Does your brand have what it takes to be a hero?

By Wendy Cochrane, Big Mama’s Famous Truth Shop

Africa is an exciting and unpredictable place to be doing business. Many companies are alert to the opportunities that exist in our dynamic developing markets, but building stable brands within this volatile climate is not for sissies.

We’re all looking for growth and fresh opportunity within a stressed economic and political context.  We are also fast waking up to the consequences of global ambition on our fragile societies and planet.  It is tempting to ignore this inconvenient truth as we rush for lucrative ‘Black Diamonds’ or fortune at the ‘Bottom of the Pyramid’.

Truth is, our consumers are awakening too, and rethinking brand loyalties as choice opens up in a more globally competitive marketplace. Big brands beware as consumers across the classes are rethinking past loyalties and challenging new heroes emerge.

Africa needs a new approach to marketing, especially to vulnerable low-income consumers

There remains enormous opportunity in solving unmet needs.   And we believe it is possible to solve poverty and protect earth while making profit.  But we need to put on new thinking cloaks and behave like heroes. It begins with facing the often uncomfortable truths.

In South Africa, many are struggling to make ends and aspirations meet.  While a new ‘Boujwa-zi’ mushrooms in the midst of swelling poverty, growing frustration erupts into protest and violence. Especially amongst lower-income consumers we are seeing the glue that built our ‘rainbow’ dream dissolve – an erosion of hope and belief in the future, a loss of faith in leaders and the integrity of society.

As people are forced to cut back, many sacrifice things that helped to prop up self-esteem, ‘investments’ big and small in themselves, homes, families, that made them feel more hopeful about their future. In poor communities, even vegetables have become luxuries as families struggle to afford to transport their kids to school, a far greater priority!  This can spiral downwards to despair, alienation and deep seated resentment for affluent neighbours (or resourceful immigrants) that can still afford life’s ‘luxuries’.  We believe that the strikes, protests, and destructive behaviour will continue as long as expectations and reality feel so far apart.

Out of these sparks, unlikely heroes are emerging

Love him or fear him, Julius Malema is a ‘hero’ for many who feel isolated from this society’s growth agenda.  He raises the inconvenient questions and brings overalls into Parliament.  He is a foil to fatcat rhetoric, and his straight talk and bold promises are fundamentally shaking historically driven party loyalty. While he is proving unlikely to be the hero that solves these complex issues, he is forcing our leaders and opposition parties to address them or risk losing relevance and public favour in the future.

We see this reflected in our marketplaces as consumers rethink past loyalties to premium brands and consider the alternatives.  Even ‘Gogo’ is rethinking her washing powder in this insanely inflationary climate. It is the time of the challenger brand.  New brand heroes can also seem puzzling like Danone mini-yoghurts bought with social grants that don’t stretch through the month – here ‘Kidvesting’ takes priority over personal progress.   ‘Whatsapp’ and ‘Facebook’ are seen to be reinventing uBuntu as they reconnect the diaspora of a mobile nation.

Evolution of a society as complex as ours is inevitably turbulent.  The social changes we are experiencing are natural and similar challenges have been overcome in many parts of the world.  But the issues are real, and should no longer be ignored.


Africa needs leaders and brands of integrity and vision.  Solutions, support and promises that we can believe in…re-ignition of hope, esteem and confidence in our future.  Brands that offer honest value, affordable quality with trustworthy ethics and a genuine concern for our future have a window of opportunity and are emerging as heroes.

Exclusive insights – How to be a Hero at the Bottom of the Pyramid

Big Mama’s Famous Truth Shop recently launched the first episode of an epic collaborative market research series titled “Big Mama’s African Odyssey”.  This remarkable study aims to challenge thinking and spark solutions for brands looking for more sustainable growth in Africa.

To kick-start this year’s, Marketing to Low-Income Consumers Conference, Knowledge Resources has joined forces with Big Mama to offer an interactive one-day workshop on 14 April that will revitalise the way you see opportunity for your brand in the “lower tier” of the South African marketplace.

The workshop experience includes an exclusive extract from the study with rich insights, inspiring case studies and stimulating tools. Gain a deeper understanding of the key themes emerging from the Base of the Pyramid and participate in rich discussions and teamwork to identify opportunities for real brands and social projects.

Big Mama’s allies, Innate Motion (, the pioneers of the ‘Generosity Pays’ movement, will help facilitate idea generation.

For more information on the Knowledge Resources / Big Mama ‘HOW TO BE A HERO’ workshop and Marketing to Low-Income Consumers Conference, taking place from 14-16 April 2015View the full programme or contact

For more information on “Big Mama’s African Odyssey” study and packages:


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