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Townships are the new black

The township is no longer a foreign land far away and its story is no longer one of the haves and have-nots.
That story is done and dusted. Townships are rocking and they have been for a while, but not everyone has cottoned on yet... that things are happening there.

To win in the townships, brands must appreciate the aspirations as well as pressures on disposable income. (Image: Wikimedia Commons)
This was one of the main findings from the Ask Afrika TGI 2013 B, a single-source sample of 15,000, in 8,000 communities that measures 19 brands, products and services. It has been running in South Africa for a decade.

Paida Mugudubi, Commercial Director, Ask Afrika, presented key findings, which included insights on South African in the global context, the local landscape, the media and digital landscape and lastly townships recently in Johannesburg.

"TGI 2013 B is undertaken to allow for an in-depth understanding of South African consumers so we can better resonant with them when selling to them," Mugudubi said, adding that the current climate is testing citizens' trust and has a strong bearing on the consumer psyche. "It is transforming the roles of traditional and new media. We need to view communities through different lens. Basic brand demographics do not cut it anymore."

One size does not fit all

Therefore, to understand township consumers you have to realise that the one size fits all is outdated. Township consumers do not behave the same. How they behave is also dependent on where they are and the proximity of malls etc. Townships are a melting pot of cultures and sub cultures and a comfortable coexistence between the formal and informal sector.

It has become critical to understand these consumers beyond the insight that LSMs offer us, says Mugudubi. "When we then talk about the middle market it is big. The sheer density of townships is staggering and we need to understand the potential spend of this consumer."

Township consumers are shifting to the middle malls. The per capita spending is lower, but the turnover is tremendously boosted by the large numbers. The footfall in townships is much bigger than in other areas. Township consumers are savvy in a different way in that when making a purchase, they look from a cultural perspective at what they buy.

She says their consumer confidence is aligned to those living in cities. "The city dwellers and townships dweller are pretty much aligned, but township consumers trust less. Over half of township consumers state that products they buy do not perform as well as the advertisements claim they do."

The soapie influence

Soapies are central to township communities and influences what happens around them. It is on television but it is a reflection of what is real in these communities. Across the board, Word of Mouth is still the most trusted medium. It is embedded in the strong family and cultural connections. Township consumers are also heavy users of television and radio.

To win in the townships, brands must appreciate the aspirations as well as pressures on disposable income. Brands that perform on claims of quality will win. Trust is critical. "We must understand what community means in the township context; it is not just about the people living next door to you, but about churches, running clubs, etc. It is multi-layered," says Mugudubi.
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About Danette Breitenbach

Danette Breitenbach was the editor and publisher of Advantage, the publication that served the marketing, media and advertising industry in southern Africa. Before her editorship, she was deputy-editor as well as freelancing for over a year on the publication before that. She has worked extensively in print media, mainly B2B, in the fields of marketing, mining, disability marketing, advertising and media.
Tony Starks
"Soapies are central to township communities and influences what happens around them. It is on television but it is a reflection of what is real in these communities."This is absolutely not true. Soapies influence absolutely nothing in township dwellers' lives. Do you think Generations or Scandal represent or reflect the lives of someone who lives in Pimville, Newlands West or Nyanga East? Soapies are a fantasy, detached from the reality of residents trying to make a living. It's a form of escape, not a mirror that shows their lives.
Posted on 16 Apr 2014 09:05
Nkosana Ndaba
Vincent NdabaI agree with Dainette -The township market or Kasie market as famouslly know is the biggest growing market which offers marketers an opportunity to grow their brands and marker shareour agency Consumer Communications specializes exclusively on this market and has been convincing marketers for many years to focus on building and cultivating this special market
Posted on 17 Apr 2014 09:21
Nkosana Ndaba
We agree with this article and as Consumer Communications our main focus is in marketing direct to the township consumers also know as Kasie consumers.Soapie influence is rife and can be iterpreted from various angles we should not convince ourselves and say consumers will copy but rather say they aspire lifestley in those soapies especially successful characters.Marketers need to give this market a special attention for growing their brands
Posted on 17 Apr 2014 09:33
Tony Starks - it is not to say that all townships relate or live their lives as per the soapies - but rather are motivated and INFLUENCED by the soapies. There is a lot of truth and relation in terms of what happens in soapies and what people do / aspire to do and be in real life.Dainette - well written article and a lot of truth on the article - well done.Challenge now lies with the expense to actually place your product in any soapie or be scripted into the storyline. So the challenge is more of getting involved without being pressured into forking out loads of cash (premium) to have your product placed on the soapie.
Posted on 17 Apr 2014 10:15
Tony Starks
@VX9256: There may be township dwellers who ASPIRE to experience the lifestyle of some of the characters in soapies - but they are in no way or means MOTIVATED or INFLUENCED by the soapies. I'm telling you this from what I see and experience - I don't go in there to to do research and leave, or go there when there's a Wine Expo/horse racing extravaganza/big music event in the city. I live there. Point in example: Hunter's was used in Generations at Mam Ruby's tavern. Did sales of Hunter's spike or increase in the township? If you look at their sales figures, you'll find that they didn't. On the other hand, Smirnoff Ice Double Black & Guarana is popular. Yet it wasn't featured in any soapie and I haven't seen any TV ads for it. What 'influenced' people in townships to buy it? Marketers need to stop treating kasi consumers as mindless sheep. They are able to make up their own minds about what brands they will consume/buy - simplistic ads and product placement just won't cut it anymore. You need to find out what makes them tick and what role the brand can play in their lives. Don't treat them as if they're less 'sophisticated'.
Posted on 17 Apr 2014 10:59
John Eschenburg
We are bringing Full "Sensurround" Sound 99.2 Channel) Cinemas to all the Townships in South Africa.We are also bringing Socially Responsible Branding and Advertising, by allowing advertisers to sponsor :-27 Entrepreneurs as owners who will bring,Employment, Entertainment, Education, Safety and Security into each community, "without taking from the poor to give to the rich".Advertising CAN do real good, without taking anything away.See the "ReaGilè Community Cinema Project".Helping to Fix Our Country, by creating 35 000 sustainable entrepreneurship jobs, by bringing Cinemas to the 40 million people who have been neglected by the establishment, and creating socially responsible marketing opportunities for corporates.Lets see which corporates are also interested in our communities and not just in their bottom line.JohnFounderReaGilè Community Cinemas.
Posted on 21 Apr 2014 17:15
John Eschenburg
That was 9.2 channel THX surround sound. (Not 99.2) :-)
Posted on 21 Apr 2014 17:16
Mohlabane Ramela
@Tony Starks, I have sat through such research before. Research that make sense to people but yet false. Soapies have never, even temporarily, been an influence or played any other role besides entertainment during prime time on TV, to the township market. If nobody believes you after you've said it once, just let them be. All marketers should live the life of their consumers for a couple of days, instead of conducting research based on a fraction of a sample, before they start running campaigns based on their false results.
Posted on 19 May 2014 13:54

Read more: soapies, Paida Mugudubi