To South African Brandpreneurs: ‘Support local’ is a weak ammunition

Let’s be honest, do you support local than what you love (which is mostly international stuff)? If you do, you are an uncelebrated hero.

Even the unions’ (Cosatu, Num, Numsa etc.) investment arms do not invest in local young start-ups. I do not know these for a fact – I am an ars…

I used to own and run 2 labels: gabble heights and Rural Joss. Most people who bought our clothes did so because they loved the brand: design, fabric, intrigue, appeal and fit. This is all from feedback. I am sure there were those who bought because we were local guys and others because they were our friends.

But I am definitely sure those who bought out of fascination with far out weighted those who supported out of ‘buy local’.

Lets us take All Star Converse as an example. It is an American brand. It is loved everywhere else in the world, especially here in South Africa. In the past it used to be associated with ma-pantsula, but now it appeals to a lot different sub-cultures. Actually it cuts across sub-cultures. For some people, they just have to have it.

When a South African buys All Star, it is because it intrigues them in one way or another. Whether it’s that it looks good on them or that it is in trend or it is their signature.

When an American buys it, either one or all of these reasons apply. The nationality of the brand could to an extend bear weight (I think it’s extremely little), but I am sure it is not a determining factor – it is just a bonus: the shoe’s intrigue, look and appeal outweigh the brand’s geographical roots.

Hence Americans can love many other European brands: Versace Versace Versace Versace Versace –or whatever number of times that songs says Versace. It is a product’s intrigue which determines if a sale is made.

Loxion Kulca

I remember H20’s 2003 (am I right?) ‘wonderful’ video. It featured a whole lot of South African celebrities wearing Loxion Kulca. We immediately loved the brand either because of its appeal, design, meaning (especially for a resurging SA), intrigue and the famous stylish people who wore it. Zandi Nhlapo boss. The ‘proudly local’ factor came last, if it came – it was just a bonus.

I am not dictating how people should run their brands, but what I think will stand out is: design, meaning, appeal, intrigue and whatever reaction it gets out of people. But I strongly believe you cannot bank on the ‘buy local’ tag.

It is time we start making products which are just good on the basis of they are good.

We need as a country, to create a foundation for young entrepreneurs to start businesses of compelling value. Entrepreneurial education is schools is mere enterprising i.e. buying and selling what is available or making what the entrepreneur feels is needed – not what is usable and needed by society. When I say compelling value I mean, businesses which are not compelling because they are proudly made in SA by a South African, but because they honestly intrigue interest in people/consumers to own them and/or use their value – here and beyond South Africa.

People buy the kind of compelling value which beats substitute (competition) products with one factor or more. We can agree Blackberry is a crappy phone, but some people still buy it over (or with) Samsung and Apple because of BIS, and maybe that it has cheaper versions. I know I do. Therefore Blackberry has a feasible ‘compelling value’ given its better competition.

But please, buy my book Forget The Business Plan Use This Short Model’ because it is ‘proudly local’.