Breaking into emerging markets: ‘You cannot succeed in Africa without emotion’

By Niamh Michail contact

- Last updated on GMT

“The brand has to enter this psychology. It’s very much about emotions when branding in Africa. Strivers don’t want to be patronised by anyone, it’s about empowerment.” Photo: Istock / Michael Jung
“The brand has to enter this psychology. It’s very much about emotions when branding in Africa. Strivers don’t want to be patronised by anyone, it’s about empowerment.” Photo: Istock / Michael Jung

Related tags: Africa, Marketing

Establishing an emotional connection between consumers and brands is a universal key to success – but this is especially true when breaking into the African market and there are certain ways to create this connection, says one marketing consultant.

Africa offers vast opportunities for companies that know how to connect with consumers and establish a presence. Although starting from low bases, five of the top ten fastest growing economies are in sub-Saharan Africa and according to Per Sundelin, senior consultant at the Healthy Marketing Team, democratisation is fundamentally changing the consumer base: ‘Strugglers’ are becoming ‘strivers’,

The 'er' factor: heroes, mothers and family values

Aspiration, optimism and the ‘er’ factor are all key to connecting with people who are striving for a better tomorrow, he said.

The ‘er’ factor? This refers to consumer aspiration. Mother’s want their children to be stronger, taller, healthier, people expect the future to brighter and better.

“This is a key factor of food and beverage branding and communication in Africa - it really captures the psychology of the market. In the past generations didn’t have much hope, they expected that tomorrow will be much like today. This has been replaced by an aspiration that with a bit of hard work tomorrow will be better, if not for me then for my children,” ​said Sundelin.

“The brand has to enter this psychology. It’s very much about emotions when branding in Africa. Strivers don’t want to be patronised by anyone, it’s about empowerment.”

This phenomenon is not limited to Africa and can be seen across global developing markets. But how can companies actually create this emotional bond?

Successful brand building in Africa is based on a different family context and cultural dynamic, and brands should not shy away from reinforcing the idea of the mother as a household hero, the child as a symbol of health and hope, said Sundelin.

An emotional connection can also be fostered with good corporate social responsibility. A study by market research company, Nielsen, found that in the continent overall, more than one third (34%) of those surveyed said they bought more of a product that know to have CSR programmes, rising to over half (53%) of Rwandans.

The price is right for global players and SMEs

africa map on globe
One continent, but many countries...

But with huge numbers of people in Africa living on a very small income, products need to be priced within their reach. Does that mean the market is off limits to all but the biggest players who can afford to brace small margins initially to get a foot in the door?

Not necessarily, says Sundelin, as products can be adapted with this in mind.

“It is of course a very different business context to operate in and you need to understand whole value chain and retail structure. [But] it’s very much about segmenting the market and thinking differently about point of purchase and package size. Instead of having a big bottle, use small sachets. In corner shops you see strings of sachets to buy one by one. You need to operate in a different mode but it can be done.”

There are commonalities – but one size does not fit all

Nevertheless, manufacturers need to bear in mind that Africa is a continent – not a country – and so a one size-fits-all approach is too simplistic, even if there are common factors.

In its report on emerging markets published last year, Nielsen said that understanding the myriad of behaviours, attitudes and influences is essential to tapping into Africa’s diverse set of consumers.

“Nigerian consumers in urban centres, 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,” ​it said.

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