#10Q: Industry resolutions for the new year

by Louise Burgers. How brands can connect with their consumers in 2021.

by Louise Burgers. I’m not sure anyone dared to make new year resolutions this year as 2021 is just really an extension of 2020; or 2020, Season 2. But there are a few points, call them resolutions if you wish, that we would like to encourage the industry to make – both retailers and FMCG marketers.

1. Reach out to your consumer. Stop being scared to market to your customers because you don’t know what to say. If you are not in a position to promote discounts or savings for cash-strapped consumers; then connect with them to reassure them and be there for them in some way, to build customer loyalty and make sure they don’t forget about you. I attended a virtual wine tasting with La Motte and Leopard’s Leap wineries in conjunction with Microsoft towards the end of last year, where they had an inspirational business speaker; and a wine expert to take us through a tasting of wines they had delivered to the media contingent in advance. The wine industry has been decimated by the lockdown alcohol bans in South Africa and those that can, are shifting marketing to the international market. These wineries are now hosting these virtual events for international clients.

2. Test market temperature first. Brands which are out of touch with their consumer base or marketers trying to be too clever, will be shown up very quickly. Even global brands. A couple of months ago Cadbury’s ‘discovered’ that being human is a good brand attribute to trumpet and tried to foist a new word on us, humaning, as part of their actual new global marketing strategy. It was arrogant, out of touch and just ridiculous. Especially for a brand that has in the past made us laugh or enthralled us with beautiful, joyful creative. In a time when so many of us are comfort eating chocolate and too scared to leave the house (I’m sure it’s not just me!), why didn’t they tap into the happy high that chocolate can give people during these extremely challenging times?

3. It’s okay to be vulnerable. One of the interviews I enjoyed the most last year was with Elouise Brink, the Country Road marketing manager, who spoke about how she consulted with her peers, within and outside of the organisation, to make sure her messaging was right under lockdown. During uncertain times like these when every strategy had to be reworked, it is necessary. I have done the same this year with those I trust within my own peer group, to make sure my tone is right; or that I am taking the right decisions on controversial issues. That’s how we learn to get better at what we do.

4. Be brave. One of the most awe-inspiring marketers in the world is Netflix’s global chief marketing officer, Bozoma Saint John. She is so authentic in her storytelling. I kicked off with her CMO interview for my #21interviews series, because she is so inspirational. That is all we can do right now: be brave and try things we haven’t before, because nothing we were taught or have lived through prepared us for this. Seize the day!

5. Support Covid communications efforts. Government is good at disseminating the Covid facts, but brands and marketers are good at getting to the heart of things. With so much fake news and vaccine scepticism, I really hope some brands take a stand and support the fight against Covid with the right messaging when it comes to Covid safety protocols and getting vaccinated when our vaccine programmes roll out. People often trust brands more than Governments anyway, so here’s an opportunity to take a stand and make a real difference to all our futures.

6. Promote buy local. Covid showed us how vulnerable we were when global supply chains were shut down as borders closed. And the only way we are going to rebuild our economy is if we support local products, raw materials and help create manufacturing capacity – across Africa. That should be the goal of every company. In order for us, our country and our continent to thrive, we need to move more towards a collective mindset. Ubuntu is real.

7. Show your caring side. As many futurists and consumer researchers are warning – the next pandemic will be a mental health one. People are isolated, frustrated, tired, fighting Covid alone or mourning without the rituals needed to say goodbye to loved ones. We have all experienced some kind of trauma in the past year. Brands need to care about their consumers and show they care now, more than ever. How about employing some of those out of work entertainers and providing shows or creating initiatives that will make life easier?

8. Make us laugh. 2020 was definitely the year of the meme. When we ran out of words at the sheer awfulness of things around us, we made each other laugh by sharing funny memes. There is so much that brands could do with this. Surely Nando’s doesn’t employ all the brand managers and copywriters with a sense of humour? Like the Great Toilet Paper Stockpile of 2020 and the Pineapple Beer Brewing Bevy will come to symbolise this year too, when we look back; try find those opportunities in 2021 to make us smile or inspire us during the darker days. Look at how well influencers like GoodThingsGuy have done during this pandemic, by being real and authentic. Brands must learn that they can do the same.

9. Give us solutions. So, we’re all exhausted from fighting this bug and all the stress and trauma around us. How do we do this for another year? Hope is definitely in short supply, so help your consumers get through this. What can you do for those who are unemployed? Provide free upskilling workshops? Free CV advice? If parents are in your target consumer group, can you help them with homeschooling? Are there mental health resources you can sponsor online to raise awareness and provide help to your consumers who may need it? Ikea targeted stress and getting enough sleep; and this funny one from Yorkshire Tea encouraged social distancing (but where are their masks?!).The possibilities are endless.

10. Unlearn these words: pandemic, crisis, pivot, unprecedented, normal, new normal, next normal, normal WTF, unconference, unlearn. Keep these words out of your copy, we all know where we are, there is no need to keep overstating the fact.



Louise Burgers is the Publisher and Editor and Co-Founder of RetailingAfrica.com. She has spent over 20 years writing about the FMCG retailing, marketing, media and advertising industry in South Africa and on the African continent. She has specialised in local and Africa consumer trends and is a passionate Afro-optimist who believes it is Africa’s time to rise again and that the Africa Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) will be a global gamechanger in the next decade.


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