Newzroom Afrika TV Discussion

Ayabonga Cawe in studio with Sonto Pooe, Founder of the Native Child and Themba Gosa, Branding expert discussing how we can build trusted brands for entrepreneurs

Interviewer: You’re watching Business Unusual here on Newzroom Afrika channel 405. Today, our focus is on how we can build a trusted brand for entrepreneurs. And I’m joined in studio by Sonto Pooe, who’s the founder of Native Child and also joined by Themba Gosa who is a branding expert. Sonto and Themba, good afternoon to you and welcome to Business Unusual.

Sonto: Thank you.

Themba: Thank you.

Sonto: Thank you for having…

Interviewer: Sonto, let me maybe start off with you and I guess give this opportunity to you. Native Child, what is that about? And just briefly talk to us about your brand, and of course some of the other brand experiences that you’ve seen globally that have inspired your own brand.

Sonto: So, Native Child is a natural-based hair care and body care brand. We specialize…our products are plant based. And that just comes from my own experience in terms of having reacted to a lot of products that are out there, I really wanted to create a product or brand that really offers people something that’s more natural, and makes the body basically happy. So, that’s who Native Child is. Yeah. And in terms of where we are, I think we’ve grown a lot as a brand. We’ve been around now for about three and a half years and we are slowly becoming a brand that people are starting to know about.

Interviewer: Okay. Your plug.

Themba: Yes sir.

Interviewer: Aside from being a brand expert, you also of course run your own advertising company. Just talk to us about that briefly and I guess how branding is featured in that.

Themba: Okay. I run an agency called BWD advertising with my brother. And basically, how branding has come into play with that is, initially when we came into this space, we were known for one particular service, which was web design. And as a result, we had to expand and grow it a bit more. So, hence the reason we came into the aspect of brand storytelling, and we started at a story of how people would describe an agency, and… That’s it.

Interviewer: Okay. And just on that Themba, I mean a lot of brands that we are familiar with globally, have, you know, been an outcome of decades long and, in some cases, centuries long planning and brand promises, right? I mean, often make the example of Coca-Cola, you can find Coca-Cola even in places where there’s no water, you can find Coca-Cola. And people are able to distinguish that brand and all of its trademarks and everything else associated with that brand from maybe another brand that, I guess, is trying to potentially do something similar. What are some of the brands that you’ve seen globally that, really, I guess caught your eye and are distinguishable for how they’ve managed, not only to achieve their brand promise, but have also always remained on top of our minds?

Themba: Okay. Coco-Cola is that one premium example of a brand that has stuck out. And one other brand that has stuck out for me would be Apple. Though it was quite synonymous with Steve Jobs, but I like how he disrupted the market when he came in. Literally, people had one way of seeing the computer, and he introduced this new way of navigating through a computer and hence the reason the Macintosh and all the other products that he has introduced throughout the year.

Interviewer: And for you Sonto, I mean, you know, what brands have stood out in your own experience, not only just as a business person but as a consumer as well, right? Because we’re not just entrepreneurs, but we also consume some of these brands and interact with them.

Sonto: Yeah. So, for me, I would naturally go to the clothing brands. And I would say, someone like Cotton On who’s, I think, giving a lot of the local…

Interviewer: It’s an Australian brand, right?

Sonto: Yeah, who’s giving a lot of local, I dunno, companies a run for their money. And I think part of why they, as a brand, have become attractive, is the cost to the consumer. I think that makes a huge difference in terms of, if people can access it…the masses can access your brand or your product, I think it’s inevitable that it would be found…if wherein more people would have it and talk about it. So, that would be one brand that sticks out. And I also thought about Apple, being this premium brand that everyone aspires to, you know, to have their products. There are many others. I mean, I even think of the Sunlight Liquid soap versus some of the house brands that are made in stores. I always go towards that because of the experience that I’ve had. I think it’s also important, as a brand, to ensure that your customers have a certain experience, so that they come back. Because it’s how, you know, just…it’s not just a name, but it’s also part of the experience.

Interviewer: And I like what you raising here Sonto, because I think you’re touching on some of the things that drive the preferences of consumers for certain brands, right?

Sonto: Yes.

Interviewer: You touched on the aspiration question. There’s the question of quality. There’s the issue, in the Apple example, of innovation. And if you’re known for being that company that always pushes the envelope, that breaks the boundaries… And then, of course, there’s the notion of quality and even accessibility.

