the Diageo group of companies, famous for the Johnnie Walker ads. Castle Lager is produced by SABMiller, which is now part of AB InBev, whose flagship beer brand is Budweiser, famous for the hilarious Super Bowl commercials which have boosted sales.

Tusker and Castle Lager could become global brands if Diageo and AB InBev adopted a similar marketing approach to Budweiser by sponsoring major tournaments such as the Africa Cup. The main sponsors of the African Cup of Nations are non-African brands: Total, Orange, Visa, Yamaha. How is this possible?!

Castle sponsors the South Africa leg of the HSBC Rugby Sevens. Why not the Hong Kong or Singapore legs too? Both South Africa and Kenya have strong rugby and cricket support which can be used to build brand awareness in Europe and Asia-Pacific.

#3 Luxury

Africa is associated with dust, disease and poverty so why not flip the switch by marketing what luxury means in Africa?

In South Africa, luxe travellers can fork out $1,300 for a one-way ticket aboard the Blue Train (Africa’s own Orient Express) to Cape Town where they can check into the One & Only whose famous visitors have included Mariah Carey and Michael Jackson.

Speaking of hotels, did you know that the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and George & Amal Clooney honeymooned in Seychelles on the exclusive North Island? Africa has thousands of out-of-this-world hotels that need to packaged and sold to regional and international tourists. One of our favourites properties is Ngorongoro Crater Lodge which touts itself as “the game lodge at the top of the world.”

Ngorongoro Crater Lodge
Ngorongoro Crater Lodge

Think African campaign

 African companies have so much to offer Africans and the rest of the world. As the world becomes increasingly competitive and the internet eliminates some of the barriers to entry that previous existed, marketing and brand loyalty are becoming more important. It is time for African companies to wake up and realise the opportunities that are available to them.

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