Each Piece of Cake should be Unique – Thoughts on Market Segmentation in Malawi

One of the first things that you’re taught in “marketing school” is the STP model (segmentation, targeting and positioning). It’s all pervasive in marketing briefs, you write whole 5000 word papers on how to apply its (sometimes abstract) principles to a fictional product. It is something I therefore expected to see put into practice in whichever consumer market that I’d find myself in. But, I find myself puzzled by the lack of clear segmentation in the Malawian market.

segmentation fruit

At this point I should mention that you can segment on several levels – by type of product, industry etc. I think though that every other segmentation level stems from how we choose to divide society on economic lines. A lot can be written on economic classism in society but it is a fact that people at differing income levels not only spend differently but also save differently and value products in different ways.

Malawi is a poor country. Choose any index you want to use to evaluate poverty within the country and Malawi will be the poorest country in the world or within the bottom ten. Either way, it seems bleak. And the consensus amongst marketers in the country seems to be that there is a bunch of poor people, and then the rich – those who buy our products. And that’s it. There is a lot of nuance that is lost when you delineate the market in such broad strokes.

For example, the demand for a particular retail store may be wholly aspirational. Said store may be positioned in such a way that it directly targets high income consumers and everybody else then feels left out of experiencing the brand because it is “above them”. Anecdotally, this is a perception that was built around Woolworths SA for a lot of consumers. A change in consumer marketing; understanding of the different groups of consumers who do and who would like to frequent their stores; the introduction of bulk selling of some items etc has altered perceptions of the store which is one of the reasons Woolworths SA is growing within South Africa.

It is this sort of nuance that I see lacking in the Malawian market. Marketers print generic brochures, have the same type of tv campaigns across different brands and simply homogenize the market.

My (very limited and mostly observational) research seems to indicate that the few companies that do take segmentation into consideration are those in the telecommunications sector. Maybe this is because it’s easier for big business to apply marketing concepts and tools to their product inventories and innovate to suit each market. Or maybe it’s just the nature of the telecommunications industry. There has always been a need to reach more consumers, create greater cellphone and internet access and so the marketing of their products is more responsive to consumer needs.

Basically what i’m getting at is that we need something of what the Unilever Institute of Strategic Marketing is doing for South African marketing. Malawian marketers (and economists, politicians, financiers, social entrepreneurs) need to understand peoples’ motivations as consumers. Greater depth is needed to figure out where consumers obtain their money (how much of their income is from unreported/underreported sources); who controls household income and how this affects consumer spending; what products and services are prioritized at different income levels and other general consumer habits in Malawi. Maybe then Malawi would be able to apply the STP model more vigorously thereby increasing consumer spending at all income levels and hopefully driving growth.


On Depth And Reach: Digital and Mobile Marketing in Malawi

I am currently in Malawi, that little sliver of a country nestled between Zambia, Mozambique and Tanzania. Therefore, I thought I’d write a series of short(ish) pieces on how I perceive the marketing space in Malawi. I am based in the city of Lilongwe so a lot of my analysis will naturally stem from my impressions of this city.

Digital Marketing is a very small space in Malawi. Internet penetration is very low with only 5.4% of the population being internet users. With such a small target market, innovation is invariably stunted. From what I’ve observed, most marketing in this sphere comes from the 2 major cellphone network providers TNM and Airtel. On one of the most popular news websites, Nyasa Times, the screen is dominated by animated banner ads from the 2 companies.

NT 2

More evidence of digital marketing is observed through the social media platform Facebook. The most widely used, it is still a space with little access to the wider market as only 1.2% of the population uses the platform. Again, a very negligible sphere.

The solution to the lack of desktop and laptop penetration may be to utilize mobile marketing to a greater extent. Mobile is a subset of digital marketing and with 94% of people having access to mobile phones in Malawi this would be a great option. But (and there always seems to be a but when it comes to digital marketing in Malawi) very few people are able to afford the smart phones necessary for the intensive push of mobile marketing. The advent of the cheap smartphone (costing R500 or less) has still not allowed for a significant portion of the population to have access to the internet.

However, recently the Big Bullets football team, in partnership with mobile network TNM used sms promotion to raise funds for the Big Bullets to participate in the CAF championship.This campaign was successful raising MK1.8 Million (roughly R45 000). One does wonder though that if the cause wasn’t football related, if the 45611 sms messages sent in by fans would be much less. And also, if maybe such a campaign was limited in scope by how much disposable income the consumer can afford to spend on something that has no direct relevance to their immediate well-being.

A recent article by the BBC stated that Malawi has the highest mobile phone expenses in the world with consumers spending more than half their average income using/servicing their mobile phones. In a country where disposable incomes are low, there will be very few campaigns which could rally support from the consumer to raise funds.

All in all, I think massive structural changes to the economy to raise incomes, improved access to electricity (for people to charge mobile phones) and greater internet access are first needed before meaningful strides can be made in terms of digital and mobile marketing.

