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Why you should continue with marketing communications during a recession

The South African economy is officially in a recession and the COVID-19 pandemic has sent it into a flat spin. Many businesses have been forced to close their doors and those that are still open are looking where they can start cutting costs. Unfortunately, many make the biggest mistake of cutting costs on marketing communications first.

Here are 3 reasons why you should continue to communicate to your market during a recession:

  1. It allows for re-positioning of your brand or presents you with an opportunity to introduce a new product.
  2. Advertising becomes less expensive during a recession.
  3. A consistent and stable brand during a recession gives consumers a positive impression and reassurance that you are not going out of business.


What is marketing communication?

Marketing communication’sultimate objective is to convince consumers to buy the company’s products.  There are various marketing communication mix elements that a company can choose to communicate their message to selected target audiences including:

Direct Marketing

Direct marketing is about making direct contact with existing and potential customers to promote your products or services. Unlike media advertising, it enables you to target particular people with a personalised message using a variety of different methods, direct mail, email, telephone marketing, and SMS.

Publicity/Public Relations

As with advertising, public relations seeks to inform, educate and persuade to action. But unlike advertising, which controls its messages and media through paid placement, public relations builds relationships and creates an ongoing dialogue of interaction and involvement with an organisation’s target audiences and those who influence those audiences through articles, collateral materials, newsletters and websites.

Personal Selling

Personal selling may be the most customer-oriented promotional activity, but it requires exceptionally skilled people. Once you know what kind of salespeople you require, you need to make sure you recruit them effectively, provide appropriate training and compensate them appropriately to maximise the potential of the sales force.

Sales Promotion

Most advertising does not deliver sales quickly, since it works on the mind of the consumer. Sales promotion, however, works on the behaviour of a consumer. When consumers hear of a sale, such as two for the price of one, a free gift or the opportunity to win a prize, they typically react. The easiest way of distinguishing sales promotions from other promotional methods is that it always has an expiry date.


Sponsorship is the supporting of an event, activity or organisation by providing money or other resources that is of value to the sponsored event. This is often in return for advertising space at the event or as part of the publicity for the event. There are many kinds of sponsorship such as television and radio programme sponsorship, sports sponsorship, arts sponsorship and educational sponsorship.


Advertising is known as a paid, non-personal presentation and promotion of ideas, goods and services by an identified sponsor (usually an organisation). The paid element means that every advertisement, whether it be read in a newspaper and magazine, heard on the radio or seen on television or the internet, has an organisation that is paying for it. The non-personal part of the definition talks about how advertisements usually make use of the mass media (e.g., TV, radio, newspapers, magazines) in order to convey the message to a large target audience, often making use of several media options at the same time.

Digital or Internet marketing

The Internet is considered to be the most consumer-friendly advertising medium because it allows the audience to control their interaction with the advertising message. The most popular formats of Internet advertising include:

Search engine advertising – A method of placing online advertisements on Web pages that show results from search engine queries.

Banner advertisements – An image that can be placed just about anywhere on a Web page containing text, images, or animations.

Pop-up advertisements – A form of Internet advertising in which advertisements appear in a separate window that materialises on the screen while a selected Web page is loading.

Video advertisements – Audio-visual advertisements that are compressed into manageable file sizes and range in length from 15 seconds to several minutes.

Blogs – Digital communities on the Internet where like-minded individuals exchange their views on issues of personal relevance.

Social media – Web-based and mobile technology used to turn communication into interactive dialogue. The overall idea is to integrate technology and social interactions to create value for users.

Affiliate networks – These are sites that maintain links for other organisations in order to receive a potential fee for generating traffic.

Keyword advertising – This occurs when advertisers pay internet search engines such as Google, Yahoo and Microsoft Bing to add their advertisements in or near relevant search terms, based on keywords.

Companies that thrived during a recession thanks to enhanced marketing communication:


During the 1973-1975 recession Toyota resisted the temptation to cut down on its marketing budget. By 1976 the company became the top imported carmaker in the U.S..




