I came across SABMiller’s recent presentation on their consumer market strategy and some of their infographics caught my attention. This one, for instance, not only shows the relative proportion of formal to informal alcoholic beverages prevalent in the market but also informs us that it costs 4 hours to buy a beer in Africa, compared to minutes elsewhere. A caveat here is to wonder where they are pricing the European beer as anyone who has been to the Nordic knows that beer is ridiculously expensive up here.
I like the way they’ve dived deep into understanding their target audience’s needs and aspirations as they seek to localize their offering. While we tend to feel superior to such discretionary vices as alcohol when considering lower income markets (the erstwhile “Bottom of the Pyramid”) there’s a lot to be gleaned from their marketing strategy as they have to work harder to reach their customers. Social enterprises could do worse than to take a leaf from their book.
It was this aspirational upward mobility that offered food for thought when I tweeted it. Teddy Kinyanjui of Cookswell Jikos, Kenya observed that this consumer behaviour of seeking premium products by the emerging middle class was also responsible for his own product sales. He makes designer BBQs based on the traditional jiko – the humble charcoal stove used for cooking. He called this aspirational shift the upmarket version of the age old favourites nyama choma (roast meat) and pombe (homebrew).
Talking about homebrew, this was the most interesting part of the SABMiller presentation. They’ve formalized the informal. Home made sorghum beer is a regional favourite, what the company calls opaque beer. Its cheap and ubiquitous. The trouble starts when all kinds of additives and contaminants are used to boost its potency, leading to death, blindness and other such devastating side effects. Their version, naturally, is pasteurized, hygienic and safe.
Yet, how to reach the vast informal market accustomed to no name local brews? This is where their packaging/price point strategy gets interesting, as it seeks to wean folks away from illicit liquor into branded quality even while creating an entirely new product category, with its own supply chain ecosystem.
I had always thought that it was innovations in the payment plan or business model that offered the flexibility to bridge the formal and informal, not the actual product category itself. This is a concept I’ll be exploring further with an indepth article on Cookswell Jikos.