Boomtown | Get out of your ivory towers and put your feet in the rich soil
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26 Oct Get out of your ivory towers and put your feet in the rich soil

By Glen Meier

South African soil is unique, full of rich textures, it is composed of 11 official languages, is culturally diverse, has varied mindsets and a myriad of consumer behaviours. So how does a brand speak to consumers in a country so diverse? Which brands do consumers engage with? And are those brands entrenched in their lives?

There are essential steps to take to understand South African consumers that lead to brand success. You need to immerse yourself in their lives, put your feet in their shoes, and walk the streets where they live, play and shop.

When was the last time you walked through a township, engaged with people going about their daily lives, watched purchase behaviour in a spaza shop, or sat at a table in a tavern and had a real conversation? Real conversations produce real insights. Stop asking questions and start listening to conversations. You’ll end up discussing things you’d never have considered, and as you immerse yourself, you’ll stumble upon crucial insights. These are often the real human-truths that form the foundation of brand communication, the truths which consumers can relate to and connect with on an emotional level.

Sandy Thompson, global strategy director at Y&R, is quoted as saying that we need to embrace what strategists have been doing since the discipline’s inception- finding real human insights through face-to-face research. She said, “We are inundated by quant data which doesn’t really give you a sense of where you need to go. We need to get out there in the real world. That offers value to clients – and a true understanding of what consumers need, not what they say they need.”

Connecting your brand with consumers of diverse cultures is about understanding. Stephen Covey says, “Seek first to understand, then to be understood”. If we understand our consumers better, we can communicate with them in a way they will understand.

Connecting with consumers is also about speaking their language. By doing so, you talk to their heart, not just their head. And given that many purchases are based on emotion, you need to invest in identifying the right brand voice. This could be in the vernacular, it could be idioms, cultural nuances, beliefs, passions. But it has to be something people relate to.

Let’s immerse our feet in the South African soil- listen to conversations, uncover nuggets of information, speak the right language. It’s where there is a depth and richness of connection, and it’s this that will go a long way to make brands belong to our consumers.