Lego decided to expand into a global market during the 2008 economic crisis in the U.S. and now   the company operates in 30 countries and has 50 companies worldwide. Its main business is the manufacturing, development, marketing, and distribution of the LEGO toy system. An estimated 300 million children have played with LEGO bricks.



The Great Depression in the 1920s led to the reduction in marketing of the leading cereal brand Post. In the meantime, their biggest rival Kellogg’s doubled its advertising spending, leading to their profit skyrocketing by 30%. Even now, a century later they are still the category leader.



Pizza Hut

When McDonald’s decided to reduce its marketing spend during the 1990-1991 recession, Pizza Hut took advantage of their reduced presence and focused their efforts to retain their own respective marketing activities.

McDonalds’ sales declined by 28% while Pizza Hut had a sales increase of 61%.



Amazon used the 2009 recession as an opportunity to introduce a new product called The Kindle. As a result, Amazon customers bought more e-books than printed books on Christmas Day 2009.





During the last recession Samsung decided to maintain marketing investment and focus on rebranding itself as an innovative company. In the beginning of the economic downfall Samsung ranked No. 21 in brand value but quickly moved to No.6 as a result of its marketing efforts.


The bottom line

Cutting on marketing costs during an economic downturn is not the way to go. During a recession marketing matters more than ever. Instead of cancelling traditional and digital marketing campaigns, businesses would benefit from ramping them up instead. COVID-19 and the related economic downturn is your opportunity to shine!

Upskill yourself with IMM Graduate School

Upskill yourself with one of IMM Graduate School’s many marketing and advertising short courses. These courses are perfect for students looking to enter the world of marketing as well as those who already have a job in marketing but need to fill out their marketing skill set and stay on top of this ever-changing industry. If marketing is your choice as a career, you should never stop learning. Visit the link to find the perfect marketing short course for you: https://shortcourses.imm.ac.za/online_courses/marketing-advertising-short-courses/

Robots vs Humans: A compelling story of a powerful and impactful experience

4 - Assegai CaseStudy-01

Ads24 won a bronze in the 2019 Assegai Integrated Marketing Awards for its Food for Thought experiential media campaign. In its third year, the 2019 event was themed Robots vs Humans. This is the case study on how the award-winning activation was conceptualised and rolled out.

To cut through the plethora of activations and events aimed at media agencies and advertisers, Ads24 required a single-minded reason for its existence. It was out of this that Food for Thought was conceptualised, packaged and promoted to inspire and inform targeted individuals about cutting edge developments impacting on their careers and their lives.

In Food for Thought, Ads24 created a brand and a vehicle for giving back in an impactful and memorable way, with a healthy return on effort and investment.


Campaign context

In an industry consistently exposed to trends, strategies and knowledge about its field of expertise i.e. media and advertising, Ads24 wanted to create a campaign in which it could influence business and leadership thinking as well as refocus attention to the critical role media owners, brand owners and advertisers play in bridging the gap in the minds of consumers between the now and the future.

The objective of the campaign was to position Ads24 as tribe leaders and critical business influencers within the communication space. It should strengthen business relationships and encourage collaboration through a powerful and impactful experience while reminding key industry advertising leaders about the influential nature of media. Ultimately, the company wanted to grow high-level involvement with top decision makers at media agencies and direct advertiser clients.

The strategy was to ensure Food for Thought stood out from industry clutter via a media industry event that encouraged progressive learning as well as debate around the economic, political, environmental and technological forces shaping the future of business in South Africa. Ads24 had to ensure that the event challenged everyone’s thinking and drove curiosity in an impactful way.

Enormous attention was paid to creating details that provided a full sensory experience. Tactics used to achieve this was through a hyper-personalised and carefully planned invitation process; creating a thought-provoking experience and journey on the day for all attendees; developing an integrated PR plan during and post-event, and maximising social media during and post-event


The big idea and its implementation

The world and its economies are experiencing unprecedented times. In every aspect of life, humans face a complex array of sensitive challenges that call for extraordinary responses and creative leadership. There is a massive shift in consumer mentality and media organisations need to proactively adapt to lead this dynamic environment.

Ads24 created an event positioned between a world dominated by artificial intelligence and technology, and one desperate for human connection.

