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Tue - 15 Sep 2020

Should Luxury Brands do Influencer Marketing in Africa?

The answer is yes, as social media marketing might be their best hope to develop strong consumer ties on the continent

Following a decade of growth driven by public investments, the advent of technology, rising exports to China, and a fast-growing and young consumer class, the private sector — the engine of brands — is predicted to fuel the growth of the African continent. And, with the growth in touch points, to reach consumers online, Millennials and Gen Z audiences increasingly hold a larger share of wallet which, in today’s uncertain climate, means focusing on digital influencer marketing might just be the luxury industry’s best way forward — especially on the African continent.

“An exciting news to marketers is that Africa presents a thrilling environment for internet service  providers  (ISP)  and  online  advertisers: the Internet has a transformative potential in Africa,” explained the South African researcher Adeleye Afolabi in his publication Social Media Marketing: The Case of Africa. He added that a recent report by the Pew Research Global Attitudes Project (“Emerging  Nations  Embrace  Internet,  Mobile  Technology” ) stated that 78 percent of Internet usage in Africa is for social media. 

“This sets a good foundation for Africa’s social media marketing industry. With the internet estimated  to  contribute  a  minimum  of  $300  billion  to  Africa’s  GDP  by  2025,  social  media marketing  could contribute  almost  $230  billion  out  of  the  estimated  $300  billion to Africa’s remarkable growth by then,” he continued. Therefore, luxury and fashion brand marketers need to adopt local social media strategies on the continent if they are to conquer Africa’s ever-growing cohort of young customers and become its next big story. Still according to Afolabi, companies and brands need to ask themselves how social media channels such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Tik Tok can be leveraged to build strong customer loyalty in Africa’s very fragmented markets. 

The latter social media channel represents a particularly interesting opportunity for luxury and fashion brands, especially in Africa where the young population — the demographic cohorts of Millennials and Gen Z — are particularly present. Tik Tok has de facto established itself as a key platform in the influencer marketing spectrum. “This social network, with 46% of users between 16 and 24 years old, is already a new channel to exploit with influencers for 42% of brands within the industry,” explained Michael Jaïs, CEO of Launchmetrics in the company’s annual 2020 luxury industry report. “Tik Tok is making a big play when it comes to capturing Millennial and Gen Z consumers. Of the brands investing in new channels, specifically Tik Tok, 55% say it is because they want to engage with a new consumer,” he added. 

In addition to TikTok, other non-traditional media are consumer favourites on the African continent. According to the “Africa’s Top 100 Brands 2020” report of African Business, streaming giant Netflix comes in at #10, ahead of traditional media stalwarts such as SABC, France24 and Sky News. Just outside the top 10, at #12, social media juggernaut Facebook also ranked above traditional media brands, while YouTube came in at #20, Google at #24 and Instagram at #25. These non-traditional digital players are de facto increasingly preferred media channels among African consumers and represent an interesting digital playground for luxury and fashion marketers.

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Still according to Michael Jaïs, micro influencers with niche followings continue to be the most effective for luxury and fashion brands whose main objective is a greater connection and closeness with their audiences. Could strengthening ties with micro influencers on the African continent help brands to establish themselves there?  Perhaps more than ever, the key to a successful influencer marketing strategy is this form of local identification. In this context, building a customer-centric relationship that goes far beyond fashion or the product itself, is essential. “The influencer marketing industry will make a shift from being a solely top-down approach, to being more bottom-up. Content development for brand-creator collaborations will be influenced more directly from creators themselves, as they try and develop more entertaining content for their existing audiences. The shift away from product-led activations will allow the direction to land more significantly in to the influencer’s hands,” Jais predicted. 

In this sense, to be successful on the African continent, luxury and fashion brands need to develop deep local insights, focus on localised marketing strategies and digitalise their marketing budgets — three critical points that can be achieved by working with African micro influencers. As a result, international luxury and fashion brands could eventually manage to create an intimate and authentic relationship with the African consumer. Needless to say, the advent of the digital age has brought about a fundamental shift in luxury goods consumption globally — and now, it is about time for the luxury and fashion industry to focus on its African partner.