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Why marketing to consumers, not the masses, is the key to brand success in Africa

Consumers in sub-Saharan Africa say that advertising, promotion and corporate social responsibility activities have significant influence over their purchase decisions, according to new data released by Nielsen.
Africa's consumers are growing in numbers and in buying power, and, like consumers around the world, they have a demonstrated demand for products that meet their needs; on average, half of all household spending in Sub-Sahara Africa goes to consumer packaged goods.

The diversity of consumers and markets within Africa is staggering, but it presents tremendous opportunities for those who properly understand and navigate this complex marketplace. Marketing and promotional activities are essential when entering a region or expanding brand presence, and Africa is no exception. But what's the most effective way to reach Africa's consumers? And how can marketers ensure they're delivering messages and products that resonate?

The latest from Nielsen's Emerging Market Insights research* found that when it comes to advertising, Africa's consumers are most aware of traditional channels, with broadcast (83%) topping the list, followed by outdoor (78%) and print advertising (65%). Nearly half of respondents (49%) are aware of mobile advertising, though most mobile advertising across the continent is still text messaging/SMS based because the majority of devices consumers own are feature phones. Consequently, only one-fifth (19%) of respondents are aware of online advertising.

Consumers in Africa are receptive to marketing messages. Nearly half (48%) of consumers interviewed said advertising has significant influence on their purchase decisions. Some 38% said that promotional activities, ranging from in-store displays to value packaging to special offers, motivate them to buy more of a particular product-and even give preference to that product over other brands. One-third (34%) of consumers interviewed also said they buy more of a product or give preference to products that they know engage in corporate social responsibility programs or practices. That figure is significantly higher in some markets, like Rwanda, where 53% of consumers said corporate social responsibility (CSR) influences their purchase decisions.

Understanding behaviors, attitudes and influences is essential to tap into Africa's diverse set of consumers. Nigerian consumers in urban centers, for example, may share some commonalities with urban consumers in Angola, but they're certainly not identical - this is why brand owners and marketers who want to successfully connect with consumers in Africa should shy away from a one-size-fits-all approach.

In fact, consumer understanding is most effective when it extends beyond simply determining the proper messages and media mix to include product innovation and development. A Nielsen analysis found that products developed or tailored specifically for Africa's consumers achieve a success rate of 40%, well above the standard 10%**.

Many business leaders, economists and investors believe the African continent will continue to post impressive organic growth in the coming years. Leading that growth will surely be the companies that invest in developing programs, products and plans that keep the diverse set of Africa's consumers as their beacon.


* In 2012 Nielsen launched an ongoing, comprehensive multi-country program to capture in-depth information and insights about consumer behaviors, attitudes and influencers across Sub-Sahara Africa for a better understanding of this rapidly growing region. Nielsen's Emerging Market Insights research is based on face-to-face surveys from a representative sample of urban and peri-urban residents between the ages of 15 and 45 across SEC groups A-E in and around key cities in 16 Sub-Saharan African countries: Nigeria, Ghana, Cameroon, Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania, Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda, Uganda, Zambia, Angola, Mozambique, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Madagascar and Botswana. The initial phase of research was fielded between Aug 2011 and June 2012 with a sample of 8,168 respondents; the second wave of research was fielded between May 2013 and September 2014 with a sample of 7,040 respondents.

** Source: Nielsen BASES analysis, Sub-Sahara and South Africa region, 2014.
How Do Africa's Consumers Respond To Marketing?

NielsenNielsen knows people, Nielsen knows Africa. No-one offers a more complete understanding, worldwide, of what consumers watch and buy. We offer the scale to give you world view - as well as a wealth of local and regional knowledge and expertise.



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