by Nicole Shapiro (@nixxyzee) 2019 is set to be another challenging year, with growth even more difficult to come by. So, what should smart marketers be focusing on for the coming year to future-proof their brands?

Simply put, 2018 was a tricky year for marketers and those in business in South Africa. Along with the incredibly cash-strapped consumer, we had to navigate tight economic pressures on businesses, never-seen-before droughts in some parts of our country, increased taxes and regulations, and a rollercoaster ride of political instability. It may sound like doom and gloom but smart marketers can still achieve success. We’ve seen brand heroes when there were similar scenarios in our country approximately 10 years ago but there were lots of ‘zeroes’, too.

How to future-proof

Collage - Superbalist, Trace Mobile, Albany Bread, Checkers Simple Truth, Woolworths app, J&B Hive

1. New paradigms of value

It’s without a doubt that the provision of value should remain a critical imperative for 2019.

For marketers, this doesn’t mean falling into the trap of running constant sales promotions and providing discounts, as this only erodes brand equity over time. Rather, it means critically evaluating your brand’s unique value equation and understanding what the functional and emotional benefits of your brand are, over the price.

Brands which provide great value think about the top half of the equation, rather than simply reducing the bottom half — relying on cutting price is the fool’s way out! To this end, consider what extra benefits you can inject into your proposition to enhance the value. Or, alternatively, if you want to use price to enhance value, remove something out of the top half of the equation a la Fly Safair or Lion Lager.


  • Superbalist offers value and affordability without compromising on ‘cool factor’. Its business model is centred on sourcing local and international products and affordable fashion from a broad mix of designer brands — but it always maintains an edge, never looks or feels cheap and embodies this new definition of value.

2. The centennial opportunity

The World Economic Forum estimates that there will be over 1bn young people living in Africa in 2050, with a projected spend of R6.5tn. Although this ‘centennial’ market is fraught with challenges such as unemployment and violence, they are proving to be a motivated generation of self-starters determined to make a difference and change their circumstances.

In 2019, this market will represent a great opportunity for brands looking to unlock growth. However, when it comes to understanding and connecting with this consumer, it’s imperative to speak authentically to the South African centennial; if a brand gets it wrong, it’s difficult to redeem itself in the eyes of this demanding consumer.


  • Trace Mobile is positioned as the ‘next generation cellular network’ and provides value adds, plans and exclusive content that speaks to the needs of a young ‘Afro-urban’ consumer. The brand looks and feels youthful without being seen as trying too hard or feeling inauthentic.

3. Wellbeing on the rise

As peoples’ lives continue to get busier and consumers are more stretched and stressed, wellbeing is set to become increasingly important in 2019. Previously, the concepts of wellness and wellbeing were reserved for the elite few, but there is increasingly heightened awareness around ‘feeling good’ in the middle market, with an increased need for moderation and the desire to live a more-holistic life. Wellbeing is now about more than just health and diets; it’s about achieving balance across mind, body and soul to enhance one’s mood and head space.


  • Albany Bakeries partnered with DJ Zinhle in marketing its Ultima range, a low-GI and low-calorie variation. It brought the concept of wellbeing to a very mainstream category — and provided recipe inspiration, fitness tips as well as the inspiration for maintaining a balanced and healthy lifestyle.
  • Retailer Checkers recently launched its “Simple Truth” range, making health and wellness products more accessible to all South Africans. This includes gluten-free, reduced-sugar, segan, organic and eco-friendly products easily available to the Checkers consumer.

4. Authentic connections

It’s no secret that there has been, and will continue to be, a proliferation of technology and digital forces shaping society and how we interact with brands. But, even though we’re embracing all things digital, there’s an increasing desire for consumers to be able to connect with people more authentically.

2018 saw the rise of movements such as #DigitalDetox (quite ironic that it has a hashtag); and my prediction is that consumers will seek to switch off even more — for manageable, short periods — in 2019. Brands that not only connect with consumers authentically but also provide ways and platforms for consumers to make more real connections with each other will be highly sought after and appreciated.


  • The J&B Hive Johannesburg brings together a community of entrepreneurs and creatives in Jozi. It consists of a creative hub where entrepreneurs may work, socialise, host events and gain learning opportunities designed to support their businesses.

5. Brave new commerce

The South African retail landscape continues to make one of the most income-disparate societies in the world work. Targeted formats are critical, the emergent informal trade is thriving and modern retail space is aspirational. At the same time, channel boundaries are blurring and are no longer linear.

Tomorrow’s shopper will become more channel-agnostic and challenge established channel playbooks and channel definitions. In 2019, marketers and retailers will need to create the experience of perfect retailing that is predictable and integrated, regardless of the environment they choose.


  • Woolworths recently updated its app functionality to allow in-app shopping. It also provides lifestyle messages and inspiration, now making it one of the most-comprehensive retail apps in the country. It’s important for brands to note how the design and content of the app stays completely true to the Woolworths brand and retail experience.

~• ~ • ~

Even though it’s set to be a challenging and interesting year, I’m excited to see what 2019 has in store for us. I’m eager to see how marketers are going to navigate tighter budgets and ever-demanding consumers, but hopeful that there will be some great success stories emerging from the ‘storm’. As they say ‘diamonds are made under pressure’. Good luck for 2019!

See also


MarkLives logo What are the industry expectations for the marketing and advertising industry in 2019? Kicking off our “Big Q” column for the year, a panel of key agency and marketing executives discusses the macro environment, budgets, changes in messaging, movement in the industry and any consumer and communication trends they’ll be looking out for in the year ahead.

Nicole Shapiro (@nixxyzee) is a director of brand and human & cultural truth at Kantar Consulting. She has experience in both the client and agency environments, and is passionate about brands and their role in culture; strategy and future-forecasting.

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