End october 2013 I visited the Brandstation our sister firm in Capetown. A week immersed in this amazing city, where I connected with the most beautiful people. Ruben Collin and Kim August run the Brandstation and they did a wonderful job in hosting and entertaining me in every respect. They took me around and showed me the places only accessible to the privileged. We ran a marathon, clubbed, I danced salsa and climbed a mountain with superstar Bianca Le Grange. We saw Rihanna perform and did some sweaty workouts. How privileged I am to work with these wonderful people and to catch up with their closest friends.
We had discussions on the development state of the South African market. And how this relates to the market for meaningfulness and emotive branding. Bear in mind that about a quarter of the South Africans survive on a mere 1,25 Euro a day and unemployment rates are unofficially estimated at 40%. However, urban middle class is growing fast and I was highly impressed by the quality of basically everything, including bars, cafes, nightclubs, premium restaurants and sports facilities. But I realize my view was distorted by being surrounded by the upper class.
Different from Western European markets, it seems that brand strategy based on purpose and corporate stories with meaningful content has not yet materialized. I also got the impression that 'strategic branding' is not yet something brand owners are prepared to invest in. Given the huge income differences, for the time being brands will be differentiated primarily on price. For now, brands being out there and being active is the name of the game. Having said that, I am convinced that as the market grows and matures, the middle class with ultimately be open for brands based on emotive thinking. Hence the Brandstation has an important role to seed and prepare the market.
Given the challenges for South Africa to grow and spread wellbeing and happiness, educate the children, prevent illness, etc. I see a big opportunity for brands to take their 'social' responsibility. Wouldn't it be nice if the large corporations gave back to the people? How sympathetic would that be? Maybe I am dreaming, but isn't a country like South Africa the perfect place to bring conscious capitalism into practice?
I look back at a wonderful week in Capetown and I am already excited coming back next year!