media update’s Aisling McCarthy discusses how to reach consumers in the diverse, African market.

Understand that one size does not fit all

Patrick Mayoh, entertainment coordinator at MTN Cameroon, says in a LinkedIn article, that having a single marketing strategy when it comes to Africa is a plan that is doomed to fail. Although there are crossovers within African culture, ultimately, each country has its own niches.

“What people call ‘the African market’ is actually a big collection of more than 50 countries, which are very different from one another.”

Due to this, Mayoh says that business leaders need to think of Africa as different regions with some similarities, but many differences.

“A marketing campaign designed for the Nigerian public (West Africa) will hardly work in Kenya (East Africa), Cameroon (Central Africa), Algeria (North Africa) or Botswana (Southern Africa). Each of these countries or the regions they represent have vast disparities that cannot be addressed by a single approach.”

Adverts within Africa need to be targeted specifically per region, owing to the trends in those areas. AdClip, an ad tracking service that monitors advertisements in print publications and tracks advertising campaigns, uses the example of how MTN is advertised in Swaziland and Namibia. Although the same product is being marketed, the adverts are tailored to suit regional trends.

Looking at the month of August, MTN adverts in Swaziland have been focused heavily on global connections and technology, as well as its application in education.


In Namibia, however, AdClip notes that the focus was on patriotism, as it is the birthday month of their president, Dr Hage Geingob.

AdClip says that the regionalisation of advertising is a big trend across African media.

“Looking at the vast amount of African media we have access to, it’s clear that popular brands have adapted their content to suit the region they are publishing in. Africa is a diverse continent and, to be received well, brands need to adapt to their audience.”

Brands need to be aspirational

Looking at Brand Africa’s Top 100 ‘Most Valuable’ brands in Africa, the top 10 brands are high-end, global brands, despite Africa being a lower-income continent. Brands wanting to succeed in the African market need to ensure they are aspirational, giving their consumers something to work towards.

Kabelo Ncholo, CEO of African marketing agency Yourself Management, says that brands are starting to realise the importance of marketing to the African continent, but that they need to understand the culture in order to succeed.

“The majority of shoppers in Africa will do a bulk shop once a month and they are willing to pay a little extra for quality. They are drawn to name brands with some kind of status.”

Global brands need to become local brands

Global brands wanting to succeed in the African market need to spend time entrenching themselves into the culture. Through sponsoring or being present at events that people care about, and creating advertising messages that resonate with Africans, big brands can positions themselves as brands that African consumers connect to.

“African consumers are very community-focused and can see if your brand is a part of the community long-term,” Says Ncholo.

Although brands like Coca-Cola or Toyota are global brands, Mayoh says that African consumers consider them to be local, owing to the amount of community engagement they offer.

“Many popular events are sponsored by these companies. We find their products everywhere; their adverts are shot in locations we are familiar with. This is how they end up belonging in Africa, when their headquarters are in Atlanta or Paris.”

Ncholo used the example of Coca-Cola’s promotional cans that featured popular names on them.

“Coca-Cola researched the most common local names in various areas in Africa and ensured that cans sent to each area featured common names. This meant that African consumers could actually find their names on the cans – and everyone wanted one.”

Identify location-specific complexities

For African consumers to purchase your products, you have to ensure that your products solve problems that are specific to Africa.

Mayoh says that many brands, which are doing well in the African market, have specifically researched the area and found a gap in the market. Brands have to adapt to local tastes and preferences if they hope to succeed.

“Samsung have designed fridges which can withstand power surges or cuts, for many African countries where electricity is subject to those kinds of incidents. Swedish beauty company Oriflame has plans to introduce cosmetics with darker shades available.”

Focal Points, a media analysis company that provides solutions to assist with brand management, suggests that location specific analysis can provide a valuable range of insights and should not be overlooked.

“Location-specific analysis identifies trends that provide an understanding of the interests within a certain market. This greatly assists in developing a marketing and communication strategy that is relevant to the specific target audience.”

In the end, African consumers are like all consumers; they want products tailored to their needs and warm up to brands that are visible in their community.

Ncholo says that Africa’s township market is huge, so brands wanting high numbers of consumers should focus on that specific group.

“Africa is open for business but, if you want to play the numbers game, you need to focus on the township and peri-urban markets.”

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Reaching an African audience is not only tricky for marketers, but also for media brands. For advice on how to achieve media success in Africa, read more in our article, OMG Digital’s tips on winning over African audiences.