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Township consumers in SA represent an important market for brands, as 50% of the country’s urban population live in townships or informal settlements. This large and diverse informal economy has often proved to be more buoyant than the formal economy in some areas.

Ask Afrika’s annual Kasi Star Brands benchmarking survey provides marketers with a deeper insight into the nuances of SA’s township economies and the top-performing township brands for 2022/2023.

In first place this year is Lucky Star tinned fish, followed by Kiwi shoe polish (which came in first last year), Sunlight dishwashing liquid, Koo canned beans, Drink O-Pop, Capitec, Coca-Cola, Dettol liquid antiseptic, Colgate manual toothbrushes and Colgate toothpaste.

Kasi Star Brands are brands that SA township consumers are most loyal to in terms of usage, irrespective of background or living standard. They are defined as “solus usage”, which means consumers are loyal only to one specific brand within its product category. Brands with successful township marketing strategies typically have a good Kasi score.

“Top-performing Kasi Star Brands define a common experience and are woven into the fabric of SA’s townships,” says Ask Afrika executive Maria Petousis.  “This year’s winners are brands that have generated critical township mass in their categories and have built a high level of loyalty among township consumers at the same time.”

This year the Kasi Star Brands benchmark measured a total of 55 product categories. The benchmark, explains Petousis, enables brand owners to understand their brand’s performance within its category on a product level and with the psychographic richness of the dataset that brings them closer to the township consumer behind the purchase.

One of the biggest insights from this year’s benchmark study is that while there are some key themes that are common across townships, there is a need to customise marketing strategies based on the nuanced differences that exist between townships. A targeted approach that is focused on building emotional connections is key.

Common themes that emerged this year were the need for trust and purpose, the need for a brand to do – or stand for – “good”, the importance of convenience and the fact that emotional connections matter. Another interesting theme is the importance of local brands. “It appears local is still ‘lekker’ in townships, and is becoming more important,” says Petousis.

Other common themes identified were the financial attitudes and behaviours of Kasi consumers, which are surprisingly similar across all income groups. A growing number of township consumers are focusing on their finances and have credit cards. An increased consumers believe it’s important to have a budget or financial plan, have insurance and save for retirement.   

Interestingly, lower-income consumers regard corporate social responsibility as twice as significant as other income segments do. It’s a critical area for improved perceptions of ethics, trust and reputation.

Both demographically and in terms of attitudes, not all township consumers are the same, reveals the study. For example, Alexandra residents are interested in financial services advertising and don’t like the idea of being in debt. Umlazi residents say they are more aware of their personal finances than they used to be and like to pay cash for everything they buy. Sowetan residents consider themselves good at managing money.

Factors influencing brand loyalty include value for money, affordability, quality, convenient availability and relevance, say Kasi consumers. They’re encouraged to try other brands based on price, availability, novelty, convenience and advertising. However, here again, not all townships are the same. While 11% of Sowetan consumers say they are extremely likely to switch to a non-traditional bank (56% more likely than the average township consumer), consumers in Alexandra are not as open to this shift. However, consumers in Alexandra are 35% more likely to have used money transfer services than other townships.

“What this year’s benchmark study reveals that is that communities have developed unique personalities,” says Petousis. “The key take-out for marketers is that they need to walk in the shoes of Kasi consumers to understand them better. To succeed with township consumers requires more granular [communication] that sends the right message to a defined audience on the right medium and at the right time.”

The big take-out:

Marketing strategies aimed at township consumers need to be customised based on the nuanced differences that exist among areas

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