Marketers must accept multicultural society

21 July 2003
It is essential for marketers to better understand what black South African consumers consider to be important community events and how these are celebrated.

According to Professor John Simpson, head of UCT's Unilever Institute of Strategic Marketing, this will ensure marketers are able to develop their own marketing guidelines and strategies applicable to South Africa's multicultural society and weather rather than simply adopting a Eurocentric approach.

Simpson was speaking at the launch of the Institute's results of Project Celebrations - a multi-phase project investigating South African's attitudes and behaviour around special events on the calendar. The first phase was the successful Stockings and Stokvels, completed in February 2002, which examined the way black South Africans celebrate Christmas.

"The overall objective for this phase of the project was to identify the special events in the black cultures in South African society, to explore how these consumers commemorate these special events and how they incorporate them into their lives," explained Simpson.

The project aims to help marketers best interpret the information and make it relevant to their purposes, he added. The sample comprised black males and females aged from 20-40 years in major metropolitan areas. Although making up only 14% of the South African population, these "buppies" (black upwardly-mobile urban professional people) account for approximately 50% of the total spending power.

The research indicates that the shape and size of an event is determined by the forces acting upon it. Some of these forces are internal in nature and include spirituality and traditional beliefs, while others are derived from external influences such as materialism and western culture.Events are categorised as being Milestones, Motivational Mixers and Moments and atmospheric agents of these events include people, fare (food and liquor), clothing and gifts.

Milestone events are funerals, marriages and 21st birthdays while Motivational Mixers include graduation parties, baby showers, kitchen teas and housewarmings. Moments are Valentines, Mother's and Father's Day.

Preliminary research, conducted by UCT students, included focus groups, in-depth interviews and literature interviews. There were also nine qualitative focus groups, 25 in-depth video interviews as well as a number of immersion workshops, which included academic and black marketer input. The quantitative research was made up of 2 000 face-to-face interviews.

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