The invitation was issued in the form of a book written by one of the speakers called We Are Still Human, by Brad Shorkend and Andy Golding. The book led to a hidden message in one of its pages, creating engagement and appealing to the natural human inquisitiveness. It also led to another very important feature: the RSVP

For this, Ads24 used hyper-personalisation by using real time data and leveraging of artificial intelligence to deliver a more relevant and surprising experience for the audience. This was done through creating an algorithm as part of the RSVP which predicted a personal surprise for guests to take home, further illustrating the impact of personal consumer centered communication.


The event

This event was designed from start to finish to engage every sense and challenge thinking. Every aspect was created to juxtapose the human touch with robotic interpretations. The starting point was a taste bud hack. Each person was invited to take a pill made from the ‘miracle berry’, synsepalum dulcificum. A glass of freshly squeezed lemon juice was then offered. The pill had the ability to mask taste and instead of eye-watering, tart lemon, each person experienced a sweet orange juice flavour.

This served as a metaphor on how we consume news and how easily we are fooled to digest fake news – the very opposite of what we pride ourselves in – the facts, the news and the search for truth.

Each food experience contrasted artisanal, handmade delights with a robotic version of the same. Fresh flapjacks topped with creamy mascarpone cheese and rich berry jam was paired with 3D-printed mascarpone cheese on spirulina-infused flapjacks with pipettes of berry compote. The delicious aroma of fresh-pressed coffee was served side-by-side with coffee cubes.

Each table setting was also designed to represent robots or humans and each attendee was assigned one or the other version of the main meal. Although the outcome of the meal was the same, each component was created by hand or by machine. This created an exciting atmosphere of curiousity and experimentation, culminating in desserts delivered by drones.


Content and speakers

Ads24 focused on different aspects of the future by looking at the incredible pace of AI and technology and how it’s reshaping our existence in an increasingly automated economy. With so many areas in which the media and communication is changing, from how we consume news to social media, fake news, hyper-personalisation and programmatic buying, if we don’t keep pace and remain agile to these changes, we face professional extinction.

The line-up included public speaker, entrepreneur and author of the best-selling business book, Legacide, Richard Mulholland, Brad Shorkend, one of the authors of We Are Still Human, and computer scientist, Rapelang Rabana.

Each shared their views on how to stay ahead of the game in a world where the word, ‘phigital’ (physical and digital), is the new normal. Comedian, author and speaker, Don Packett, refereed the debate by posing the questions: Where are we today in the fight between humans and robots? Where will our businesses be by 2030? And, how do we prepare for the journey? We explored the dangers of legacy thinking, how AI can be a tool to advance civilisation and how to be a good human in a technologically shifting world. They raised a few eyebrows, challenged the way we see our industry and our world, and opened the door to a spirited conversation around the future of media in 2030.


PR and social media

A series of thought leadership pieces were created based on each of the topics discussed at the event. Every week, for four weeks, a piece was circulated to media. Included in the pieces was a short 30-second video taken at the event relating back to the specific speaker/topic. This insured that when the article was published, readers would have full context to what was discussed/debated at the event.

Key messages were taken and posted on social media with either images or short 30-second videos from the event.


Return on investment

Ads24 Food for Thought 2019 provided insight into a world where human connection and artificial intelligence create new opportunities and challenges for the media industry and our world. The event solidified Ads24 as a thought leader among influential media partners and as a competitive media owner in a dynamic and constantly evolving industry.

  • 73 % of those invited attended the event
    • 80% gave us a perfect score for relevant content
  • Organic Social media engagement on the day of the event increased to 6.2% compared to the average rate for May of 1.8%.
  • Content series allowed for further organic reach:
    • Post reach increased by 107%
    • Post engagement increased by 300%
  • Page likes increased by 23%
  • Page views increased by 78%
  • Page followers increased by 14%
  • Average time spent on integrated content: 3 minutes

We achieved an overall PR value average of R6.8 million

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From the table to the market: Strategies used by food entrepreneurs to get noticed

Worth a whopping $82 million in 2019, South Africa’s food and beverage industry is expected to show an annual growth rate (CAGR 2019-2023) of 10.5%, claims Statista. While these figures may seem unattainable to our local, independent enterprises, becoming a household brand is proving less formidable thanks to digital marketing, writes Lucinda Jordaan.

