The 10 Trends Shaping The Future Of South African Brands

09 Nov 2011|Added Value

Added Value South Africa’s anthropologist and cultural insight specialist, Dr Inka Crosswaite, shares the trends shaping the South African market for 2012.

‘Autonomy’, ‘recognition’, ‘freedom and discovery’, ‘belonging’, ‘more global, more local’, ‘identity blur’, ‘new consciousness’, ‘vitality’, ‘wired world’ and ‘take a stand’ – 10 phrases that South African brand owners should pay attention to as they hold the key to current shifts in consumer attitudes and behaviours.

Culture signals change
Great brands are constantly evolving.  They anticipate change.  And the strongest indicator of change is culture.  Our role is to help clients take a more future focussed approach to their brand strategy and positioning by tracking the evolution of culture. We use cultural insight to understand how the world is changing and pull out the patterns of change that are going to be important for a brand in the future.

An understanding of cultural trends provides a context for shifts that may affect a product or brand category, and allows marketers to ride and shape these changes, rather than just react to them.

Understanding how trends work enables us to differentiate between short-term fads and trends, the latter having potential to impact long-term consumer behaviour.  A fad – or fashion – is a ‘fast burn’ that rapidly peaks, and disappears just as quickly. It is driven by socio/cultural factors but is not necessarily aligned to broader consumer need changes. Fads tend to be more regional than global.

By contrast, a trend is rooted in identifiable sets of cultural drivers and can be tracked across continents.  It typically has global reach, and is long-lived and evolving. In essence, a trend is a shift in the way people think and consequently act.

Megatrends take years and even decades to evolve, and tend to manifest in a number of microtrends – that is, emerging and niche behavioural changes – over the years.

10 Mega Trends
There are 10 mega trends that are shaping South African society, although the five underlined have the most relevance for the market as indicators of a shift in behaviour:

1. Autonomy: people are taking control of their lives, and individual choices are driving economic, socio-political and lifestyle trends.

2. Recognition: showing others that one possesses discernment and has achieved. While material goods once signified one’s achievements and status, they no longer do. The symbols of status have become more complex and multilayered.

3. Freedom and discovery: consumers increasingly seek experiences, rather than products and services, which are often simply a means (tools) to an end (experience).

4. Belonging: people form communities as spaces of comfort and solidarity.

5. More global, more local: while globalisation is forging a homogenous global identity, it has reached its tipping point. People are starting to resist global culture and look for the authenticity of the local and the familiar for inspiration.

6. Identity blur: gender and life-stages are beginning to blur. Identity is fluid, changing and layered. People alter their identities over time as situations change, and adopt many different expressions of identity simultaneously, making identity more complex than ever before.

7. New consciousness: there is a strong need for life to be made simpler, easier and less threatening.

8. Vitality: proactive health management and extended definition of wellbeing.

9. Wired world: new technologies have entered all parts of our life and allow us to manage our lives 24/7.

10. Take a stand: from cynicism and mistrust to a new-found determination and drive for new solutions to past problems.

Examining just two of these trends in detail – ‘freedom and discovery’ and ‘take a stand’ – demonstrates the wealth of useful information trends can reveal for marketers looking to innovate or refresh their brands.

For example, the megatrend ‘freedom and discovery’ acknowledges that consumers are increasingly seeking experiences rather than just basic products and services.

Multi-sensory experience
The drivers of change here include our desire to explore our physicality and push the boundaries of physical representation and experience. We want new sensations and experiences that challenge the way we think, that embrace all our senses. Key consumer values deriving from this trend are discovery, challenge, curiosity, passion and adventure.

South Africans are looking for sources of instant pleasure in their everyday lives. They enjoy experimenting and trying new things. The accessibility of instant satisfaction through technology is fuelling greater demand – think about 3D cinema and TV, interactive gaming platforms. And there’s a desire for experiences which use, challenge and awaken our senses in a new and innovative way.

