Posts Tagged ‘branding the unbranded’

Professionals stand above the competition: Branding lessons from street vendors of Africa

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Zimbabwe

Farai Mushayademo’s distinctive dress sense, with a different shiny suit every day, makes him a darling of customers and helps him beat the “rising competition,” he said.

This article on the increasing competition for the burgeoning informal economy of Harare, the capital of Zimbabwe, came less than a month after we saw this smartly turned out fruit vendor plying his trade in the streets of Accra, Ghana.

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Ghana

For communicating brand quality, the Ghanaian gentleman surely deserves an award. His read to eat fruit was as smartly packaged and labelled as any consumer brand in a supermarket.

cth8lhbxyaqv0lyI’ve written before on the topic of ‘Branding the Unbranded’ – whether its the humble avocado being sold by the side of the road in upcountry Kenya, or a designer BBQ meant for the emerging middle class – but these distinctively dressed gentlemen on two opposite ends of the vast African continent come under an entirely new category of product and service innovation happening in the informal sector.

How do you set yourself apart in the unbranded informal economy in response to rising competition is a challenge. Ghanaian market women’s customer development and retention strategies in a commodity market (potatoes) were documented a decade ago, and found to rely on social skills, including non verbal ones such as eye contact and encouraging smiles. Yet, her advantage is that her potential customers are slowly walking through the market, looking for the best potatoes to purchase. She has the time to call out and attract their attention.

For these men on the streets, walking through traffic, that advantage is fleeting or nonexistent. They must grab attention *and* communicate their messaging in an instant (can they have been reading Gladwell’s blink?) – and the fruit vendor, with his spotless white gloves, and packaged fruit, clearly rises above the rest with his strategy.

The police are also, one hopes, less likely to chase a man in a three piece suit off the street. This is one pan African trend worth keeping an eye on.

Marketing the Unbranded: Avocados on the side of the Road

Brand stickers on avocados sold by the side of the road, Kenya. April 2013

Brand stickers on avocados sold by the side of the road, Kenya. April 2013

These stickers caught my attention. The only one of a long line of makeshift wooden stalls by the side of a highway in Central Kenya to display what looked like branded avocados. Were they part of some cooperative or horticulture exporter’s leftovers?

They turned out to belong to Maude, the ambitious and aspirational market woman whose avocados stood out among the crowd. No other type of produce was on sale in this roadside cul de sac lined with at least 8 or 10 stalls piled high with avocados.

She’d heard that branding her produce would help it sell. It was a marketing strategy. And so she’d invested in these stickers for her fruit. Did she sell to supermarkets or the formal retail sector, we asked, still thinking these were part of the formal value chain, given the familiarity of the stickers on fruit and veg.

Nope, just here, by the side of the road. But she aspired to sell them under her brandname, and her ambition was build a reputation for quality that would, perhaps, lead to greater things. She wanted people to come back and ask for her by name.