Another fast car ad (plus valentine’s day)

So in keeping up with this blog my aim is to both show how my depth as a marketer grows (across several sub-fields), as well as to just showcase some pretty awesome creativity from agencies and marketers out there.

I’m a sucker for fast cars. I love the sound, I love the power in the engines and I love skilled driving. The ad below incorporates all that in a great way while turning the typical stereotype of the hapless female romantic on it’s head that a lot of other adverts use for valentine’s day. Enough said, enjoy!

It comes down to this

For the better part of the last 3 months I’ve been constantly aware of how pervasive marketing is in everyday life. Consider anything that you may do, and there’s some form of marketing targeted towards you. My e-marketing course has taught me that marketing has merely taken all that is inescapable offline and made marketing absolutely omnipresent in the online world.

After studying e-marketing for a whole semester I think that’s the most important thing I will take away from my course. No doubt I’ve learned countless things – CRM, data analytics, the optimisation of online advertising, content creation – I could write a book. I’ve definitely done a lot this semester including creating this blog.

But what it all comes down to for me is that e-marketing is present in virtually every corner of the internet*. The ability to track a user’s movement across sites and analyse all that data means that you can be targeted no matter where you are or what you’re looking at. Even when advertising may not be targeted at you directly, it’s still there for you to see and consume. E-marketing has showed me that the internet is merely a forever on, online billboard for everything ever sold.

Marketing is everywhere

But given that, it’s all not doom and gloom and negative nelly vibes (poor nelly). There are still some things I’d like to learn more about in the realm of e-marketing. For one, I’d like a more thorough understanding of data analytics. Numbers and patterns have fascinated me since I was a kid, and data analytics seem to be that in the online sphere. More than just understanding all the terms and measurement methods however, I’d like to be able to discover unique insights from all this data. It somehow seems like a cross between my economics undergrad degree and marketing. There’s something amazing about being able to understand the why in a pattern or explain the seemingly random in a person’s behaviour.

This has been something that I’ve been thinking about since Rian Carstens of C6 Consulting guest lectured us. As such, I’ve trawled that all-pervasive internet around and found this website by Avinash Kaushik. It’s an absolute treasure trove of information around data analytics. I do know that practical experience won’t come from blogs, so any keen marketing gurus who want an intern who’s absolutely eager to learn, here’s my LinkedIn.

Back to my e-marketing course, I will however say that I found that the “peer-review” concept that was used in our tutorials was superfluous. Rather than actively engaging with colleagues and discussing new ideas, we spent that hour merely marking their papers and forcing them into a box. This basically defeated the purpose of e-marketing for me.

At the end of the day however, what I can say about e-marketing is that it is absolutely exciting! There’s so much out there and the creativity just keeps inspiring me. And the videos that brands come up with. This is my current darling:

On that note, have an awesome week!

* Side-note – I was just wondering whether this comes from the time when humans didn’t know that the world was round (i.e. four corners of the world). If so, then why did we adopt erroneous knowledge and apply it to something as modern as the internet? Oh well, humans are a strange bunch and the English language is too illogical to always make sense.

I couldn’t help it

I feel like all that I’ve been doing lately on this blog is post up great ads but I honestly have no choice when they elicit an emotional response from me. This particular one does so for 2 reasons:

1 -It was shot in Cape Town and there’s nothing cooler than seeing your city in an advert.

2 – I’m a fanatic for fast cars (blame my love for F1).

I know I’m quite late to this one, but in my defence, I hadn’t yet started up this blog when it was first released. Anyways, check out BMW’s homage to driving pleasure below.

Litely impressed

There’s always a call for a brand to represent itself consistently over many media channels. All well and good but in that drive, a lot of brands often fail to represent themselves well on a single channel. Not Castle Lite. I will admit at this point that I’m a groupie. Since this series of advertisements started airing years ago I’ve been in love with the concept behind the brand. Maybe it’s the appeal of the old school hip hop. Anyways, here’s a pretty cool addition to their TV ads from Ogilvy Cape Town:




Look at me I’m a(n important) picture

Marketers need to be sensitive to the environment in which the people they target live in. Occasionally there is a need to provide the consumer or reader with a large amount of information at once. Unfortunately, with so many things vying for our reader’s attention this is easier said than done. But, fortunately, some clever person somewhere realised that we could use pictures. If ever the marketer needed a saving grace, the infographic was it!

Included as part and parcel of the digital marketing strategy, an infographic used as a tactic aids the marketer in reaching an audience who may not have been keen to absorb the information. So HELLO to my COMPUTER , here’s my attempt at creating something visually awesome. This particular one can be used by Hello Computer when helping a client decide which social media platform will give them the best reach and return.

HC info

Now that may be the easiest part. There’s more to just using an infographic as part of your digital marketing strategy. One needs to understand how it fits into the digital strategy before actually using it as an implementation tactic. To do this you must consider 5 key areas:

1. Context

Context aims to examine where a brand fits into the macroeconomic environment in which it operates. This means an in-depth analysis of its competitors, its target market and what value the brand offers.

