Consumer insights, CSR matter in Africa

06 January 2010

JOHANNESBURG: Brands hoping to make an impact in Africa must meet the unique requirements of consumers in the region, and place an emphasis on matters such as corporate social responsibility.

In a new report – which can be accessed in full hereMillward Brown, the research firm, argued now is an ideal time for marketers to expand their operations in Africa.

While the region's growth rate is set to fall behind that of China and India over the period to 2015, it is likely to surpass that of Russia and Brazil, which are attracting the attention of many brands.

In-keeping with this forecast, 2008 marked the first year when foreign direct investment across Africa was greater than the amount of aid delivered to its constituent nations.

Among the “rules” marketers must obey to succeed in this area are providing real, tangible benefits which improve people's lives and are based on a nuanced understanding of local conditions.

Matthew Angus, market insights manager, Millward Brown East and West Africa, added firms should “not take your product or service into any African market without a good budget for research and insight.”

Demonstrating a clear “commitment” to the country in question, such as by supporting local talent and communities or investing in infrastructural projects, is also important.

Furthermore, it is essential that brands deliver on their promises, or they are likely to fall foul of assertive consumers, who frequently “vote with their feet” when expressing their dissatisfaction.

In the telecoms sector, for example, around a third of mobile owners across the continent own SIM cards for a variety of networks, and if they encounter a problem with one will simply switch to another.

With regard to media, television reception and the quality of advertising are often both sub-standard, but the relative absence of clutter means truly engaging creative material can make a mark.

Radio has the greatest reach, but is highly fragmented, while digital platforms, and particularly mobile, are gaining considerable traction, a trend that is likely to continue going forward.

However, while these channels can help build brand awareness, word-of-mouth is still the most trusted form of communication, so getting out “on the street” can be the most effective strategy.

To view Millward Brown's Brand Building in Africa in 2010: A Field Guide for the Final Frontier in full, click here.

Data sourced from Millward Brown; additional content by Warc staff