Rethinking brand positioning for businesses operating in Africa

By our News Team | 2022

Experts find there are four critical pitfalls that hamper successful brand positioning for organisations operating on the continent.

Businesses in Africa fail to position brands successfully because they don’t completely understand how consumer behaviour affects brand positioning on the continent. 

Research by Uchenna Uzo, Glory Eyinnaya and Emmanuel Adediran has revealed four pitfalls that hamper successful positioning in Africa. In a blog post published on the website Afritail recently, the trio outline these drawbacks.

Brand Positioning

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Ignoring cultural differences in purchase behaviour

Every business operating on the continent understands that Africa is not one market. Africa represents a conglomeration of diverse needs. However, few enterprises consider this reality when designing positioning statements. Customers interpret positioning statements based on their cultural frame of reference. Ignoring cultural differences makes positioning statements become irrelevant.

Fixating on their ideal consumers

Businesses spend significant resources profiling ideal consumer segments with similar characteristics and needs. However, Africa’s reality is different because there is no perfect consumer segment. 

Consumers on the continent have diverse consumption profiles that are not straitjacketed. Brands that position themselves based on supposedly ideal consumer segments end up alienating customers and closing down innovative opportunities.

Underestimating the high aspirational values of customers

African customers have higher aspirational values than customers on other continents. Yet, businesses design positioning statements that focus on immediate customer needs and ignore future aspirational needs. The failure to consider evolving aspirational values increases the chances for customers to switch to competing brands.

Misunderstanding customer buying channels

A common misconception is that premium customers buy only from premium channels, while value customers buy exclusively from low-end locations. The situation in Africa defies that logic. Insights on shopper behaviour in Africa’s unstructured markets suggest that premium customers patronise low-end channels such as street shops and open-air markets for some product or service categories. 

In contrast, low-end customers may occasionally buy through high-end or e-commerce outlets. The place of purchase is almost as important as what was purchased in Africa, because purchase locations signal the aspirational values of customers. Businesses overlook the value customers place on purchase locations when thinking about positioning. The result is that companies come up with unsustainable positioning statements.

In summary, say the authors, brand positioning is critical for consistent customer engagement in Africa. Businesses need to move from static to more flexible positioning statements that take the continent’s multifaceted consumers into account.

Uchenna Uzo is Faculty and Academic Director, Africa Retail Academy at the Lagos Business School. Glory Eyinnaya is International Business Consultant and Founder at Kleos Africa in Lagos. Emmanuel Adediran is Business Lead, mediaReach OMD in Lagos.

Read the full article here.

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