Lo­cal brands could up their game by co­he­sively telling the global mar­ket what they have to of­fer and de­vel­op­ing a more col­le­gial, out­ward-look­ing strat­egy

Financial Mail - - MEDIA - Jeremy Maggs

Col­lec­tively, SA brands are suf­fer­ing from a gen­eral lack of con­fi­dence — and this is the prin­ci­pal rea­son that many fail to find global trac­tion.

This blunt as­sess­ment comes from one of the world’s lead­ing mar­ket­ing brains, Jan­bene­dict Steenkamp, Knox Massey dis­tin­guished pro­fes­sor of mar­ket­ing at the Ke­nan Fla­gler School of Busi­ness at the Univer­sity of North Carolina, in the US.

Steenkamp spoke to the Fi­nan­cial Mail on the side­lines of the re­cent Wits Busi­ness School 2018 Emerg­ing Mar­kets Con­fer­ence.

Nether­lands-born Steenkamp has been ranked num­ber one in the world in schol­arly in­flu­ence in mar­ket­ing.

Apart from the self-es­teem is­sue, he says lo­cal brands also fail to co­he­sively tell the global mar­ket about their strengths and what they have to of­fer, de­spite the best ef­forts of mar­ket­ing bod­ies and or­gan­i­sa­tions.

He sug­gests they need to speak to each other more, find com­mon points of co­op­er­a­tion and syn­ergy, and de­velop a more col­le­gial, out­ward-look­ing strat­egy.

Steenkamp says lo­cal brands also need to work harder at build­ing what he terms the “pride fac­tor”. Chi­nese and In­dian busi­nesses and their con­sumers, he says, seem to take more pride in their brands and their suc­cess than South Africans do.

“In In­dia and China peo­ple are con­stantly ask­ing why they have not pro­duced a Nike or an Ap­ple brand. I don’t think that is the case in SA,” he says.

Steenkamp is baf­fled at the gen­eral lack of brand con­fi­dence in SA. “You have all the ad­van­tages. SA is the largest brand player on the con­ti­nent, with well-known names; the coun­try has de­vel­oped and re­spected fi­nan­cial in­sti­tu­tions and ac­cess to cap­i­tal; and I have wit­nessed noth­ing but ex­cel­lent core brand man­age­ment com­pe­tence.”

While this sug­ges­tion may stick in the craw of lo­cal mar­keters, Steenkamp says big­ger and more com­plex brands look­ing be­yond just African mar­kets might do well to re­cruit in­ter­na­tional man­age­ment ex­per­tise.

“We live now in a com­pet­i­tive global vil­lage and the only way to grow mar­ket share is by us­ing best prac­tice, no mat­ter where it comes from,” says Steenkamp, a spe­cial­ist in global mar­ket­ing, brand­ing and emerg­ing mar­kets and strat­egy.

Con­nec­tions and ori­gins

An­other hid­den brand weapon, says Steenkamp, is SA’S global con­nec­tions. “Busi­ness peo­ple from this coun­try are un­usu­ally well con­nected and this net­work can be lever­aged through the di­as­pora.”

An In­dian brand that has latched onto this think­ing is the gi­ant cos­met­ics mar­que

Dabur. Through clever pack­ag­ing and iconog­ra­phy play­ing on nos­tal­gia and wis­dom, it has made huge gains in the UK mar­ket among In­dian ex­pats.

Steenkamp also asks why SA com­modi­ties are not be­ing given a stronger brand treat­ment. A con­certed ef­fort in Colom­bia to push the strength, his­tory and ori­gin of its cof­fee has led to a higher price pre­mium.

“Ital­ian wine at times can add a 100% pre­mium just by not­ing the prove­nance. Does the SA wine mar­ket have an ef­fec­tive and co­he­sive brand strat­egy?”

Steenkamp is also part of an ini­tia­tive in China called Brands Day. This is a chance for busi­nesses to im­merse them­selves in brand mar­ket­ing, to bet­ter un­der­stand each other’s prod­ucts and work to­wards a more col­lab­o­ra­tive strat­egy for ex­ter­nal mar­kets. Lo­cal Wpp-aligned ad agen­cies, in­clud­ing Ogilvy, J Wal­ter Thompson and Y&R, are un­likely to feel any im­me­di­ate ef­fect from the re­cent shock res­ig­na­tion of hold­ing com­pany boss Sir Martin Sor­rell.

He re­signed af­ter al­le­ga­tions of per­sonal mis­con­duct, which he has strongly de­nied.

Se­nior lo­cal agency in­sid­ers tell the that though clients will need to be ap­prised of the sit­u­a­tion, the SA busi­nesses are all strong en­ti­ties with, as one ex­ec­u­tive says, “some use­ful dis­tance from Lon­don”.

How­ever, all are not­ing re­ports that the sprawl­ing or­gan­i­sa­tion, which con­sists of more than 400 com­pa­nies, does face the pos­si­bil­ity of a breakup.

Sor­rell trans­formed WPP, a tiny wire-bas­ket man­u­fac­turer he ac­quired in the 1980s, into a gi­ant worth more than £20bn.

Ital­ian wine at times can add a 100% pre­mium just by not­ing the prove­nance. Does the SA wine mar­ket have an ef­fec­tive and co­he­sive brand strat­egy? Jan-bene­dict Steenkamp

Jan-bene­dict Steenkamp

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