by Marguerite Coetzee. As human beings, we all have the desire to belong to a community, to be recognised, to be appreciated. It’s built into our nature, this idea that, in order to survive, we need to belong to something bigger than ourselves — we can’t survive on our own. To belong is to be included in (a social system of support), associated with (shared beliefs, values and behaviours), and connected to (a relationship network). This need to belong is a human truth that resonates with anyone, anywhere, at any point in history.

Guess who

Belonging has always been closely tied up with identity. Today, we find ourselves moving towards a post-demographic world with fluid identities and blurring gender roles, as well as a significant improvement in the rights, freedom, protection, inclusion, status, and empowerment of particularly women and members of the LGBTQ community.

Traditional models of relationships and lifestyles are also changing; younger generations are growing up in an expanding world of choice and a higher exposure to difference, and so they are less inclined to follow a linear path from education, to employment, to marriage, to family formation (source: Kantar Consulting Futures practice area). They have more control in what they choose, defer or decline in their lifestyle paths. And so, the way people define themselves is changing.

The tribe has spoken

Aware of the social shifts taking place, Castle Lager has challenged itself to enhance its cultural role and purpose — to inspire South Africans to find belonging in more-expansive communities. In exploring the beliefs and tensions that are either enablers or barriers to belonging, Castle Lager is now better equipped to make a social impact. South Africa’s diverse population is creating cultural connections that go beyond traditional demographic markers. South Africans are creating communities built on shared lifestyles, values, beliefs, experiences, interests, and more.

Castle Lager faced the challenge of helping closed communities (those who value familiarity, exclusivity, sameness, and comfort) overcome their resistance to embracing others, while at the same time the beer brand was presented with the opportunity to celebrate and connect open communities (those who value diversity, inclusivity, open-mindedness, and curiosity).

In its recent #SmashTheLabel Twitter campaign, Castle Lager has shown its solidarity “with all South Africans who have been labelled” by removing the label from its beer bottle. It’s an action against stereotyping, and an encouragement of inclusivity.

What’s next

It’s in the embracing of difference that we can expand our world view and grow our own social purpose. It’s through acceptance and understanding that we’re able to support one another and make an impact in creating a better world. We need to move away from limiting or stereotypical markers of identity, and allow people to define themselves. This is how we create a space in which people feel a sense of belonging.


Marguerite de VilliersMarguerite Coetzee is an anthropologist at strategic marketing consultancy, Kantar Consulting. FastForward, the latest series in her regular column on MarkLives, takes an intellectual, scientific and artistic approach to the future – particularly the future of Africa.

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