South African marketing in 2019: 5 things you need to know


Marketing is a buzzword unto itself these days and not just here at home in South Africa. The whole world is excited to see what the geniuses of the marketing world are going to come up with next.

As South African business owners’ and marketers, we’re swept with the current revolution and the drive to innovate – to be ahead of the pack. What an exciting time to be involved in business. It truly is an age of digital marketing and entrepreneurial spirit. 

Here’s the thing though, we’re in South Africa, not America.

Whilst looking at international standards and practices of marketing are a great source of inspiration, they’re not always relevant to our audience. It leaves us stuck in a conundrum: Do we try to compete with innovation at international levels or do we slow down and speak to our South African audience, but then fall behind in the innovation department? South African marketing in 2019 is navigating tricky waters (trickier than when Honorable Member Malema won’t sit down in parliament) with sizable long term business consequences. In short, the best approach is to personalize your strategy and rather than outgrow your audience, take them on a journey of growth. 

Let’s dive in and take a deeper look at how we (and the current forerunners) put this this into practice

1. South African Marketing in 2019 is getting there

54% of South Africans are online. 55% of internet users have made an online purchase. 38% of those online purchases were made on mobile.

In general e-commerce is up 4.2% from last year. 

Digital is on the rise globally and in South Africa. It’s really no secret. 

South African Marketing in 2019 is showing major trends towards mobile. If you’re not already online (especially mobile friendly) then your bottom line is heading for a real ‘eish’ moment. 

Put into practice: It’s time to really start investing in digital marketing. If you’re not familiar with the concepts of Google Ads, Social Media Marketing or SEO check them out – your 2022 bottom line will thank you. 

2. But we’re not quite there yet

Digital is the future – there’s no mistaking it. It would be unwise to look into the reality of our own environment. Whilst 55% of South Africans with online purchasing power have made online purchase, 98% of Americans with online purchasing power have made an online purchase. 

Two of the biggest influences behind this are our internet and our trust. 

South African internet infrastructure is under developed compared to the rest of the world and our high rates of poverty mean that the percentage of the population with internet access is lower too. We’re already starting to see change in this area as more South Africans lean towards mobile because it’s cheaper and our internet service providers are rolling out large scale plans to bring fiber to the whole country. 

In terms of our trust of South African marketing in 2019, we haven’t had as much exposure to the internet as many other countries. We’re also naturally more skeptical due to high crime rates. In this area too, we are seeing an upward trend of online purchasing confidence. 

Our advantage here is that we can tell the future! No, we’re not psychic. Because historical data shows us that South African markets follow the global trend. All we have to do to know what our marketing landscapes will look like in the future is look at the global trends. 

Let’s not deny that while digital is on the rise and we need to get in as early as possible, in South Africa, more than most countries traditional still matters. FNB’s radio campaign to switch to FNB with Steve is one great example of contemporary traditional marketing success. These traditional marketing efforts slowly began to introduce South Africans to the concept of fully digital banking and built both online purchasing confidence and consumer loyalty.

Put into practice: South African marketing in 2019 is a balancing act. Use traditional marketing to supplement your move to digital marketing – paying particular attention to who your audience is and what they have access to. Begin to integrate traditional with digital and take your consumer on the journey to digital with you.

3. We’re a funny bunch

“Met eish ja.”
“It’s not inside – it’s on top”
“Oh, Henry, I love it when you talk foreign”.
Heading back to the 90’s: “Windy, windy, windy, windy!”

Do a quick search on YouTube for ‘South African Nando’s adverts’. I’ll wait here. 

Now that you’ve seen all the compelling evidence, you’ll agree – South African respond to humor. South African marketing in 2019 is one of the most entertaining places to be because of this very fact. It’s also the reason why Nando’s marketing is to successful. They nail the punch line, every time! 

With a shocking large percentage of our population uneducated, we as marketers and business owners need to respond appropriately. Humor is a language that does not require intricate knowledge of algebra (thank goodness). 

Put into practice: Do not be afraid to use humor. South African like to laugh and they understand humor. When implemented correctly, even the most serious of brands can pull off humor. South African marketing in 2019 has the potential to be wickedly fun.

4. We like to hear from our ‘mates’

South Africa has fostered a culture of community for many years. Every braai has the ‘service review section’. This is the part of the evening where at least one ‘oom’ or ‘tannie’ complains about Telkom, praises the latest deal at Checkers or recommended their friends new business. 

Steve from FNB became everyone’s best friend. When Trevor Noah became CEO of CellC we were all riveted and Barney’s friend from We Buy Cars had the whole country worried about who just drive off with Barney’s car. 

To take it back to the basic principles of marketing, this is brand persona at its finest. Creating a relatable and memorable character generates conversation, relationship and trust. South African marketing in 2019 cannot have too much of any of those. 

Put into practice: Research who your audience is and who you brand is. Develop the relationship between those two personas by personifying your brand. The more creative – the better!

5. A good deal doesn’t die

Huge shout out to Safair for recently selling 45,000 plane tickets for R5! 

Coming back to the all=important marketing principal of knowing your audience. The South African economy is struggling and people are penny conscious. A good deal goes a long way to caring about your consumer. If you’re deal is really great it will stick in the consumers mind. “I once went to Cape Town for R5!” 

The growing popularity of Black Friday and Cyber Monday are a further testament to how much South African marketing in 2019 appreciates a good deal. 

An interesting trend and take on deals is loyalty rewards programs. Pick n’ Pay’s smart shopper points, FNB’s e-bucks and Discovery’s vitality points have brought great success. This is building brand loyalty whilst rewarding your consumer with a good deal. It’s a win-win. 

Put into practice: We need to be price conscious for our consumer. The right deal at the right time can earn you a loyal consumer for life. Think about when your consumer may want your product but would be cash conscious – can you solve that problem with a deal or loyalty program? 

South African Marketing in 2019

It’s an exciting time to be in marketing and business in South Africa. Whilst there are so many uncertainties for our country, we can be sure that digital is the way forward and consumer-facing strategies are going win out above the rest. 

This article was repurposed from Bizcommunity on 30 May 2019.