by Masingita Mazibuko. My soon-to-be six-year-old battles dreadfully with her pencil grip. As a result, she often veers outside the lines when colouring in; a fact that greatly disturbs her teacher, but not her. I suspect this is because her artwork doesn’t always come about because of her grip. Given her obscure take on fashion and very specific birthday-cake briefs, some must be deliberate.

And she’s not alone; several brands have reaped the rewards of their custodians deliberately ‘colouring outside the lines’.

Masingita MazibukoInfusing appeal

Sometimes, colouring outside the lines can be used to infuse appeal where previously there was none.

A very obvious example is Kulula, which has conquered the budget airline market in South Africa without relentlessly communicating price, price and price. Instead, it opts to capture the consumer’s imagination at every touch point from its website booking system and plane livery to its on-board announcements.

More recently, it even managed to convince me — someone who detests filling in consumer surveys — to do just that, all because its design and experience were infused with the brand’s wacky personality.

Living with ambiguity

At other times, colouring outside the lines means living with ambiguity.

This is particularly true of the African continent, for which many a business or brand success story has been characterised by riding the wave of ambiguity and navigating to seize the opportunity when it presents its.

  • Consider Safaricom’s M-Pesa; it unlocked a new industry we know as moneyless transfers using mobile communication technology.
  • Similarly, the telecommunication industry itself has leapfrogged the fixed-line phase, courtesy of the ‘pay as you go’ and ‘text messaging’ propositions enabled by cellular technology.

Finding the gap

Then, colouring outside the lines can help a brand find a gap into a zone it has been precluded from.

For example, official sport sponsorships historically allow only one brand per market to associate itself with the sport.

  • So, Adidas was the official sponsor of the 2014 FIFA World Cup but Nike managed to make it into the stadiums by identifying the gap and leveraging it. I’m talking about how— through clothing, team and player sponsorship — it snuck in there.
  • Similarly, although Sony was supposedly the headphone of choice for the event, players always seemed to be listening through their personal Beats headphones.

Sense of malleability

It is marketing truism that one must stay the course of a chosen brand strategy. However, cultural relevance cannot be underestimated in unlocking new avenues.

  • MTV Base and Channel O created platforms that recognised the rise of Afrocentricity at a stage when it wasn’t exactly cool. Championing music from the African continent was a brave decision, when staying on the safe and narrow course would have done the job. Today, Afrocentricity is definitely cool.

Her eyes vs mine

This morning, the same soon-to-be-six year old urged me to take a photograph of a fruit tree in our neighbours’ garden that was losing its young white petals to the breeze. In her eyes, the tree was releasing snowflakes in the morning dawn; I’d seen only the mess of petals on the ground and the work that would need to be done to sweep them up.

Time to start colouring outside the lines again.

Masingita Mazibuko is a marketing director at Unilever. The views expressed within this monthly “Africa Style” column are, however, entirely her own.

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