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Does your brand positioning stretch into Africa?
Posted by
Louise MacRobert at 11:00

With so many African countries enjoying economic growth and increasing stability, global brands are rushing to get involved. They are expanding their offerings into new markets at an enormous rate, joined by South African companies spreading north on the continent. All of these brands want to be the first to satisfy the needs of these new emerging middle class consumers, but few of them are investing in understanding the societies they are trying to sell to.

This gives rise to the question: how can they do it well? How can global - or South African - brands expand into Africa in a way that is relevant to the local markets?

The approach that allows for maximum flexibility is to create a portfolio of different brands for different countries. SABMiller, for example, has Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, but 2M and Laurentina in Mozambique. This has proven to be highly successful in the beer category, but this approach is also the most expensive. It costs money to build brands, and most companies are looking to maximise efficiencies by rolling out monolithic brands.

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And it is possible to achieve relevance with a single brand. KFC, for example, has localised so successfully in South Africa that it consistently ranks among South Africa's favourite brands. BMW's aspirational brand is well known in South Africa. But does BMW mean the same thing in South Africa as it does in Germany? Do Nigerians shop at Shoprite for the same reason that Ugandans do?  

If the same brand means something completely different in different markets it leads to the brand positioning becoming inauthentic.

We think a few simple ways to avoid this problem are:

  • Localise your communication - languages, visual cues, familiar people and context
  • Do not veer too far from your core brand idea - just find ways to express it relevantly
  • Get to know each market intimately - understand the psychological drivers of your consumers
  • Don't assume countries that speak the same language have the same culture
  • Draw up a list of values upon which your brand will not compromise

Getting the balance right between localisation and relevance on one hand, and staying true to a clearly defined brand positioning on the other hand, is one of the greatest challenges for marketing brands that are expanding into new territories. But those that get it right will enjoy success in a variety of different markets, as they expand across the continent. 

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