We all know the Black Diamonds, those super elite, rising rich, previously disadvantaged black spenders who drive BMW's, drink Johnnie Walker Black and hang out in Sandton. But would it surprise you to learn that there is a growing target market of young, ambitious black consumers who are heir apparent to the Black Diamond status? Introducing the Swaggers. "Swaggers" is the name coined by the research and strategy gurus at TBWA\Hunt\Lascaris in Durban. It refers to a group of young, impressionable, highly influential, social trendsetters who, while not quite at the spending level of the Black Diamonds, are ambitious and care no less for labels, image and the good life. For these 20-something year olds, perception is everything and their war cry is 'fake it 'til you make it'.
According to AMPS, there are almost 7 million young black adults between the ages of 18 and 25 in South Africa and 1.6 million of them are urban dwellers. Young black consumers account for 30% of the total black adult market. "While this market may not have the spending power of the wealthier Black Diamonds, these figures can't be ignored," says Daryl Bennewith Head of Strategy at TBWA\Hunt\Lascaris in Durban, who commissioned the Swaggers research. "The term Swagger is commonly used in hip hop lingo. It pertains to ideas of individualism, style and all things "bling". However, it's the first time it's been applied to a target market. It's also the first time that this particular group of consumers have been put centre stage, this makes the project very unique. This is an ongoing and in-depth study aimed at gaining insight into this growing target market."
Tamerin Borland, Strategic Planner, elaborates. "During the course of our research, we have made contact with a significant pool of Swagger influentials who report back to us from within the target market and help us and our clients get unique insights into their lifestyle."
"Our research seeks to uncover the complexities that exist within this target market and thus far we have established that they are nomadic and get bored very easily. So, to truly understand how this market thinks, we encourage our clients to immerse themselves in the lives of their audience," says Nombuso Khanyile, Market Analyst at TBWA\Hunt\Lascaris.
Certainly, this market seems like a tricky one to pin down and according to the research, they don't like to be marketed to. The moment a big corporate invades their space with a big sell, they switch off. Secondly, they are media-savvy! Swaggers are quick to call out brands who are patronising to more vulnerable consumers or communication that is disrespectful to culture and tradition. And finally, because they don't have a lot of disposable income, they choose their brands very carefully as they believe the image of the brand rubs off on them.
On the flipside, they are very connected in terms of social networking and therefore you don't have to talk to them directly. "What we've found is that, if you access this space in a credible and relevant way by providing content and services that appeal to the Swagger market, there's an organic spread of message," says Khanyile.
Further research findings by the TBWA\Hunt\Lascaris team in Durban reveal the typical Swagger to be 18 to 25 years, very brand conscious and very aware of how their peers perceive them. More significantly, they believe that if you haven't made it by age 30 you may as well give up, as this world is for the young and is lived very much in the present. Because this market doesn't have the money to support their desired lifestyle, they will often mix expensive brands with cheaper products. They may match designer heels with a cheaper skirt. Or, when going out, will pool their money to buy a bottle of Veuve Clicquot or an expensive whiskey. They then take photos of themselves holding the bottle which they post on Facebook and, either nurse that one drink all night or move on to a cheaper option. In this playground, it's all about who you hang out with and brands which are considered cool such as Moet, Johnnie Walker and Grolsch; are the desired companions.
So how does someone market to this group? According to Bennewith, there is no single answer. "It is all about understanding how they view the world, their motivations, their values and their personal image as well as the complexities that exist within the group. Investigating the Swagger market in South Africa highlights the importance of moving away from a blanket approach when marketing to black South Africans. One needs to consider their current relationship with the product or brand, the insights about this market and the brand's objectives before establishing the best plan going forward."
One of the biggest challenges that marketers face is that this market is ruled by cool. "There's no doubt that cool hunting is an ongoing challenge. In our increasingly fast paced world, 'cool' changes daily." Bennewith is quick to point out, however, that the opportunities are big as well. "While this young market does not represent a great deal of disposable income, they are driven and have big plans for the future. Their opinions count and in a country where aspiration is so important, investing in speaking to this segment will have a ripple effect to the broader market."
What this research has made clear is that it's not enough to have first base knowledge of this group. Swaggers are a savvy market and will quickly 'wise up' to brands that try to take advantage of their powerful influence. As Bennewith warns, marketers must aim to communicate with real and honest propositions as opposed to old fashioned marketing spin.