Sonto: Absolutely.

Interviewer: Am I able to access this brand? Is it something that, of course, I know if I buy this particular brand, maybe then a private white label house brand, potentially I’m gonna get a different customer experience. How important is that, Themba?

Themba: That’s very important because the notion’s that…the major thing that distinguishes a brand from any other thing is the promise. And the promise comes with the myriad of experiences that people have had, having interacted with your brand multiple times. First and foremost, as she’s highlighted, there’s Sunlight Liquid, because you’ve seen it multiple times, you’ve interacted with it multiple times and there’s always this messaging that Sunlight pushes across that if you use this product, you’re going to get this particular outcome. And hence the reason when you come in, you’re more inclined to choose it versus a non-branded product.

Interviewer: So, of course, that is part of the brand promise. But what are some of the examples, Sonto, that we’ve seen where the brand promise, one, has either not been met or two, has been a spectacular failure even in articulating the brand promise. So, have you seen any examples of that where you feel, hey, this brand, you know, they came out and promised us the world and then it was a total flop?

Sonto: I don’t wanna be killed by anyone.

Interviewer: Oh, well, I mean…

Sonto: But there are. I mean, I can just think of like two hair care brands, I’m not gonna mention names, who no longer exists today. Which I feel like it’s an important learning for any entrepreneur really, to make sure that you don’t over promise and to just focus on your vision and make sure that whatever you do promise, that it is what you’re actually promising. And I don’t know, I can’t think of any off the top of my head, but yeah, apart from the two hair care brands, I’m thinking of, that were in the market, that were advertising on TV. You don’t see them anymore, and it’s quite scary.

Interviewer: Okay. Themba?

Themba: Yeah.

Interviewer: Spectacular brand failures that you’ve seen.

Themba: Spectacular brand…

Interviewer: And just like Sonto, I guess you don’t have to mention it if you…you don’t have to mention the name of the brand if you don’t really want to mention it.

Themba: Yeah, I’m also a bit skeptical in mentioning names. Even with me, top of mind, I can think of a couple of hair care brands that were there, that were quite prominent, and over time they just fizzled out. I’m not entirely sure whether to attribute it to just brand or there was just something that happened within the business. But first and foremost, it’s…I think that the brand played a huge role, because that’s what people associate it with. The minute people don’t trust your brand any more, it’s always difficult to come back from that.

Interviewer: I like the point you’re raising Themba, because, you know, what do we attribute failure to sometimes, right? Might be a business model issue, where you potentially were playing in a space that either sort of had reached its product life cycle and you found yourself at the tail end of that. And there are many examples of that. I mean, if you think of a company like Samsung, for instance, growing up, I think many of the interactions we had with Samsung were either as washing machines, as microwaves, and seldom in the world of telephony, right?

Themba: Yeah.

Interviewer: And yet, you know, some people will tell you in South Korea that Samsung, even at some point, tried to create a car and they failed and they gave that to Daewoo at some point. But now they’ve distinguished themselves in the smartphone space, you know, at a time when, I think, two decades ago you would’ve thought Nokia would’ve been playing in that space. How much of that is a brand issue and how much of that is your choice in terms of your product, and where actually business model-wise you’re playing?

Sonto: I think it’s important, as a brand, to know who you are and what it is you’re trying to do. Because sometimes people wanna get into certain businesses, but they miss the market completely. So, you find that a company from the UK or the U.S. comes to S.A because they’ve had success in their country and will come here and try and implement whatever it is that was implemented there, but once it gets here, it falls flat. It’s important to know your market. It really is, because you can miss it completely. I’ll make an example in the natural hair space that I’m in, all the traditional big brands that were once there…

Interviewer: [inaudible 00:10:36]

Sonto: [inaudible 00:10:38] they no longer have the traction that they used to, because the consumer they had 20 years ago or 30 years ago, is not the same consumer today.

Interviewer: They thought the rollers would be there forever.

Sonto: [inaudible 00:10:52]. Relaxers will be there forever. People have changed. You know, people are more conscious, they’re more health-conscious. So, if as a brand you don’t evolve, you will definitely die off.

