Africa and Middle East brand communications industry: a tale of two economies
The brand communications industry’s power and influence is a tale of two economies, one overt and the other more veiled.
At face value the creative economy’s contribution to the fiscus is obvious. Brands spend money on the creation of effective communication and advertising to consumers. There is a huge infrastructure and ecosystem built around messaging to consumers including concept development, building awareness and loyalty, and activations. Companies invest billions of dollars with marketing, media, advertising, PR and digital agencies. Tens of thousands of jobs are created, and communities are uplifted in the process.
The second, equally important, economy in brand communication is the work beyond creating artistic expression and impactful advertising campaigns. This is more subtle – brand purpose, which goes beyond financial motives. Companies want to represent and convey something far deeper and more meaningful and make a positive impact to the world around them.
Brands are tackling societal challenges and long-held norms and stereotypes through transformative imagery and messaging to put society’s best foot forward. Think of the #MeToo campaign, #BlackLivesMatter and, in recent times, Dove, which shifted from being a company that sells soap to an empowerment brand embracing the diversity of all beauty. Nike’s “If you have a body, you are an athlete” slogan was an inspiration to everyone to keep moving and exercising. The LGBTQ+ community and other marginalised groups have benefited hugely from brands carrying messages of strength in diversity and inclusion.
One just has to reflect on how brands came out to help communities at the onset of the pandemic, providing masks, sanitisers and food to disadvantaged communities. Some telecommunications brands supported schools with free data for online learning while most banks offered relief payment plans for clients. Though these efforts don’t immediately translate to the bottom line, in the long term consumers want to spend with brands that value purpose over profits.
The industry’s efforts are about changing the way individuals think and make purchasing decisions on products and services based on the added value they bring to their lives, society and the environment. The money spent boosts and lifts society economically, which is the core goal of brand communications: to ensure commerce is ongoing and people are spending. To achieve this, the narrative within which the communication is developed is based on real and lived experiences on paper, on screen and on digital platforms.
The two economies of the creative industry in the Africa and the Middle East (AME) region hold massive influence and sway in shaping the spending habits and strategies of households. Any reduction in spending has a significant impact on the GDPs of countries in this region. The creative industry not only stimulates spending but is also a key contributor to GDP.
In SA, for example, according to a 2017 North-West University report, the core creative industries and supporting allied industries contributed R270bn, or 5.29% of GDP.
This is why businesses in the AME region are placing a greater focus on their creative communication. The answer is based on core business economics, as creativity is expected to be a key driver of financial KPIs, especially at a time when businesses are dealing with the challenges of the pandemic.
The AME region is home to more than 1.7-billion people. Numerous economies across the region are dealing with serious challenges that affect everyone from major corporations to individual consumers. The key challenge, after the impact of Covid lockdowns, is reduced consumer spending. Consumer confidence is quite low in the current environment, and strong brand communication will stimulate consumers to spend, which will begin the economic recovery process.
Within our mandate of rewarding, recognising, inspiring and fostering creative excellence at the Loeries, we have observed that despite the challenges faced by the industry, creativity and innovation remain strong. Loeries Creative Week, which took place from October 20 to October 23, showed how the industry, in pushing creativity, will drive recovery from the Covid-induced challenges to the economy.
Preetesh Sewraj is CEO of The Loeries
The big take-out:
The creative economy has a massive influence in shaping the spending habits and strategies of households
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