2. Value exchange

Value exchange refers to developing a value proposition that is beneficial to your target customer’s. So RESEARCH, RESEARCH and RESEARCH your target market even more in order to gain insights into what they find valuable

3. Objectives

All the questions under this involve looking at objectives, tactics, key performance indicators (KPIs) and targets. The general objectives look at why a particular strategy is undertaken and should be SMART: specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-bound.

The tactics would be the actual tools used in order to achieve the stated objectives (Hello infographic 🙂 ).

KPIs are the pieces of data used to determine the efficacy of the chosen tactics and help with giving a concrete benchmark for the evaluation of a digital campaign. This gives a timeline in which to evaluate the achievement of an objective

4. Tactics and evaluation

The tactics used and their evaluation thereof are the next area where questions must be. Depending what the core focus is for the company, different tactics offer determine the success of a digital operation.

5. On-going optimisation

This refers to the ability of a brand to respond quickly to the changes in its environment. A fluidity of tactics must be developed in order to keep track of the changing face of consumers. The user experience plays a large part in this and thus the whole digital strategy should be agile enough to respond to new consumer sentiments, as and when they arise.

So although they are not the be all and end all of strategic marketing, infographics are pretty nifty in catching a potential consumer’s eye. And that may be all you need to be an awesome digital marketer!

It’s got me

I follow a photo blog/website/online community called Humans of New York (HONY) on Facebook. I could go into detail about how amazing it is and whatnot but honestly we all like different things and it may not actually be to your tastes. But that’s beside the point of this post. What I really want to say is that a few days ago the picture below was posted up by HONY’s owner and the first thought that came to my mind was:

“What an awesomely, cool car advert this photo could make”. Maybe I didn’t use those exact adjectives in the moment but seriously, LOOK at it! I’ve already got taglines running through my mind.

(credit HONY)

(credit:  HONY)

Needless to say, I’m sure a few of my various marketing lecturers would be proud that my thinking seems to be almost constantly geared towards the subject 🙂

Google and Me

So there’s this course I’m doing – e-marketing – and we are tasked with googling* ourselves to discover our digital footprint. My digital footprint? It’s sparse…kind of.

Top of the list is my twitter account. I am not particularly bothered by this as I have intentionally left my tweets open. I willingly admit that this has necessarily led to me carefully considering what I tweet and to whom. Twitter in this regard is a very personal thing. Thoughts, ideas, musings, some general opinions and a few other things (particularly formula 1 related) tend to find themselves being expressed in 140 characters. Simple, easy, uncluttered.

I was quite glad to find that my Facebook profile cannot be viewed through a search engine. I am uneasy about the thought that personal pictures and videos could potentially be viewed by anyone on the internet if I do not tighten the privacy settings on my Facebook. It’s quite creepy. And just to make sure, I’m going to go through all those odious settings again. Rather safe than sorry, right?

Then it occurred to me that an unfiltered word search wasn’t going to give me my full digital footprint. So I filtered the search so that only videos could show. Nothing (Yay!). Images? One random picture from 2008 with me smiling with my older sister and then lots and lots of pictures of the Proteas, South Africa’s cricket team. Most of these pictures where ones I’d ‘liked’ on Facebook, so maybe my privacy settings aren’t as tight as I thought. But I am a Proteas fan…oh well. 

A final thing I found (admittedly when I google my first name only) is a few videos of myself performing poetry. Half embarrassed but fully proud of them they reflect that side of me that isn’t looking to be too academic. The idea of the professional dichotomous being? That’s the poetry.

Improvements can be made, no doubt about that. One thing that I do seek to change about my digital footprint is my presence on LinkedIn. As it stands, I don’t have a LinkedIn account. As graduation looms closer and with me actively looking for employment, it is worrying that there is no professional face in the digital sphere that I project to the outside world. So…HELLO LinkedIn!

It’s an interesting exercise googling oneself. Part experiment in narcissism and part self-preservation. I’d recommend it to anyone though, you never know what you could find.

*Side note: isn’t it just fascinating how “to google” has become a verb. I know this is nothing new in linguistic and language circles but it still amazes me.


Two in One

There seems to always be a dichotomy created when one has to consider a job and subsequent career. A lot of people tend to have this idea that you are either artistic or you’re analytical. But what about if you fit somewhere in between?

I’ve always enjoyed playing around with these contrasting sides. They honestly don’t seem as mutually exclusive to me as they are made out to be. It’s probably why I was the economics student who wrote poetry on the edges of all the supply and demand graphs. Or why I enjoy baking so much, with the need to have precise measurements otherwise you end up with something even a dog won’t sniff.

There’s a beauty in such seeming contradiction I think. The perfect dichotomy of being when you’re able to live between two worlds. And for me, in my mind, it works.