Living in a multi-cultural country such as SA does present its challenges and opportunities to brands and businesses. Like most things, some hit the mark and others miss the spot completely. Those of you familiar with my scribbles on this blog, know that my mission is all about getting brands to engage with multi-cultural audiences with a bit more finesse and thought than simply cutting and pasting ad concepts used elsewhere , or God- forbid, that they water-down concepts initially targeted at the mainstream!

I live in permanent hope that an increasing number of SA-based brands would do the leg-work, invest in insights generation methodologies which involve more time and money than the usual slap-dash which often results in brands adding a word or two borrowed from street-lingo to claim that they are not only with-it but are relevant to consumers who are Black and in touch — well I beg to differ.

A road-side billboard shows a Black Family, sitting down to a meal with a prominently featured can of KOO baked beans in the shot. The words Jealous Down jump out from the Board – and that’s all the reward the drive-by audience  gets for slowing down to take in this ad. No concept, no magic-  just a picture, a can of beans and a phrase. Are we to assume that this phrase- often used in the Township to mean’ something has no equal, it’s truly the best’ – is testament to how KOO beans are the best ? What is the criteria used? How do these beans earn such status?

In the Sunday Press today, there is a  Nedbank Ad launching a soccer tournament (poorly described in the ad) and then topped off with the line  ‘Ke Yona’ ( a Sesotho phrase often used to mean the real deal) – there is no discernible concept and the use of local language is nothing more than a poorly executed  gimmick.

Another ad in the same breath is from a cellphone company – promoting airtime top-up at anytime- also throwing in a twist of street-english  mixed with isiZulu(Woza(come) Wheneva(whenever). This makes for interesting reading , but fails to communicate any boundary-stretching nor competitive enhancing brand attributes.

Yes, it is encouraging  that some brands are reaching out to consumers who are Black, but i argue that it takes more that smart phrases and gimmicks to engage- it takes concerted and dedicated effort to build lasting relations – the kinds that are premised on solid insights(not just observations and tricks).

Some brand truths to use or lose

  • It takes more than gimmicks to build lasting brands
  • relationships start with respect – so don’t float on the surface and claim deeper knowledge of another culture- commit and engage !
  • when you have no concept- say nothing – the gimmick will only serve to discredit you

Namaste !