The kitchen, they say, is the heart of the home. The designated space for preparing and sharing meals is also where the most innovative and inspiring creations are concocted – like Edward Molatela Kgarose’s sweet potato yoghurt. This innovative treat was dreamed up in the 29-year-old’s mother’s kitchen as she was cooking the nutritious root vegetable – and he was enjoying his favourite yoghurt.

“I asked myself: what if it is possible for me to produce a yoghurt with this sweet potato?” Kgarose recalls.

He set about experimenting with tastes and textures until he came up with a winning flavour. Following advice, he consulted with the Limpopo Agro-Food Testing Station at the University of Limpopo to ascertain whether the product was safe for human consumption. “I took my product and it failed four times at the laboratory,” notes the tenacious Kgarose, whose innovative offering – which he first sold at taxi ranks –  is now approved, available at two retail stores in Polokwane, and gaining traction in the market.

Food regulations aside, rigorous experimentation is the backbone of any successful commercial food journey. Former investment fund manager Ken Kinsey-Quick can attest to this: it took years – and about 60 attempts – before he could find the chilli oil that matched his palate.

“I’m a chilli wuss – I don’t like it too strong – but I’ve loved chilli oil since I first tried it in Paris in the 90s, where it was always served with pizza, something you didn’t get anywhere else in the world,” he says. The oil itself proved as elusive. “You could only find it in specialist shops and even then, it was just chillies in a bottle” – which, he adds, renders the flavour unstable and can cause the oil to go rancid.

About two years ago, Kinsey-Quick finally found a chilli oil he liked, in a pizza restaurant up in the Alps. “It came in sachets and I stole a whole lot and brought them back.” His brother-in-law, Adi Meintjies, a dedicated foodie, noticed him agonising about his pilfered stock running out – and offered to make it for him.

“He started experimenting in the kitchen and 60 variations later, came up with the right formula,” Kinsey-Quick relates.

This September, the financier will be retiring from his day job to focus solely on a business that has grown exponentially: Banhoek Chilli Oil now has a national footprint, is available in over 200 stores in South Africa, and is delivered anywhere in the United Kingdom via Amazon. The company is also looking to extend its product range by launching a tonic water later this year.

Reducing barriers to entry

The adage goes that – regardless of the state of the economy – if you’re in the food and beverage industry and not making a profit, you’re doing something wrong.

While the country’s scale and reach – and comparably limited marketing and advertising budgets – mean South African food brands are unlikely to dominate the global market, that does not mean they don’t have the cojones to compete with them on the local stage. The journey from home kitchen to formal market may follow a tried and tested recipe, that does not guarantee instant success, but social media has significantly reduced the barriers to entry.

“It’s much easier today – you can just take a photograph with your smartphone and post it on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter – then you are in the market,” notes Anat Apter, Founder of Anat Foods, a household name in pitas, breads and Middle Eastern fare that famously started out with a falafel stall at Joburg’s Bruma Lake market in the early 1990s.

“When I started, I didn’t have a vision – I had an emergency; I needed the money and had to pull up my sleeves and do something. I never wanted to be in the food business. I started with falafel because that is what I knew best, and I had only two weeks to prepare and present the product, and make it excellent,” she maintains.

“If you start a business, you have to be serious, honest, dedicated and committed – especially with food, as it’s very emotional: when you eat, you want to know your food is good, healthy and fresh. I’m a strong believer in clean cooking.”

Hands on in growing her family’s brand – “I opened 22 stores myself” – Apter has always had a tight marketing budget and focuses on in-store promotions to attract customers. “As a niche market, I cannot compete with the bigger companies. I don’t do radio or TV, and my marketing budget is so small, I have to be creative. I have to innovate all the time; I listen to my customers and innovate all the time; I listen to my customers – my franchisees are my ambassadors to the public and I take a lot of ideas from them,” she explains.

Innovation, reckons Kgarose, is what sets entrepreneurs apart from their competitors in building a brand. “Social media makes marketing easy for us small producers, but innovation is one of the keys to being recognised in the industry,” he stresses.

