CAPE TOWN: Brands looking to enter African markets ought to look beyond the traditional approach and consider segmenting by attitude rather than geography a study has said.

According to South African marketing strategists Yellowwood, "Very few brands are yet able to get under the skin of consumers in most African markets, relying as they do on superficial insight or irrelevant solutions from other parts of the world".

Its white paper, African Attitudes: Marketing Beyond the Numbers, set out to dispel a few misconceptions about the continent, such as the idea there might be such a person as "an African consumer".

Kenya's biggest trading partners, for example, are the UK and China – not neighbouring Tanzania or Uganda. "Products, tastes and ideas don't yet travel well across Africa," the study said.

And that is one reason why a standard regional modus operandi is unlikely to work particularly well for brands expanding into this huge continent.

Yellowwood advised assessing all potential African markets on the basis of their levels of economic development, infrastructure, language, culture and consumer needs.

"Once you have found the commonalities, group similar markets together and develop a strategy to connect with consumers in that cluster."

The study also distilled Yellowwood's work on consumer segmentation into eight archetypes, including survivors, traditionalists, carers, mentors, optimists, go-getters, inventors and bosses.

At a very broad level, however, it said there were "two key axes" that defined consumer attitudes: a person's relationship with change – whether they seek improvement and excitement or security and stability – and the relative focus they give to themselves and their community.

Traditionally, African cultures have been community minded – with people living close to their families, maintaining contact with extended family and frequently offering them financial support.

Brands could usefully echo that generosity of spirit, the white paper suggested.

"Pay your taxes, find ways to contribute to the most pressing social ills, offer opportunities and paid collaborations to customers and transfer skills to staff on the ground."

Data sourced from Yellowwood; additional content by Warc staff