Tap Into Township Marketing

Tap Into Township Marketing


Before you even start thinking about targeting township dwellers, bear in mind that townships cannot be considered a homogenous mass. Marketing plans may, therefore, need to differ from place to place. Even within a specific township, approaches can vary according to neighbourhood.

“Every township is different. There is no such thing as ‘township marketing’ in a generic sense, any more than there is ‘suburban marketing’,” says Neil Higgs, director of innovation and development at TNS Research Surveys.

“Even within a single township there can be big disparities in the way of life. Take Soweto as an example. It is huge and has many different neighbourhoods and diverse types of people.” The combination of ever-rising disposable incomes, improved infrastructure and the growing sophistication of shopping facilities has made townships increasingly appealing to once-shy businesses. This had led to the growth of Sandton-style shopping malls and the arrival of the prominent national retail chains.

A casualty of the change, though, are small businesses and informal traders who now face being squeezed out. Higgs suggests they could become useful partners for businesses entering the township market for the first time and requiring on-the-ground expertise.

“There is much room for partnerships with the very entrepreneurs who are being displaced by the formalisation of the economy in townships,” he says. “These small businesses represent a huge opportunity for marketers, as witnessed by the growth of branded containers.”

Social Interaction

A key distinction between townships and suburbs is the difference in social contact. Townships are far more interconnected, with face-to-face interactions, word-of-mouth and social networks being a daily undercurrent.

This suggests that sampling (giving away “freebies”) and nurturing formal or informal “brand ambassadors” can be an efficient way of spreading the word about a new product or service. Be aware,though, that news of bad service or an inferior product will spread equally quickly via these same networks.

Tactics like product sampling and leaflet distribution are relatively easy to implement, thanks to several companies which specialise in these services. Julia Renouprez of Primedia @Home says targeting can be as specific as a single taxi rank or as broad-based as door-to-door distribution to an entire township. Costs for a leaflet drop typically start at R100 per 1 000 leaflets.

Renouprez says marketers are often surprised at the amount of high quality geo-demographic information that’s available for individual townships. This enables specific neighbourhoods to be targeted in a cost-effective way, in accordance with the product’s target audience.

Targeting Commuters

Commuting is a township way of life and the taxi industry alone transports 16 million people, or 93% of the total commuter population of South Africa. Research earlier this year by Freshly Ground Insights (FGI) shows these people now spend more time than ever travelling – which translates into a captive audience for marketers with an appropriate message.

FGI’s research also indicates that taxi commuters are more affluent than previously thought, with 30% falling into the“black diamond” category of black upper middle class consumers.

ComutaNet, a company specialising in commuter marketing, offers a variety of ways to engage with this audience. These include in-taxi promotions, kiosk and gazebo promotions at selected ranks, and Rank TV and Star Radio, which broadcast exclusively to taxi commuters.

The Tavern Market

Taverns are an important social gathering point and are gaining credibility as a channel for reaching younger,free-spending and image-conscious township dwellers. Siwe Nyuswa, a director of Provantage Tavern Media, which does promotions in the tavern environment, says marketers shouldn’t make the mistake of equating a tavern with a shebeen.

“Taverns are where the green bottles hang out – defined by their taste in imported beers versus the brown-bottled local drinks. Taverns are also where consumers go to show off their success.” While there’s nothing to stop individual marketers arranging their own tavern promotions, be aware that there is a tried-and-tested formula for these activities and it may be best to use specialist promotion companies for this purpose.

Using Football

A recent innovation, riding on the back of the upcoming World Cup, are branded soccer game tables called Foozi. The games are free to play and the tables are placed free-of-charge in selected taverns, shebeens and community centres.

The company responsible for the concept, Foozi Gaming, derives its revenue from advertising placed on the tables. Spokesperson, Damon Freeman, says advertising campaigns can cover all available tables, or be targeted at a specific neighbourhood, township or region.

Ten tables for three months will typically cost R17 000 a month. However, there’s also a once-off branding cost of R1 100 per table, so Freeman recommends a longer period in order to a mortise start-up costs.