Marketers looking to ride this trend should be considering:

  • creating a consumption ritual that enhances a strong sensory experience for consumers
  • exploring packaging that appeals to more than just the visual sense
  • organising brand activations or events that bring to life the brand’s positioning in a multi-sensory way

One brand that has embraced this trend is Grolsch with its ‘Koel Service’. A Grolsch van laden with ice-cold product visited major summer festivals in Holland over the holidays. People could exchange lukewarm beer cans of any brand for a cold can of Grolsch.

Another is Duvel Moortgat’s Liefmans Fuitesse. By showing the fruit beer served over ice in communications, Duvel created a new way of drinking fruit beers and experienced a sales growth of 200% on the previous year courtesy of the ‘ritual’.

The democratisation of creativity
For me, one of the exciting microtrends within ‘freedom and discovery’ is the democratisation of creativity.  This sees consumers stretching their creative boundaries and being inspired by different places, driven by the fact that technology makes it easier and cheaper to make and sell.

Within this microtrend we have ‘crowd creativity’ which sees tradition, culture and local creativity meeting at a grassroots level as opposed to within traditional published media, and ‘brand collaboration’ where brands are making consumers a part of the production and development process so that the final product is a joint venture between brand and consumer.  The online buzz around crowd-sourcing is a great example of this.

The opportunity here is for marketers to create platforms for people to express themselves creatively, and to engage with consumers to find creative expressions for brand’s taglines or positioning through art, photography, music, poetry, film etc.

A prime example is the ‘Adidas is all in’ campaign. Here, Adidas showed its support for creative youth and street culture by allowing the emphasis to fall on expression and culture, and moving beyond the traditional ‘social statement’ and ‘cool’ of a brand. The ‘all in’ campaign also marks a shift towards wrapping a brand around a life, rather than a creating a life that people must subscribe to.

New determination
‘Take a stand’ is another of the other megatrends we believe is resonating within South Africa. This is all about moving from cynicism and mistrust to a new found determination and drive for new solutions to past problems.

Driving the trend are a scarcity of natural resources and explosion of technological innovations; key consumer values coming from the trend are ‘transparency’, ‘respect’, ‘compassion’, ‘determination’ and ‘challenge’.

This is the era of the social network activists, the eco-warriors, and citizens taking on the war on crime. People are starting to fight for what they believe in, marking the return of protest and people power. The citizens of Tunisia, Libya and Egypt didn’t just believe in change, they made it happen.

At the same time, recent natural disasters are demonstrating the impact climate change is already having – and will continue to have – on our lives: hurricanes across the Americas, the floods in Australia, and so on.

On a microtrend level, this has seen the revived spirit of uprising: if people believe in something, they will say it and then take it further. Their words will lead to action and they expect their brands to do the same.

Branding for good
There is also a surge in what we call ‘everyday ethics’: a belief that together we can effect big changes through small acts and changes in our daily routines and behaviours. As a result, we’re planting organic gardens and buying organic foods for health and environmental, we’re choosing ‘ethical’ because it projects an image of being chic, trendy and noble to others, and we’re embracing stylish, sustainable design using recyclable, biodegradable and ‘waste’ materials.

Marketers should be positioning their brands to be the kind hand of consumers, they should commit to the things in society that consumers wish they could, or believe, they ought to change. Taking a strong stand on one particular issue will translate into positive feelings towards the brand  while supporting more but smaller projects will dilute the ‘do good’ association.

Here, Coca-Cola Israel’s ‘Give it Back’ campaign is a leading light. At a central location in Tel Aviv, the company opened a special shop offering a collection of products made from recycled Coca Cola bottles and cans. The campaign invited customers to bring bottles and cans to the store where they can purchase recycled products for bottles and a small additional price.

Honest Tea, the USA’s top-selling organic bottled tea company, set up unmanned pop-up stores stocked with ice-cold Honest Tea and Honest Ade in 12 cities. Signage asking visitors to leave $1 per bottle on the honour system was posted next to a transparent (but securely mounted) cash box. In all but two of the cities, over 90% of people ‘paid’ for their drink.

A thorough understanding of trends will provide the marketers with the ability to continually refresh his or her brand, and to mobilise it for the future. Getting it wrong might not mean failure, but it certainly will restrict the brand’s ability to resonate with society.


Written by Dr Inka Crosswaite, cultural insight and semiotics specialist, Added Value South Africa

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