Finding ways to cut through the clutter and tell brand stories in an increasingly connected Africa was the theme behind JCDecaux’s South Africa’s second annual Conversation, held in Bryanston, Johannesburg recently. 

The event brought together artificial intelligence, holograms, projection mapping and other cutting-edge Out Of Home (OOH) technology with leading minds in the advertising and marketing fields to explore how to effectively reach, and build relationships with, connected consumers through digital and integrated campaigns. 

Some of the key take outs from the Conversations: Connected Brand Stories included:

The connected customer is king
According to Carmen Murray, founder of Boo-Yah! an African inspired advisory and educational marketing services company, a connected consumer is also a more demanding consumer and someone who wants to be in control. To reach them brands need to remain agile and create products that cater to their customer’s behaviour, not the other way around.

“The DNA of marketing is effecting change, We are living in the age of the connected individual. In order to be an efficient marketer, you need to realise that mobile has superpowers,” Murray said.

OOH: A powerful medium that packs a punch
The OOH medium is taking us into a completely new realm with digital at the forefront of endless possibility. But, according to Neil Eddleston, managing director of JCDecaux OneWorld, it is crucial that brands adopt a holistic long-term approach to brand building. “Brand growth is driven by activation in the short-term and brand building in the long-term … 60% brand building and 40% activation is the ideal balance,” he said.

Technology is also improving the  accountability of OOH as a medium allowing brand builders to plan and track campaigns more effectively.

The tribes have spoken
Digital, social media and technology have created a new generation of consumers which marketers and advertisers should take heed of in their quest to connect with the online realm. 

Keynote speaker, Dion Chang of Flux Trends, categorised these digital consumers into “tribes”. From Latte, stay at home, dads who like to blog about their lives and seek advice on child rearing to Insta-mommies and entirely new genres of entrepreneur including Ganga-preneurs (taking advantage of the relaxation of medicinal marijuana laws), Trailblazers (a captive audience for experience-based travel), the Anti-retirests  (who don’t plan on leaving the working world any time soon) to the Fitfluentials (keen to try any new product that will enhance their health and physical form.)

Keeping it local to keep it relevant
Africa is not a country and while there is no one-size-fits-all approach to marketing across the continent one crucial element that remains the same is localisation. 

Marketers need to be mindful of the factors shaping different countries on the continent, be they geopolitical, economic, technological or even societal and tailor their messaging accordingly. From there on, however, the sky is the limit. “Use innovative channels, there are no rules, you can make them up,” said Dawn Rowlands, CEO of Sub-Saharan Africa for the Dentsu Aegis Network.

Have an opinion and take a stance
It might seem counterintuitive for a brand to lean into the discomfort of the world and take a socio-political stance. But said, Lotang Mokoena, junior digital strategist at VML South Africa, consumers are individuals who associate with brands based on the values they represent. It is important to know your intention and listen for a response.

“Brands must pick values and stick with them. There is an expiry date to blaming circumstances,” Mokoena said.

Playing to a youthful audience
In a similar vein Prescilla Avenel-Delpha and Valentine Gaudin-Muteba of Trace Urban, said millennials don’t listen to brands and branded advertising, they listen to influencers and their peers through word of mouth. It is best to engage with them through social media and video content that has a clear objective and is authentic. They also like to be included and to see themselves in marketing content.

This is a generation that keeps marketers on their toes. “Millennials want global content because they aspire to it, local content because they connect to it, and African content because it’s on trend … Youth are loyal to brands until another one comes along that appeals to them more.”