How social media boosts awareness

An official launch one year after starting out, and a minimal investment in social media, proved the boost Banhoek needed to grow awareness of their product, says Kinsey-Quick. “We’ve just started using social media, and we’re still learning as we go along. It’s not rocket science, just getting brand awareness out there. We spent about R5 000 boosting posts on social media – split evenly between Instagram and Facebook – by putting out a post every week and engaging with respondents.”

It led to calls for stock from as far afield as Clocalan in the Free State – and the company to explore e-commerce. Banhoek Chilli Oil is now available online and delivered countrywide.

They also gained a new niche supplier: butcheries. “Oddly, they are very keen on the product and sell it very well – we didn’t think about it at the beginning. Now, 90% of our clients are butcheries and delis.” Poetry stores came next, giving Banhoek a national footprint – and the rest is history.

Social media may have boosted brand awareness, but the journey to the formal market is still a complicated process that requires footwork.

“Local brands struggle for space in the formal market because most retail stores won’t allow small producers to supply them due to low production capacity. It’s very difficult because you are introducing a new product that is not known,” says Kgarose, who does in-store promotions to grow the brand.

“Obviously, the first thing was to get the right product, and packaging was the next thing. But you can have best product – if you don’t get the marketing and advertising right, it won’t sell,” avers Kinsey-Quick. So, what would he do with an unlimited advertising budget? “I wouldn’t do things differently – though I would definitely increase our social media boosts to reach more people – and possibly consider putting some ads in print. I’d love to do a cookbook though: hire five top chefs to come up with five recipes – and use that on social media – but to do that properly would be quite expensive.”

Should brands try to change the world? What the research says.

Should brands try to change the world? What the research says.

Psos researcher Nick Coates examines some of the recent adverts placing themselves in the firing line and the long-term consequences of aligning themselves with these messages, as well as some considerations prior to launching campaigns.

It is the remit of advertising to elicit a reaction from consumers, but in the era of increasingly volatile public backlashes, brands are navigating very rough waters by placing themselves in the political or “social issue” space, especially with public feedback channels rapidly multiplying on social media.

 Gillette’s controversial advert

Gillette is the latest to use its significant reach to address an issue that has been increasingly top of mind for many over the last decade. With the release of ‘We Believe: The Best Men Can Be’, the brand took a firm stance on the need for a more positive definition of masculinity.

The ad has garnered over one million dislikes on YouTube and a sentiment analysis of social media commentary by Ipsos shows 36% negative comments, compared to 16% positive, about the campaign in the days following its release. Many detractors don’t like the perceived stereotyping of male behaviour and accuse the company of trying to ‘shame’ all men.

On the other hand, those that do like the advert applaud Gillette for “making people think” and urge critics to reflect on why it makes them mad. Many defend it, saying that it is simply calling for men to be better human beings. In fact, ad testing done by Ipsos indicates the commercial could reap rewards for the brand long after the negative social media backlash has passed.

The analysis shows that the ad has done quite well to address themes that matter personally to consumers, and pull at the heart strings. This brings about two positive outcomes; a strong desire for the brand, and of course, a buzzworthy piece of content.

So, here is an advert from a major advertiser, taking a somewhat controversial stance on a social issue, that seems to perform well in an ad-testing vacuum, receiving a large volume of polarised responses on social media in the days after launch.

Nike’s ‘Dream Crazy’

Much of this summary falls in line with the firestorm that surrounded Nike’s ‘Dream Crazy’ spot, featuring Colin Kaepernick. The social response was similar to the early returns for Gillette, with Nike seeing a big spike in interaction – and far more of it negative than positive. There were calls from some for boycotts, just as Gillette was facing.

Interestingly, ad testing of the Nike video also shows similar positive results to the ‘We Believe’ ad. The Nike ad is a little stronger overall, driven by better branding – it has a natural fit with Nike positioning, and better integration of Nike equipment, sportswear, and brand ambassadors.

Time, and the markets, have shown this campaign to be a success for Nike, despite the early objections from some critics.

