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How the Rise of the Black Middle Class is Shaping the Future of Media

23 Sep

Category colourworks

The size of South Africa’s black middle class has more than doubled in less than a decade. This statistic was confirmed by a recent study conducted by UCT (University of Cape Town). Such exponential growth from a demographic that was previously disadvantaged has posed interesting challenges and opportunities for marketers. For one, the buying power of the black middle class is considerable and spending is estimated to be at $44 billion a year. This means that South African marketers must re-imagine their target market and the way they appeal to them.

It wasn’t always like this

South African pre-democracy media aimed at the oppressed black population was strictly censored under the apartheid regime. Media appealing directly to them was limited and struggled against a racist regime. One of the few publications which survived this time in South African media was Drum, a significant magazine which attempted to represent the lives of the black majority. It covered topics related to social issues of everyday life, crime, sports and sex. Photography was the unique selling point of Drum as it visualised township life and appealed to an illiterate audience. The magazine is still around today, a testament to its influence.

But now…

Today, almost 20 years into democracy, we have numerous media channels targeting SA’s black middle class in an attempt to address various needs, desires and issues. With the mediascape continuously shifting, marketers need to be honest with themselves and ask whether their advertising concepts truly resound with the black middle class consumer.

If advertisers want to stretch their brands and increase market uptake, they’ll need to take a more active approach in understanding SA’s culturally diverse landscape. Research undertaken by the Unilever Institute of Strategic Marketing at UCT reveals interesting facts about what makes emerging black consumers tick based on age groups, spending power, population numbers and character profiles.

Our Mzansi ‘South’ Youth

One interesting example is the Mzansi Youth, which consists of students still living at home who have opportunities their parents never had. This group experiences high expectations and pressure to perform from their parents, seeing themselves as potential future entrepreneurs. TV and radio are the best mediums for reaching this young market.

The Start-Me Ups

A share of the market which the industry should take notice of is the Start-Me Ups, which fall into the 25–29 age bracket. This segment should be of particular interest to marketers as they are in the process of accumulating assets, with 59% sharing household costs.

The next group fall into their late 20s to 30s with 50% being unmarried. They are referred to as Young Families. This group is highly career focused and proudly providing for their children, wanting to give them a good start in life. Marketers can connect with this group by providing them with time-saving solutions and reaching them through mobile marketing, TV and radio advertising.

The Established Folk

The last group is the established segment with 66% between 35-40 years or older and married. Considered as the most affluent segment, this group owns cars, electrical appliances and DSTV subscriptions. They prize investing money for future financial security and believe in the importance of contributing to their children’s successful future.  To connect with this group, marketers need to consider advertising channels such as TV and weekly newspapers. The Sunday Times has the highest readership in this group with 38%. One in three members of this group also has access to the internet – the highest of all segments.

Location, location, location

The permeation of the black middle class into the formerly white suburbs also gives marketers more proximity to connect with these groups as they seek for easier access to good schools, shopping malls and workplaces. This target audience also likes to stay in touch with their old friends and family by visiting their former settlements on weekends– an important insight for marketers to have when wanting to connect with this ethnic group.

If marketers want to succeed at connecting with this target market, they’ll need to re-examine whether their advertising messages are resonating with everyday black South Africans. There’s something to be said about advertising concepts which are rooted in contemporary South African culture and better attempt to represent the country’s black majority.

Here’s an example of two popular brands, OMO and KFC, who have successfully adapted their marketing to appeal to the emerging black middle class.

The video shows OMO ads from the 1990’s, click here to view.

In comparison, this OMO ad was produced in 2011. Hugely popular, it targeted the black middle class markets, click here to view,

An old KFC ad, click here to view,

This second KFC ad was released in 2013, targeting the emerging black middle class, click here to view.

It is both interesting and encouraging to see how advertising is a reflection of the significant and beneficial changes in South African society and culture.