Issued by: UCT Unilever Institute of Strategic Marketing
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Fascinating new research shows that an alarming percentage of Black Diamonds – South Africa’s fast-growing and affluent black middle class – feel that marketing communication often misses the mark when it comes to connecting with them. Black middle classA hot-off-the-press study by the UCT Unilever Institute and Research Surveys has found that 49% of Black Diamonds feel that they are misrepresented in the media by local marketers and advertisers. One respondent summed up the feeling of almost half of the respondents by saying: “South Africa has had the political revolution, we’re in the midst of the economic revolution, but we have yet to see a media revolution!”
UCT Unilever Institute and Research Surveys coined the term ‘Black Diamond’ earlier this year after undertaking the first comprehensive marketing study on SA’s black middle class. The term refers to South Africa’s two million-strong black middle class which is growing at an estimated rate of 50% a year, and currently has an annual spending power of R130-billion.
The first study looked at the market’s size and value, and uncovered its demographic, attitudinal and spending patterns. The second, more qualitative study was conducted to help marketers find more effective ways of connecting with this market. It focuses not only on media and media consumption, but on Black Diamond’s attitudes towards alternative ‘connection points’, such as branded events, SMS marketing and internet advertising.
Professor John Simpson, Director of the UCT Unilever Institute, believes the results of the latest research are certain to generate a great deal of debate when they are relayed to the business community in series of nationwide seminars in September.
“South Africa’s Black Diamonds are not a homogenous group and consist of a number of different segments defined by life-stage, age, occupation, education and income. However there is agreement across all the segments regarding the media message aimed at them. They feel that their true identity is not understood, and are that they are often misrepresented,” says Prof Simpson.
Simpson says the new study shows a pressing need for marketers to do further research – and better understand – their Black Diamond target market. “Respondents call on marketers and advertisers to commit to learning about their lives to avoid the stereotypes that are often portrayed in current communication. One respondent summed this up by challenging the marketing industry to: ‘Talk to us, engage with us, capture our imagination’.”
Refiloe Mataboge, a Director of Research Surveys, says over two-thirds of respondents felt that many adverts show black South Africans in a poor light. “Our new research indicates that attention to detail in advertising is of paramount importance. With 87% of Black Diamonds watching TV daily, TV advertising can be a powerful tool. However, Black Diamonds are often offended by advertisements where cultural details are overlooked. They ask the question, ‘Did the person who created this advert really know and understand me?'” says Mataboge.
According to the study, Black Diamonds feel that two extremes are portrayed in marketing communication: the stereotypical BEE ‘fat cat’ living in luxury, and the domestic worker or labourer. Respondents felt that the vast majority of Black Diamonds were not represented by either of these stereotypes, while 79% believe that too much media attention is focused on those regarded as ‘up-and-coming’.
Mataboge maintains that although advertisers are showing more black people in their adverts, the way in which these characters are ‘utilised’ does not reflect the diversity within the black community. “There are thousands of people who lie in the middle of these extreme stereotypes, and they are not reflected in the media – most respondents felt that there was no media that truly represents who they are. Although there is now high visibility of black faces, there is not enough visibility of the diversity of black voices and personalities,” she says.
The research also shows that a surprisingly wide variety of media is consumed by Black Diamonds. “This makes Black Diamonds extremely difficult to reach using purely conventional marketing approaches,” explains Simpson. “The study shows that Black Diamonds generally have fast-paced lifestyles, and face many competing demands on their time. This means information is picked up from a variety of different sources.”
Respondents report they are playing a game of catch-up now that so many new opportunities are presented to them. Many are holding down multiple jobs, studying part-time, while also raising a family. This pressure cooker environment means limited time and attention is given to specific media.
“Marketers can no longer rely on a one-size-fits-all approach to connecting with Black Diamonds. This very diverse and segmented market has widely differing needs, desires and aspirations,” says Simpson.
“It is incorrect to assume that Black Diamonds can always be reached through traditional media. Media consumption is extremely fragmented. Marketers and advertisers are facing a challenge – we need to explore new points of connection, and to understand the different segments within the Black Diamond group,” maintains Simpson.
Presentations ‘Connecting with Black Diamond’ will be held nationwide in September. For further information visit

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