So, should we expect the same win for Gillette once the social media backlash moves on to the next target?

Not so fast. Let’s examine a local example that yielded immediate positive results.

Carling Black Label, ‘Bold. Brave. Strong.’

A South African campaign for Carling Black Label is the perfect case study to follow of how to go about playing in this space. ‘Bold. Brave. Strong.’ is an impactful new campaign that has already garnered praise from the media for showing “how powerful brands can be as catalysts for change”.

What did they do right?

By conducting the right research, at the right moment, a stronger idea can be revealed, which is a catalyst for creativity and can support the brand teams in launching a bold and purposeful campaign that drives their business successfully.

On Carling Black Label’s path to reinvention, in-depth investigation of modern South African males revealed a tension: masculinity has a lot to do with strength, yet male strength is often stereotyped by society as brutal muscle, mindless sexual appetite and violence. South Africans do not recognise themselves in that  stereotypical way, and masculinity can thus become something to be ashamed of, rather than celebrated.

Carling Black Label seized the opportunity to paint a 21st century portrait of masculinity that could rally all men under its banner: bold, brave, strong men are those who are true to themselves and use their strength to do the right thing. This sensible message required research-driven content to ensure the right chord was struck by the advertising.

Three months into the launch, Carling is showing record growth in South Africa, with major positive volume changes and significant improvements in image attributes.

What does this mean for brands?

It’s too early to say whether Gillette’s campaign is going to be a surefire win for the brand and Gillette, Nike and Carling are very different brands. Time will tell whether this works out for Gillette, or not. But if they think it will, and they back the work they have done to get to this point, then they should stay the course.

Stop, think and smooth the waters

When thinking about marketing and advertising placing itself in a cause-based or political space, some considerations would do well to make the waters smoother for these brands.

Broader understanding of political currents in your market and country.

What is the brand’s history and purpose: Does the brand sit comfortably in that space? Nike has a history of targeting youth with edgy adverts and pushing the boundaries with an audience who are aligned to their message – Just Do It. They also famously live up to their messages, with carefully selected sponsorships and are quick to pull out of sponsorships that do not align with these social messages.

Is there a tone of positivity and partnership: Carling Black Labels’ campaign has a positive tone that avoids any misinterpretation of the campaign as a criticism of masculinity as it is today.

Imagining the advert from a different perspective: Would the advert be received more positively or more negatively if a different type of person were used in the advert, women instead of men for example?

Will the message have a positive effect on sales, based on the product? There is a loose upper limit on how much Nike gear a fan will buy, likewise with Carling but unfortunately for Gillette, the rate at which people need to replace razors does not increase, even if they have nothing but praise for this ad. People are unlikely to wear Gillette branded apparel as a badge of honour, so there seems less obvious upside in immediate sales.

These are questions that research prior to launch will help answer. Playing in this space can be hugely advantageous for brands, but being bold also requires being prepared.

Blooming Business – NETFLORIST

Blooming business: NetFlorist has a rich, 20-year e-commerce history

NetFlorist was the talk of social media on this year’s Valentine’s Day, for all the wrong reasons. But this was just a blip on the e-commerce company’s history. Michael Bratt spoke to the company’s managing director, Ryan Bacher.

Having geared up for 45 000 deliveries on the day of love, load shedding and heavy rains severely impacted NetFlorist’s operations. Non-delivery of orders or the delivery of sub-standard gifts left many consumers fuming, and they weren’t shy about relaying their experiences on social media.

The backlash was handled very professionally by the brand, with Bacher issuing a video apology, which was posted on social media, and the company responding to all complaints.

“My gut is we haven’t recovered as a brand,” Bacher honestly responds, “because we upset our customers… I don’t know that you can always recover. All we could do was control how we tried to recover and learn from this and ensure we plan better for next year,” he adds.

This incident was a knock to NetFlorist, which has built itself up to become one of the largest e-commerce retailers in South Africa. Marketing has played a huge role in the brand’s growth over the years, and it’s interesting to see how their strategy has evolved.

The evolution of NetFlorist’s marketing

In the early days, NetFlorist didn’t use any brand marketing, instead relying on affiliates (partnering with large companies) to gain traction.