Interviewer: And I like the point that Sonto is raising, Themba, because she’s saying be able to read your context so well that you know what’s the zeitgeist at that point in time, you know what people are talking about. And, of course, if you’re talking about the world of beauty and cosmetics, you know that a lot of that now is saying, “How do we put an African aesthetic out there?”

Sonto: Yes.

Interviewer: I mean, are you finding similar trends where you’re seeing consumer preferences change with the context, and do you think that many brands are catching up? Least of all the ones you work with.

Themba: Yeah, I am. Because as you’ve highlighted, the one constant that’s always there is change. Unfortunately, if you wanna stick to one business model and say, “This has continually worked” you will lose your market share. Look at the Nokia example, like she said. They saw themselves in one space and as a result, as and when time moved, they got stuck behind.

Sonto: They didn’t evolve.

Themba: So, it’s always crucial to keep on evolving with the time. I think, for me, one example that sticks out in mind would be the example of fast food. Back in the day, there was a huge emphasis on fast foods and as a result, when you looked at many fast-food brands that came about, that focus was too much on making food fast…

Interviewer: Rather than giving you a quality experience.

Themba: …rather than giving you a quality experience. And as a result, people are shifting and they’re realizing, okay, beyond me getting a quick meal, there’s always the health aspect that has come into play. So, as a result, companies that are not necessarily adapting to that, they’re finding that the huge chunk of the market that they had are now being taken by new players who are considering other factors that are coming in.

Interviewer: Okay. Let’s pause there for a second. I’m joined in studio by Sonto Pooe. She’s the founder of Native Child and also joined by Themba Gosa, a brand expert. And we are going to take a quick break now. And remember you can ask us your questions and tell us what you think on the socials. Our hashtag on Twitter is #businessunusual and our official handle is @405business_. Do send through some of those questions. We continue our conversation on the other side of this break.

[00:13:23]

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[00:15:45]

Welcome back. It’s Start Up Monday right here on Business Unusual. And still with me in studio to discuss the importance of branding for any early-stage enterprise is Sonto Pooe and Themba Gosa from Native Child and BWD Advertising respectively. Now we’re talking about important steps for building a successful brand. And I think many of you would have seen Joe Nawaz interview on Friday, which indicated to us that a brand is not just a logo or having a nice sort of corporate ID and all manner of stationery related to that, but it probably has a bigger strategic impetus and… Sonto, I mean, when we talk about that strategic impetus, a lot of it is some of the things we’ve already touched on, which is, where are you in the product life cycle? Where are consumer preferences? And I think over and above that, there’s also a question of, you know, what is your market looking like and what are some of the changes that you are seeing in the marketplace? And I’d be interested, in the space that you operate in, in the world of beauty and cosmetics, what are some of the key shifts that we are seeing that potentially have a bearing on people that work in that sector?

Sonto: So, traditionally, I’m talking about the South African market. You know, as a consumer, you didn’t care who produced the product. You tried it, it burnt your scalp. You’ll try it again, it burns your scalp. The current consumer is very much educated. They want to know who’s behind the brand. Do they look like me? Do they know the struggles that I have to go through? So, there’s a lot of that going into play. There’s a lot of black beauty. You know, we come from, again, an era where if you were fair skinned or lighter or even white, you were considered better. And we’ve seen a huge shift in people that look like myself saying, “I’m good just the way I am.” And so, that then speaks to the type of products that you are creating because of the type of consumer that you’re creating is very much…they wanna feel like, you understand that they are who they are, therefore you need to create products that cater for them.

It’s no longer enough to create just a product and we pray and hope it works, but that we create products that actually do work. Number two, these consumers now can read ingredients. So, it’s important, again, to be creating products that are not going to harm people. And it’s on social media, which makes it extremely volatile. You know, one day you can be up there, the next thing, you know…we know how social media is. So, yeah, it’s just those things that you just need to have in mind…bear in mind when you’re creating whatever brand that you are creating to make sure that you’re constantly engaging your consumers and taking that feedback.

Interviewer: Sure. Let’s talk about that. And I like the point that Sonto makes, which is around many of the sales or considerations of the sales are happening on digital platforms. Many of the brand interactions and conversations are also happening on digital platforms, which then, of course, means, you know, rather than a billboard or even, I guess, flyers or a sticker all over the place, some of the brand exposure and the brand, I guess, sort of consumer-facing ought to happen on digital platforms. What tips and advice would you have, I guess, for entities…? Or all of us now, I guess, are playing in the digital space, so what tips would you have about positioning your brand in the digital universe so that you can drive, I guess, more considerations for people but also drive those considerations that turn into sales and turn into purchasing decisions?

