Is your brand set to enter Africa?
Posted by
Robert Jameson at 08:00

For those who have been lucky enough to travel around Africa, it probably seemed at first that there are a lot of commonalities between countries - and there are. But the biggest mistake you can make is viewing the rest of the continent as a single, homogenous entity. It is in Africa that you will find the greatest diversity, not only in places but in people and cultures as well.

Many of Africa's economies, at an early stage of economic development, are now growing rapidly - creating exciting new markets and opportunities for foreign direct investment and new brand entries. But it is this blinding prospect of rapid business growth that has led so many brands to rush northwards unprepared, only to return with holes in their pockets.

So how do you ensure that your brands are geared for success in Africa?

Get to know the lay of the land

Identifying market gaps and opportunities:

The media often depicts Africa as a dangerous place with little regulation and stability. Those challenges are real, but only half of the story. Understand the challenges, but the opportunities are just as important. Explore the factors that define the market - from infrastructure and distribution channels to local innovations. Without this vital strategic input brands looking to enter Africa certainly face a rocky road ahead.

A practical tip to do this:

  • Keep tabs on what is happening. Africa is fast-paced and ever-changing. You don't want to miss out on a change that provides an opportunity for your brand.

Get to know your customers

Segmentating your market:

When looking to expand into other African countries, brands need to understand the people they are marketing to. Research the social, cultural and historical influences in the country. Make sure you have segmented the market and understand the various customer segments well enough to tap into their conscious and subconscious needs and drivers. Brands should be able to tailor their brand proposition and business offering, to cater to the needs of their new market. Market research is a challenge in many markets, so get out there to see for yourself how your brands can create value and become relevant to the African consumer.

Some practical ways to apply this:

  • Delve deep into the factors that shape the socio-economic climate. Focus on the causes rather than the effects.
  • Keep the customer alive in the business by sharing knowledge across teams

Adapt, tailor and learn

Localising your marketing strategy 

It's important to build local insight into your brand's marketing strategies. While the broad objectives and goals can match the global strategy, the"how"needs to build in local nuances in various markets. Monitor what works and what does not work, respond and adapt and learn. While the market may still be untapped in many instances, it will not remain so for long - and consumers will only consume the brands that are relevant to them.

Some practical ways to do this:

  • Use your market insight to create real value for your African consumers. Your offering is only as good as your understanding of the market.
  • Define clear objectives to guide your brand, and tailor the strategy for each market.
  • Translate your brand proposition to resonate with the market. Make it easy for your consumer to relate to your brand.

Brands looking to extend into Africa need to do their homework. Africa is tough - its markets have vast differences in business practice, consumer preference, behaviour and culture. Success means figuring out how your brands can add value to African consumers, and making sure your marketing strategy taps into the unique psychologies and infrastructural constraints of each market. 

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