“We lost our brand in that space, but we were so new to the e-commerce retail journey we didn’t understand that the brand is important,” comments Bacher.

These relationships later morphed into co-branded environments, before NetFlorist launched its own brand journey. Radio was the chosen medium to begin with to get the message out, but nowadays Google AdWords dominates, followed by digital and social media, radio and out of home billboards and vehicle branding.

Having had a childhood friendship with current FCB Africa CEO Brett Morris, NetFlorist partnered with the agency for advertising campaigns. Bacher stresses that this was an important step, as FCB really understands the essence of who NetFlorist is, and that great creative is vital for marketing success.

“From day one it’s really been about getting NetFlorist to become a household name through the marketing. There obviously have been changes in strategy and product innovations and many other developments along the way, but the marketing has always been true to building the equity of the brand,” explains Morris.

This has led to a situation that Bacher describes as “the brand being bigger than the business”.

“Our brand has been overweight in terms of the success of our business. Our name is everywhere and people think it’s this giant business, but we’re relatively small. We’re lucky to have a brand that’s punched above the business, because people need to trust us to deliver and a brand helps that tremendously,” he elaborates.

Realising that NetFlorist would probably never have big advertising budgets, Bacher and Morris had to ensure that the end product, of whatever was being spent on marketing, stood out. This was where creativity and humour were incorporated, with NetFlorist becoming known for its mischievous, irreverent, tongue-in-cheek tone in adverts, which entertain.

Harold, based on the father of a friend of Bacher and Morris, has become synonymous with the brand and its advertising, arguably reaching the same level of celebrity status as Steve from FNB.

Complaints about adverts 

But many times, this advertising approach has landed the brand in hot water with consumers lodging complaints with the Advertising Standards Authority. The most recent one happened at the beginning of this year, with NetFlorist winning that case.

“We won the case, but we pulled the ad. We’ve done that before quite a few times. We’ve never lost a case against our ads, but we always pull the ads. If it gets to that stage we do that, because our aim is not to offend,” comments Bacher.

Morris says that NetFlorist is a fantastic client to work with because “they are not afraid to have a point of view and are brave enough to put their point of view out there. We have had some criticism in the past for being a bit too risqué, but you can never please all people all of the time,” he says. “As the saying goes, if you stand for something you may have some people for you and some against you and if you stand for nothing you will have nobody against you… but nobody for you either.”

Differentiating selling points

NetFlorist currently does on average 3 000 deliveries a day, with two thirds of those being same day. Same day delivery is a key differentiator for the brand, as is personalisation of gifts (across 1 000 different products), which is the fastest growing part of the business.

“What we try and do is provide what we think our customers want, even if it’s hard, because it raises the level at which competitors are going to have to take us on. For example, we moved the same day delivery cut-off time from 12:00 to 16:00 and we also introduced home delivery,” explains Bacher.

Future plans

Bacher says the business will continue to be the best it can be, with personalisation remaining a key driver. On the floral side, there are two focus areas over the next year; the introduction of home delivery and the scaling up of wedding deliveries.

Removing the gender lens from Generation Z marketing

Removing the gender lens from Generation Z marketing

By Iza Grek

Gender fluidity is the new normal and marketers need to take note.

“In a world where inclusivity is valued by Millennials and Gen Z, it’s important for brands to be considerate of how culture is shifting and changing today and into the future,” says Thabang Leshilo, senior consultant of brand and cultural strategy at Kantar Consulting.

“Advertising has been gender-specific for decades,” says Kyle Harker, communication activist and business unit director at full-service marketing agency, Hero Strategic Marketing. “In 2019, the way we market has to shift from cleaning products aimed at women and cars at men to where we are representative of society where communication, businesses and the way we view each other is not through a lens that is gender biased.”

Demographics are not the only common denominator for engagement. “Today it’s all about like-mindedness and shared values through which people choose to connect and live their lives. Brands should appeal to mindsets and values over gender; this way they don’t alienate anyone or perpetuate stereotypes, but rather open themselves up to a whole new world of consumers – leaving behind the constraining views of gender-based targeting,” Leshilo adds.

