Metse Sethe and Koena Masogo, who hail from Thembisa and Alexandra respectively, pose for photographs in Maboneng, Johannesburg. Picture: ALON SKUY
Metse Sethe and Koena Masogo, who hail from Thembisa and Alexandra respectively, pose for photographs in Maboneng, Johannesburg. Picture: ALON SKUY

As we get closer to the Sunday Times Gen Next Awards, which takes place on August 21, brands are looking deeper into who is still cool, who’s made a comeback and who has maintained their position among SA’s youth.

During a recent Sunday Times Gen Next digitised event, sponsored by Proudly SA and moderated by Yellowwood MD Refilwe Maluleke, the focus was on the youth and their attitude to buying and creating local brands.

The panel, consisting of TV presenter and entrepreneur Maps Maponyane, Proudly SA brand manager Siyabonga Zungu and Vosk Shoes founder Wesley Vos, was asked when last they had purchased an SA brand.

Maponyane is the owner of Buns Out burger restaurant but is also known as a media personality. He said he loves SA brands. He wants to offer as much exposure to local talent as he can and be an advocate for supporting local offerings. The most recent local product had he purchased was loungewear from local fashion designer Rich Mnisi.

Vos said each pair of his shoes is manufactured in SA. The shoes have #imprintafrica on their soles, which means multicultural travellers leave behind not just a trail of SA’s origin, but also a little bit of compassion, because for every pair of Vosk shoes bought a pair of shoes will be donated to a child in need.

Vos is the perfect example of a for-profit business giving back. He also supports local products, and the most recent local brand he bought was a Neurologica health supplement, which is used to enhance mental agility.

Zungu’s job is to get people excited about buying SA-made products and to change people’s mindset about buying local. He views supporting local brands as important and has purchased a few such products during his most recent grocery shopping. He specifically mentioned his new Maxhosa face mask.

Zungu said: “Since the lockdown was imposed more South Africans have been seeing the benefits of supporting local brands. Besides supporting the obvious benefit of creating jobs locally, the youth are also obtaining information about where brands are made. At Proudly SA we have seen more international markets taking on SA brands and since Covid-19 hit, accessibility to local products has been easier.”

Maluleke observed: “While the vast majority of South Africans still shop in retail stores, the pandemic has forced brands to move online.”

Vos explains: “If any good has come from Covid-19, it’s that it has accelerated the local e-commerce market by at least three years. Until now, South Africans have been conservative when buying online. People are now being forced to buy in this way and realise it’s easy and can be trusted.”

Youth perceptions of brands are shaped by the influences (and influencers) they’re exposed to on a daily basis, whether it’s through music, television, online or on social media. 

Vos continued by revealing his opinion about the secret to attracting young buyers: “Today’s young people want to see the difference a brand makes, whether it’s environmental impact or social impact. If you want to tap into the minds of the youth, you need to ensure that you have an authentic story.”

The big takeout:

 South Africans need to embrace a “local is lekker” view and support, nurture and buy this country’s brands.

When asked what brands should do to “win over” the youth, Maponyane added: “It takes very clear, authentic messaging – what your brand will be doing to stand out from other brands and have a purpose.” He said that in these Covid-19 times it’s been a real eye-opener to see which brands have been consistent and which haven’t. “Don’t be like everything or anyone else. Be real, share the brand journey, what you’ve gone through and what you’re planning, and be transparent and representative. That is what brands should be doing to win over the youth.”

Adding to Maponyane’s comment, Zungu stated:  “Young people are more informed these days; they now see we have good-quality brands and products in this country. We as South Africans need to start changing the narrative actively.”

During lockdown, and undoubtedly immediately after Covid-19, there will be few families who’ll be able to spend as much on branded items as they may have in the past. There will also be thousands of businesses in SA pleading for every ounce of support they can get. 

In order to compete internationally, all the speakers agreed, SA brands need to stand out, build value, have a differentiating factor and be authentic. They said that appealing to the youth is a sure way to ensure brand longevity.

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