Township market

Reach out to township consumers

Reach out to township consumers

Many Fast-Moving Consumer Goods (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.

“Marketers need to challenge and test their assumptions about township shoppers if they are to be successful,” says Jenny Loomes, associate consultant at Aperio, a business consulting company focused on accelerating growth of FMCG brands in South Africa and Sub-Saharan Africa.

“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,” says Loomes.

Many Fast-Moving Consumer Goods (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.

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

A common pitfall brands 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. 

“For example, the brown spirit category is well entrenched in a white middle-class consumer bracket, but these alcohol brands won’t necessarily enjoy the same status in shebeens. A good example is the brandy category. For years manufactures have pulling their hair 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 a spirit developed from the best grapes, distilled over many years. The craftsmanship involved in the brandy production process is mind-blowing, resulting in a category that is definitely deserving of premium brand status.  It is also 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 consumer questions, township shoppers are quick to tell you, that they prefer whisky. It is more sophisticated, and the leaders of our country consume whisky (referring to politicians and their love for Johnny Walker Black).

According to Loomes, township shoppers believe that 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 or as premium as whisky.”

Why do shoppers fall back on beliefs like this one? A lack of shopper education and not empowering your shoppers to make informed decisions is a key problem. Allowing them to feel good and empowered by the decisions they make is critical.

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, says Loomes.

“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.

An excellent example of a company that has been very successful in building a no-name brand into a brand with premium status is Hyundai. For years BMW carried the crown for the most admired vehicle in a township.BMW stood for everything important to a consumer who constantly aspires to better their lives. BMW had the badge appeal, was great quality, very trendy and super luxurious.

Hyundai entered this market and built a brand tapping into the consumer need for great quality, aesthetic value, all the luxury a BMW offers with a price tag that promised affordability.They were proactive in structuring deals to allow shoppers payment options that assisted with monthly budgets. They delivered on their brand promise.

Loomes adds that marketing at the point of purchase is crucial to maintaining a relationship with consumers in the townships. Keep connecting the dots between a brand’s ATL [Above the Line] activities to the execution in store. Keep the messages relevant and remind your shopper about a brand’s “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 that they have choices and in fact are spoiled for choices. The huge opportunity for brands is to clearly position your brand benefits in store,” she adds. A large number of middle-class shoppers are considering no-name brands. They are cheaper and give consumers more for their money.

“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?”

She concludes that 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 shoppers have to carry the product home.