There’s definitely a price to pay for inappropriate gender stereotyping. Says Harker, “Not only is it lazy marketing to create stereotypical marketing campaigns, but they are damaging to the business (as well as agency) from a brand and credibility perspective. In the end, stereotypical campaigns do not reflect the real world where the roles and lives of men and women have become increasingly blurred, and ultimately a consumer buys into a brand they believe understands them as an individual and not as a statistic.”

Leshilo adds that the advent of social media gave rise to a very vocal consumer who is unafraid to speak up and challenge what brands do and say. “By not embracing this dynamic and authentic expression of what it means to be a human being in our society today, you not only lose relevance with a new generation, but damage your brand’s reputation and image as you continue to perpetuate an on-going social issue,” she says. Thus, an erosion of your brand’s equity and value in the market.”

Harker agrees. “Keeping this gender stereotypical approach will ultimately affect the bottom line of their business, as they will be isolating their consumer base and alienating segments of a market that could be potential customers.”

A point of emphasis is the role of the media: “Given how much power and influence the media has had on society in the past, people expect brands to be responsible and play a more active role in challenging and changing the status quo on how gender is portrayed through advertising,” Leshilo says.

The World Federation of Advertisers talks about ‘how to unstereotype ads’ and the question “Do marketers need strategic guidelines to get this right?” applies.

Leshilo believes marketers do need guidelines as well as an open mind to get this right. “These guidelines need to be informed and defined by a deep understanding of the cultural context and mindset of the people who consume your brand, to avoid assumptions and stereotypes made purely based on conventional views of gender.

“All marketing, including research and segmentation models, should be relooked and designed with a more inclusive mindset beyond the traditional notions of gender,” she asserts.

Harker says more self-awareness is required about the message that is being portrayed. “In my experience, having a culturally and gender diverse team allows for campaigns to be viewed from all perspectives. Real world opinions and perspective cannot be replaced with rules, it’s up to the brands and agencies to immerse themselves to be able to effectively communicate.”

Leshilo says, “Gender fluidity is real and it’s becoming the norm. I believe that it’s only a natural progression of our society and it’s here to stay.

“Gen Z, who have grown up in a hyper-connected world with unlimited access to information and diverse global influences, are the most empowered and self-liberated generation yet,” she comments.

“They may very well be the first truly free and openly gender-fluid generation who embrace gender and sexual orientation with an open mind and without judgement; and they will continue to influence and shape our world and our cultural narrative with new perspectives now and into the future.”

Jason Stein, founder and former CEO of social media agency, Laundry Service, says, “You still have to be authentic to what your brand is and who your brand is.”

Kelvin Claveria writes in his article ‘Ungendered: Why forward-thinking marketers are embracing gender fluidity’, “In the end, the emergence of gender-bending advertising campaigns is a reminder that brands need to invest in getting to know this post-Millennial generation.”

Leshilo remarks that as we move towards a gender-neutral society, “many brands have embarked on this journey by taking a stance against the social issue of gender stereotyping as a first step.

“I believe Gillette has been successful in having a bold point of view on the issue of male toxicity, which is often rooted in old ideas about gender, by directly addressing it through their latest campaign. Audi’s ‘Untaggable’ campaign showcased how powerful and dynamic women can be beyond the typical stereotypes placed on them.”

No ‘woke washing’ allowed Commenting on other gender-relevant campaigns, Leshilo says, “Through its #smashthelabel campaign, the Castle Lager brand has taken a bold stance against all stereotyping, with communication that is inclusive of all genders and sexual orientations, a first in the highly conservative world of South Africa with a traditionally male beer drinking market.

Rihanna’s Fenty Beauty fully embraces a gender-neutral brand image through its communication and choice of influencers of all genders and sexual orientation.

“As the first movers have been at the forefront of this cultural zeitgeist – leading the conversation and igniting a movement – through bold actions and points of view; the next wave of brands/more brands should simply embrace gender-neutrality as the norm or they may risk a backlash from consumers and lose all credibility if they find their efforts to be insincere and just another attempt at ‘woke washing’. It’s all about timing and authenticity!”