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Out of Africa: the top 5 mobile inventions

Africa and mobile technology are a match made in heaven. Mobile technology has allowed hundreds of thousands of people to leapfrog traditional, and poorly implemented, wired telecommunications to be able to communicate over vast distances. Add in to the mix the necessity to find innovative ways to get around constraints, plus the MacGyver-ish ability to take bits and pieces of one thing and build something else, and it’s not surprising that so many mobile inventions have come out of the continent.

Here are the top five mobile inventions we recommend you take a look at:

  1. M-Pesa

    Even though M-Pesa had a pretty disappointing start in South Africa, with only around 100 000 registrations in its first nine months, it definitely ranks up there as one of Africa’s top mobile inventions, and has been deployed as far afield as Afghanistan and Fiji. M-Pesa was launched by the former CEO of Kenyan mobile operator Safaricom, Michael Joseph, in 2007. Today, 15 million of Safaricom’s 17.5 million subscribers use the system to transfer US$700-million per month, according to Joseph, speaking before the 5th Annual Mobile Banking and Emerging Application Summit.M-Pesa gives people who do not have bank accounts and previously only dealt in cash a way to safely and cost-effectively transfer money via their mobile phones. Safaricom, in partnership with Kenya’s Equity Bank, also allows customers to earn interest on M-Pesa balances.

  2. Fundamo

    Mobile banking golden child, Fundamo, announced a cool US$110 million (R750 million) acquisition by Visa this month. The company, founded by Hannes van Rensburg, ex-Sanlam CIO, in Cape Town’s northern suburbs, provides mobile banking infrastructure to mobile operators and financial institutions.Like M-Pesa, Fundamo proves that cellphones are key to providing banking services to the large number of people around the world who don’t qualify for, or have access to, a bank account. Fundamo has more than 50 active mobile financial service deployments in more than 40 countries around the world, including 27 in Africa, Asia and the Middle East. These deployments currently have five million registered subscribers, and have the potential, the company says, to reach in excess of 180 million people.

  3.  MXit

    Arguably the bane of many parents’ lives, MXit, founded in Stellenbosch, South Africa in 2003, is the free online instant messenger and social networking platform that allows users to instant message via a cellphone at a fraction of the cost of a text message. For a small fee, as well as your data charges, users can also buy goods such as wallpapers and ringtones, or have conversations in the MXit chat rooms.User numbers are tricky to pin down, but are understood to be in the region of 10 million active unique users and 25 million registered users — primarily in South Africa, but also in Indonesia and other countries around the world. Increasingly marketers, educators and professionals in the healthcare industry are realising that MXit is an effective way of reaching the youth and young adult market. Next on the cards for MXit is a mobile wallet in partnership with wiWallet to allow purchases of larger items such as airtime, electricity and retail goods.

  4. Ushahidi

    Ushahidi was born during the Kenyan election riots in 2007, when blogger Juliana Rotich wanted a way to allow people on the ground to report on violence, with the information primarily being captured by cell phone. Since then the Ushahidi team has built a powerful platform that captures information during a crisis, and displays it on a map to allow emergency services and other parties to get a crowdsourced view of what is happening.It was recently used as quickly as two hours after the Japanese earthquake earlier this year to identify locations where people might be trapped, dangerous areas, and the location of food and water supplies. Ushahidi has been used around the world during both political and natural crises in the USA, Haiti, Libya and India, amongst others.

  5. JamiiX

    Another messaging platform, JamiiX grew out of a mobile instant messaging service used to counsel teenagers affected by drugs, alcohol addiction, and HIV in the Cape Flats area of Cape Town. The JamiiX platform was developed by South African, Marlon Parker, to effectively manage multiple mobile chat and mobile social networks streams. It allows eight counsellors to have 300 instant messaging (IM) conversations in one hour, massively increasing their ability to assist those who need help.It was released for third party use in 2010, and the WHO (World Health Organisation) has deployed JamiiX, in conjunction with MXit, in Indonesia to aid communications after natural disasters. Deployments are also underway in Nigeria and Malaysia.

First published on Vomo.

The state of mobile marketing in South Africa: Where are the case studies?

South Africa is well-known as a global leader in the mobile space — within our borders in any case – and we have been credited with a number of world-wide firsts including pre-paid mobile accounts, and SMS banking alerts. Indeed, some of our best-known, local-global success stories are mobile related — think Fundamo, MXit and Clickatell.

Unfortunately, I’d argue, we aren’t always the best at shouting our successes from the rooftops, and I am concerned that I am seeing the same thing happen in the mobile marketing space. By rights, we should be setting the standard for real results-orientated, broad-based mobile marketing campaigns. Let’s ignore, for the minute, the fact that headline writers all to often favour the sexy, yet very niche iPhone, over more bread ‘n butter stuff that is actually reaching a target audience in a highly effective way. I’m still not seeing awesome case studies coming from South African companies and agencies, with real results and ROI data attached to them.

I did a brief round up of how others in the industry would summarise the state of mobile marketing in South Africa today:

BulkSMS’s Pieter Streicher reminds us that permission-based marketing is here to stay, especially when it comes to mobile marketing:

By now, most companies should have woken up to the fact that if they want to stay in business for any length of time, permission-based marketing is the order of the day. In other words, get permission from customers and potential customers before marketing to them. What companies might not yet realise, is that SMS can be key to gaining this permission.

