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Assume nothing when it comes to the township shopper

Many FMCG companies have failed to reach the township shopper effectively due to the assumption that the same rules apply in townships as they do with traditional urban shopping, writes FMCG business consultant, Michael Wood.

Marketers need to challenge and test their assumptions about township shoppers if they are to be successful.

A proper understanding is required of the shopper’s needs when they are in shopping mode: where will they most likely shop for your product, what in-store activity will most influence them and in which stores will you be able to influence their behaviour in favour of your product offer.

Understanding the township shopper goes much deeper and requires a re-examination of culture, lifestyle, consumption trends, occasions and influencers of choice as well as their drivers of consideration when shopping.

A common pitfall brands often make is to assume township shoppers can be told what to believe about a product.

The big “watch out” is that negative brand experiences can start a belief that can hurt a product’s growth.

The Brown Spirit category is well entrenched in a white middle class shopper bracket, but the same brands of choice won’t necessarily enjoy the same status in shebeens in the township environment. A good example is the brandy category. For years manufactures have pulling their hair out trying to understand why brandy is not as successful in the township market as whisky.

The brandy category has all the aspects of a product offering that should be performing well in a township environment. It is developed from the best grapes, distilled over many years: the craftsmanship involved in the production process is mind blowing, resulting in a category that is deserving of premium brand status. Over and above the unique brand intrinsics, it’s more affordable than top whisky brands, it’s proudly South African but yet it is not the spirit of choice in a township shebeen.

When you start asking the township shopper questions they are quick to tell you they prefer whisky; it is more sophisticated and the leaders of our country consume it (referring to politicians and their love for Johnny Walker Black).

According to township consumers, “brandy gives you a terrible hangover and makes you behave badly”. While the hangover is caused more by the mix than the brandy, township consumers believe that brandy is not as sophisticated nor as premium as whisky.

Why do shoppers fall back on beliefs like this one? A lack of shopper education and empowering your shoppers to make informed decisions is a key reason. Allowing them to feel good and empowered by the decisions they make is critical. More and more Township shoppers are asking the question, “How does the brand benefit me?”

The most effective and important thing you can do is to give your shoppers reasons to believe in your brand offering. Shout your product benefits and deliver on your brand promise.

A golden rule in the township environment is: nothing lasts forever.

Don’t hang your hat on a current trend as a long term sustainable growth driver: while all product offerings must be current, it is crucial to understand that loyalty is not bought overnight. Building brands is crucial in this environment.

Marketing at the point of purchase is also crucial to maintain a relationship with consumers in townships. Keep connecting the dots between a brands’ above-the-line activity to the execution in store. Keep the messages relevant and remind your shopper about a brands’ familiar messages for example, on radio the shopper hears ‘Nobody makes tea like you and Five Roses’.  Remind the shopper at the shelf, ‘Nobody makes tea like you and Five Roses’.

While shoppers love certain brands and are very brand loyal they are becoming more astute and aware of the fact they have choice, and in fact are spoiled for choice. The huge opportunity for brands is to clearly position the brand benefits in store.

Brands also need to ask how they can add real value to the township shopper. Is the packaging easier to carry? Are offers on shelf easier to understand? Is the product easy to find? Do you offer a choice of size?

Choice of size is highly important as the growth of convenience and single serve products are not just a result of affordability or the need for on-the-go consumption. In a Township most of your township shoppers have to carry the product home.

Michael Wood is co-founder and Director of Aperio, a business consulting company focused on the FMCG space in South and Sub Saharan Africa;

Source: FMCG Files