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African marketers fight global ignorance

News, 18 March 2015

MARRAKECH: Some of the challenges global marketers face in Africa are outside their control, but many are failing to address issues within their purview, including developing a proper understanding of consumers in local markets.

New research from the World Federation of Advertisers, organised in co-operation with Millward Brown and national advertiser associations in Cameroon, Kenya, Morocco, Nigeria, South Africa and Zimbabwe, highlighted matters such as the lack of reliable data on media consumption and retail performance.

A survey of 82 marketers working for well-known local and global brands at a country or regional level also revealed a significant gap in consumer understanding that local and regional marketers say exists at a global level.

Thus, 55% of respondents agreed with the statement that "global colleagues do not understand consumers in our local markets" and only 20% disagreed.

The local versus global debate also applied to local agency partners, with 58% of respondents agreeing that local agencies have a superior understanding of local business issues than international agency brands.

Marketers were, however, generally bullish about the resources they have to deliver effective marketing solutions with 34% saying they were a fair way along the road at a regional level and 30% claiming similar progress in their home markets.

And there remains much to be done to generate actionable consumer insights with 45% of respondents saying they had just begun this journey at a regional level and 33% saying they were at the same stage at a local level.

"The WFA Study highlights that, for marketers, success requires a thorough understanding of local cultures, beliefs, customs, economics, and practices," said Charles Foster, managing director, Millward Brown Africa & Middle East.

"Companies and practitioners that have followed globalised assumptions and methods have often failed to make an impact, he added, "and we've seen that a key factor for success is having marketing operations headed by locals who understand and connect with what consumers need."

The WFA's new president, David Wheldon, managing director, Brand, Reputation Citizenship and Marketing at Barclays Bank, noted the organisation was experiencing "impressive growth" from local advertiser associations and hoped to help them become more effective and efficient.

Data sourced from WFA; additional content by Warc staff