The Brand Exchange

05 Sep 2005|Added Value

If your broker asked you to invest in emotions, you would probably pat him on the head and find another broker, pronto.  Low risk, high returns and long term sustained growth are what make investors happy and as any investment ad will tell you, considering your next venture is no place for emotion.

But, in our hypothetical Brand Exchange that is exactly what we think will underpin the next generation of brand success stories.  We are creatures of emotion and our emotive state drives our behaviour.  Predicting a brand portfolio for the future is all about understanding how consumers want to feel and then tapping into those triggers. 

Most marketers will agree that the success of brands is built on their level of emotional connectivity with people.  We believe that desire is at the heart of great brands and that brands ignite people’s desire through emotional distinction – by creating an unforgettable emotional resonance with each individual consumer. 

Dominant cultural emotion, driven by socio-cultural change, can even manifest into economic trends.  For South Africa, the culture of fear and distrust of the 80s and 90s has morphed into one of powerful hope and optimism.  This has played a significant role in fuelling the current wave of economic growth and investor confidence in the county. 

But what of the future?  What will trigger emotional connectivity for South African consumers in the next 5 years? 

Insight research with urban consumers, LSM4 +, indicates that most South Africans want to be able to feel connected; to express their individuality; to feel empowered; to be indulged and to feel safe and secure.  Brands that genuinely connect with these emotive states will be the ones to watch.

Feeling Connected
The desire to be connected is manifesting in two ways.  South Africans are embracing connectivity through technology and in forging networks of communities based on common interest.

Changing social structures, mass urban development and the lightning speed of cellular and internet technology have seen both real and virtual communities begin to mushroom. 

From stokvels to virtual gaming clans, blog sites to soccer leagues, bookclubs to church groups, South Africans are reinventing their sense of community as they look for new tribes to belong to.

On the brand exchange, brands that help people feel connected are going to grow their market share.  Cell phone manufacturers, internet and cellular service providers and other communications companies are some of the sectors that should do really well. 

Brands that help people identify themselves as connected to a tribe will also have a head start, like exclusive credit cards or membership clubs, lifestyle fashion brands and cars.  Even financial brands that allow their customers to feel more connected to their financial lives will benefit. 

Old Favourites: Nokia, Vodacom, Telkom, SABMiller, Microsoft, Billabong, Playstation, FNB (ebucks), Discovery Vitality, Brand SA
Rising Stars: Cell C, Virgin Active, Apple, MTN (Banking), Kaizer Chiefs/Orlando Pirates, SANTAM

Feeling Individual
Ironically, as much as South African’s desire to feel connected, they also crave a feeling of individuality.  Having the freedom to express oneself and being able to feel unique, special and distinctive are emotional antidotes to mass culture. 

Already, cellphone owners use ring tones and accessories to mirror their individuality.  Brands like Nike and addidas allow consumers to customize their products online, while car customization has jumped from backstreet chop shops to the factory floors of Audi and BMW.  The rise of monogrammed “bling” in hip hop culture is another way that consumers are saying “this is me”.  Even your morning cup of coffee says a little something about who you are and the proliferation of shops and cafés, from Mugg and Bean to Vida e caters to the trend.

Brands that offer consumers the opportunity to feel like their individual needs, feelings and expressions are being met are likely to be hot commodities. 

Old Favourites: Levis, Swatch, Louis Vitton, Apple Mac, Vespa, Nike
Rising Stars:  Stoned Cherrie, Cell C, @home, Hansa Pilsner, Big Blue, Vida e, YDE, YFM/YMag, Apple iPod

Feeling Empowered
In South Africa, the upheaval of the last decade is settling down and people are starting to test their boundaries.  After years of powerlessness or apathy South Africans are empowering themselves for the future.

The trend is not limited to South Africa.  Brand personalities like Oprah, Donald Trump and Richard Branson, as well as local heroes like Nelson Mandela have shown ordinary people that anything is possible. 

Brands that empower people to make better choices, live better, healthier lives or contribute to the lives of others can tap into their customers’ consciousness and connect with consumers on an emotional level. 

But there are two sides to the empowerment coin for brands.  Empowered consumers tend to be far more conscious consumers, who demand more transparency and greater accountability from businesses and brands.  Business ethics and social and environmental responsibility will matter more and more to consumers. 

In South Africa particularly, strong community development and meaningful corporate social investment (CSI) will make or break brands looking to move into developing markets. 

On the exchange, health and wellness brands, educational facilities, and any businesses that have powerful CSI programmes will trade well in the future. 

Old Favourites: Coca Cola, Body Shop, Mail & Guardian, OMO, UCT Graduate School of Business, GIBS
Rising Stars: Woolworths, Kauai, Virgin Active, Sunday Times, OUTsurance, Cell C

Feeling Indulged and Indulgent
For many people, time-poverty and stress are the major triggers for frustration, depression and anger.  Products and services that ease the burdens of modern living will always deliver healthy returns. 

Leisure, grooming, personal entertainment and fashion brands competing with strong experiential and service differentiators should do well.  In this case, how a brand makes consumers feel, emotionally as well as physically, becomes important.  Sensory and interactive brand experiences are increasingly popular in giving one brand tangible benefits over another.

Indulgent and luxury brands also suggest status, enabling people to feel and demonstrate their success.  Of course, it’s all relative; one South African’s necessity is another one’s luxury.  Brands that can segment their offering to make indulgence accessible to a wider audience should be able to unlock further growth. 

The local tourism sector should also pick up, as more and more South Africans enjoy the little luxuries of a weekend away, a mini safari or even just an indulgent night off in a local hotel.

Old Favourites: LG, BMW, Mercedes, Levis, Sun International, Amstel, Top Billing
Rising Stars: Lindt, Woolworths, Apple, Mini, Jack Daniels, Melissa’s, Cape Union Mart, Southern Sun, Ferrero Rocher, Exclusive Books

Feeling Safe and Secure
South Africans spend more time at funerals than they do having their hair cut, shopping or enjoying braais – two times as many people have been to a funeral in a month, than a wedding (www.saarf.co.za).  According to the United Nations, HIV/AIDS infection rates are rising at 21.5% and crime affects the lives of all South Africans.  Unemployment and job security is another daily concern for the majority of the population.  A fundamental need amongst South Africans is to feel safe and secure: physically, emotionally and financially.

This desire factors significantly in the automotive, medical and financial services industries.  Even the housing boom has benefited.  Peripheral sectors like home décor, real estate and security companies have all responded to the average man’s desire for comfort and security.

Brands that can help consumers feel safer or can offer security and comfort, are likely to make a deeper emotional connection with consumers.

Old Favourites: Old Mutual, Standard Bank, Toyota, Dettol, ADT
Rising Stars: Discovery, MortgageSA, Net Tracker, OUTsurance

Emotional Risk Analysis
The bottom line for brands is they trade in an emotional market place and it is their consumers that are their chief investors.  Fortunately, emotional insider trading is not only encouraged, but a new necessity for low risk, high return strategies. 

Real consumer understanding can give brands the inside track on what is driving people emotionally and prepare marketers for how consumers might feel tomorrow.  Predicting your market share in the future will depend on how well you really know your market today.

By Alison Tucker, Director, Added Value South Africa

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