Themba: I think, first and foremost, is having some form of social media presence. The issue that’s generally there, that I’ve noticed with most companies is that, when social media came into play, all that they did was create social media accounts and they left it there. Whereas, social media is a platform that enables you to interact with your consumer. So, it’s very important, over and above posting content out there, where you’re promoting your services, that you are also interacting with your client, getting feedback about your product, getting feedback about your service. That would be one platform. Then also on search platforms like your Google, your Bing and all these other search platforms, because more and more people…as you said, over and above looking at billboards, billboards are no longer picking up traction as much. So, most people are looking for your company on the internet. So, it is important to create your own story on the internet where you’re doing some form of content marketing.

Interviewer: Sure. What are the tools? And I ask you this as somebody who, I guess, is good in setting up websites and the like. Because the one tool I would think of are some of the social media accounts. There would also be then a website, and some people put in some payment capability on those websites so that they can drive some sales through that. But we often hear this word of SEO which is sort of a search engine optimization. And for some of us who probably don’t speak Java or Python, what is that?

Themba: I think with me, the simplest way that I always put it is you being able…your company being able to be found on Google or on Bing or on Yahoo, on whatever search engine it is. So, it’s just a process of marketing your content in such a way that it’s easier for search engines to find it. A huge aspect of it would be content marketing. Content marketing is just writing up content that speaks about your product. For example, when a person looks for a hair care product, if they don’t have your specific brand in mind, they’re going to search for that particular thing and say whatever name. So it’s about drafting your content in such a way that it’s speaking to whatever request a typical consumer is looking for.

Interviewer: Okay. Now, it’s interesting, Sonto, when he says, you need to be top of mind for the consumer to even search for you. And one of the things we haven’t touched on, which I think is crucial, is that the business is a juristic person, right? It’s legally a different entity to the owner of the business. How important is it to also, I guess, speak about the brand of the person who is in the driving seat of the business, and ensure that there’s some form of alignment here between what the business does and what the business professes to be, from a brand perspective with the brand of the individual? So, let me give you an example.

Sonto: I think it’s fairly important because you don’t wanna create doubt, right?

Interviewer: Yeah.

Sonto: So, I’m just saying…

Interviewer: So, you can’t be running a, how do I put it? A rehab center and you are the biggest drunk in town.

Sonto: Exactly. It has to be aligned, otherwise, who are you fooling really? It has to be aligned. I feel like people are looking out for such things because the minute there’s doubt, you’ve lost the customer. And, you know, we all sit around circles and then we chat and then it’s not just that one person, it’s 10 more. And so, yeah, it’s absolutely important. And just to touch on what he was saying about making sure that when people search your…let’s say a Google, a search engine, you’ll come up, I think it is important. Otherwise, you lose all those potential sales. It’s important… I mean, now it’s actually so much easier. That’s why I feel like the huge billboards, you see a lot of them that are empty, when you drive along highways now. And the reason for that is because digital marketing is so much more affordable. It means a small player like myself, can target a specific area, to a town, to a square meter.

Interviewer: To a demographic.

Sonto: Yes. So, I can target the U.S., a specific area in California. I can…based here, I can target wherever I am, which you could not have the freedom of doing before without paying, I mean, a fortune. So, everybody can take part economically and make sure that their business is growing by taking advantage of Google ads, Instagram posts, and all those things.

Interviewer: Okay. Guys, we’ll have to leave with there. Unfortunately, we have run out of time. It’s been a delight to speak to the two of you, Themba and Sonto. And that’s where we’re gonna leave it for today. Tomorrow is Stock Market Tuesdays, and we are taking a look at some interesting alternative ways of putting away your money, it being a savings month. We’re going to be speaking to a guy who’s…I guess they’ve got a very interesting take on how we can save every single day. And he’s gonna be joining us tomorrow for Stock Market Tuesdays. You don’t want to miss that one. Engage with us on social media, our handle on Twitter is @405business_. Our Hashtag is #businessunusual. It’s a wrap from us here at Business Unusual. Do stay tuned to Newzroom Afrika, channel 405.