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Brands that are Not Local are still Lekker


Nov 4th, 09:17

There are many brands that have become iconic in the eyes of South Africans over the generations yet they are not local at all. They have inserted themselves over the years into the daily lives of South Africans and have been adopted by consumers as if they were in fact local brands.  

Brands such as Sunlight, Cadbury, Marmite, Coca Cola, Milo, VW, KFC, Wimpy, Johnnie Walker, Colgate -  to name a few, all share a common formula for being iconic. They have achieved this status because they have created strong emotional relationships with consumers, based on positive experiences, an enduring affection and a relationship formed on trust.

The fact that they are not South African means little to those consumers who have adopted them as their own. These brands have become part of the culture and social history of South Africans.

What has made these brands so successful is the fact they are instantly recognisable as an integral part of consumers' lives, they also have a history for generations associated with positive memories and form a strong part of who we are as South Africans.

Sunlight was originally produced by the British company Lever Brothers in 1884, after 120 years the Sunlight name, under the Unilever brand, thrives as one of South Africa’s most trusted household brands, instantly recognised, and instantly trusted.

Cadbury’s chocolate too is fondly remembered by all South Africans as the brand with “a glass and a half of milk.” Cadbury’s chocolate is a product from British confectionery company owned by Mondelēz International now brought to us through Kraft Foods.

Marmite is British born, and since 2000 as a Unilever product and the cult-status yeast extract and national treasure is 100 years old. Many of the advertising campaigns trumpeted Marmite's health-giving properties. By the 50s, Marmite was a national institution, and was marketed as a traditional family favourite. You get the picture.

These brands command strong consumer trust because they have consistently delivered on brand promise and consumer expectation. They have also developed an emotional relationship based on trust that consistently delivers, in a world with so much unreliability “I know I can rely on my brand.”

They remain true to their values, have a universal appeal that transcends race, culture, economic or social status, sex, age, these brands are enjoyed by all South Africans and have a ubiquitous presence, everywhere, every day.

Coca Cola’s history in South Africa dates back to 1928 when the first bottling plant and distribution centre was opened in Johannesburg. The company’s savvy advertising and its great job of corporate social responsibility and community projects in South Africa earned its status in consumers’ daily lives. Every shop in urban areas has a Coke billboard or advertisement while rural areas are dotted with its red colours on schools, water projects and many more community initiatives. Coca Cola is heavily involved in sports and education through scholarships and bursaries, endearing the brand easily to locals.

Let’s also spare a thought for those brands born in South Africa that have spread their wings and even become internationally renowned global brands.

MTN (ranked in global 100), Nando’s, Peppadew, Amarula, DeBeers, Olay, Shoprite, Springboks and lets not forget the world’s second largest brewer originating from South Africa, SAB Miller.

MTN in Africa has been very successful in endearing itself to the locals. The brand has understood the central principle of marketing in Africa; it has become a brand of the people - locally relevant, locally connected, speaks to consumers in their language, has become part of their life and community and established a strong local presence.

All these brands have built trust with South African consumers. In the words of Niall FitzGerald Former CEO Unilever, “You can have the facts & figures, all the supporting evidence, all the endorsement that you want, but if at the end of the day you don't command trust, you won't get anywhere.”

Marmite Vintage Advert from 1920's



at Aperio FMCG Consulting

Michael Wood is co-founder and Director of Aperio, a business consulting company focused on the FMCG space in South and Sub Saharan Africa. Michael has many years international experience where he held the positions of Marketing Director, Sales Director & Managing Director with the Gillette company and Procter & Gamble....