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by Masingita Mazibuko It’s a part of everyone’s life. We all desire it, work for it, borrow it. Some steal it. In distant and recent times, it has been the cause of much global distress. It can be an enabler, as well as a curse. As the former, it facilities, allowing for certain things to be, and can do much good. As the latter, it can confine us, restrain our potential, curtail our dreams and hopes.

Masingita MazibukoBigger may not be better

I talk of money and budgets, and would like to suggest that perhaps bigger is not better.

“Huh?”

I hear you ask for clarity. Here is my rationale.

This past December, my family set the seemingly very low, upper limit of R50 for secret Santa gifts. Our intention was to honour the tradition of giving during the season, but we wanted to limit silly splurging.

You may think that that such a low limit would have resulted in a basketful of unimaginative and inferior gifts. What actually transpired was an innovative basket of unanticipated presents which evoked much belly-aching laughter and endless conversation. In this way, the consequences of our decision were invaluable, and exceeded our expectations.

Outcry

When it comes to marketing budgets, these are often financially ambitious and informed by the principle that, with more money, one can do that much more. When the approved budget falls short of what has been proposed, there can be much outcry and protestation. Reined-in budgets are, after all, viewed as a hindrance to the delivery of brand objectives.

I am not so naive as to not appreciate the value of money. However, I believe I have a  large frame of reference and realistic viewpoint.

My family comprises people whose incomes span several levels, from those who have more to those who do not have much. Given this and my upbringing, I have come to appreciate that, with a little astuteness, much can be attained.

The most common South African example is folk stretching their meagre income to get more through stokvels or investment groups. Additionally, there are also learnings from our exuberant youth — skipping ropes made of plaited grass reeds, wired cars, discarded tires as makeshift trolleys, hopscotch on the gravel roads and so much more. Amazingly, plenty can be created from little.

Challenge and inspire us

Therefore, when it comes to marketing budgets, is it possible than leaner budgets challenge and inspire us, forcing us to be more original and experimentation, rather than pursuing the old beaten track?

Oh, yes, leaner budgets require a bit more from us and do translate into less adspend, fewer extravagant launches, shorter TV and radio spots. But, they may not always translate into less impact.

Consider, for example, the launch of YFM. While sceptics looked on, it simply started playing non-stop music and scattered the streets of Johannesburg with YFM stickers to evoke intrigue. Boom! A legend was born, one that kick-started many people’s careers as DJs and incubated the locally-brewed music genre of Kwaito.

Or what about US President Barack Obama? He took on the stalwarts of Washington with a mix of good timing and an understanding of social media.

I have a soft spot for the Hansa campaign which puts a spotlight on the ‘Vuyos’ in South Africa. You know, those everyday folk with that entrepreneurial spirit who dare to venture the less-travelled road. These are the ones who will bolster our economy as they rise above their constraints and dare.

Go beyond

A smaller budget does not mean all is lost or in dire straits. It merely requires us to go beyond the beaten track.

Look at that meagre budget in a different light — along with its frustrations, it could just see you making your mark.

Masingita Mazibuko, marketing director at Unilever, contributes the monthly “Africa Style” column to MarkLives.com. The views expressed within this column are entirely her own.

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