But, all too often the ball is dropped after the first engagement, making the customer database worthless. Once a company has started an SMS conversation with a customer – whether via an in-store promotion, on-package competition, TV ad or at an event – the engagement needs to be extended via a subscription to a VIP club, offer discounts and vouchers, provision of useful information or any number of other value-based offerings via a range of communication channels, including SMS.

An upbeat Mike Stopforth from Cerebra says:

It’s been an extremely exciting second-half of 2011 so far for mobile marketing. The sale of MXit to World of Avatar promises the continued growth and development of the mammoth instant messaging platform, while other homegrown applications like continue to achieve maturity and attract key clients and brands. The days of mobile marketing being limited to an SMS campaign and a mobisite are long gone, with agencies and clients alike looking to integrate mobile into marketing campaigns and online community management. In some cases we’re even seeing mobile lead marketing efforts. It’s an exciting time to be in mobile and I look forward to what 2012 will reveal!

Speaking of MXit, the mobile messaging company’s new owner and boss, Alan Knott-Craig feels we’re only at the beginning of what is to come:

Brands are only now awaking to the marketing opportunities presented by mobile phones…. Vodacom sends over 20 million Please Call Me’s every day. Each message ends with a short paid-for advert. They are sold out months in advance! At MXit we have over R1 billion of advertising inventory this year. Ten million people engage with MXit on a daily basis, spending an average of 45 hours a month on the platform. Show me another property like that and I’ll eat my hat.

Google’s head of mobile for SA, Brett St Clair pinpoints 2012 as the year of the smartphone in SA, as well as the opportunity that exists for shopping and mobile. He also points out that perhaps I haven’t been paying attention, with SA agencies winning international mobile marketing awards:

South Africa lead the way early in 2009 with Mobile Web Marketing, ranking in top 3 countries in the world for traffic volumes. Things have evolved and with around 6.7 million smartphones in the Market and this is on a rapid growth path as low cost Android handsets enter the market so we are seeing South Africa top the charts once again with mobile marketing audience engagement. This time consumers are engaging with search on mobile smartphones, using apps and HTML5.

Already 1 in 3 searches have a location element in them, consumers are using their phones as shopping companions on the go. 2012 will definitely be the year of the smartphone in South Africa, this will allow marketers to engage with audiences using rich media, contextually relevant targeting features and complete end to end tracking on phones. It is great to be working in one of the most innovating countries in the world when it comes to Mobile Marketing, last year South African marketing agencies won 3 out of the 5 international MMA Awards (Mobile Marketing Association), I am looking forward to this year’s event.

While all of these are great points, notice what’s missing from the industry at large? Real-life examples of effective campaigns, whether stand alone or as part of a multi-channel campaign, with actual results and outcomes. Instead, unfortunately, we are being fed and/or are resorting to case studies from abroad, typically more suited to a US or European, iPhone-wielding market.

First published on Vomo.

How to drive customer engagement via mobile

Unlike any other digital device, mobile phones – especially smartphones – have entrenched themselves in so many parts of our lives, both online and offline. This is perhaps unsurprising, given we take our mobile phones everywhere with us, and typically have a pretty close relationship with them.

Recent statistics show to what extent the smartphone is already impacting our on- and offline shopping experiences, and this provides retailers and mobile marketers potentially very fertile ground for driving customer engagement via mobile.

According to Google’s Our Mobile Planet data, 28% of South African smartphones users say they take their smartphones along with them to compare prices and inform themselves about products while shopping. 26% have changed their mind about buying a product or service while in-store, based on the information they discovered using their smartphones. And, this behaviour extends to online shopping as well: 27% of South African smartphone users have changed their mind about buying a product or service online as a result of info they have gathered using their smartphone.

Only 15% of South African smartphone users have used mobile coupons for shopping in-store however, so it seems we have a long way to go when it comes to proactively engaging with customers via their smartphones.

Here are five suggestions for driving customer engagement via mobile:

1. Go online

Far too many retailers in South Africa barely have an adequate desktop internet site, not to mention mobile site (a PDF of a brochure does not constitute an adequate online presence). Not only should product or service information be easily available online, with pricing and contact information, the site should be mobile optimised for the smartphone users searching for product and pricing information on-the-fly (take a look at how Gap tripled its conversion rates with its m-commerce site). Based on the data above, it is clear that consumers are going to walk out your store, or pick up a competitor product off the shelf, if they can get better information online, via their smartphone, from your rival.

2. Be clever about QR codes

QR codes have received a fair bit of bad press recently, but I am tending to agree with the opinion that this is because they have been poorly implemented, rather than the lack of any intrinsic marketing value in the technology itself. The concept is still relatively new, with best practices and comparative data still emerging, but used right could be a very powerful way of driving customer engagement via a mobile device. Marketers need to think through their QR code campaigns a bit better for this to happen, including how the campaigns are constructed, the content provided by the barcode, and the follow-ups and calls to action.

3. Build a mobile community

We’ve been all about online communities for the last few years, but it’s obvious that with so many “mobile-first” and “mobile-only” internet users out there, mobile communities are going to be crucial to engaging with customers. Brands such as Guinness are doing interesting things with mobile communities in Nigeria via Motribe – and it would be fascinating to see how this has impacted Guinness’s customer engagement in that market.

4. Don’t forget about the feature phones

It’s definitely not all about smartphones, especially in South Africa, where more basic phones still comprise 85% of the market. This will change, with more affordable smartphones coming online, but feature phone users are unlikely to ever disappear completely. Here, the humble SMS can be very effective in driving customer engagement, as long as your campaign – as with QR codes – is well-planned, shares interesting and diverse information, and has a strong and clear call to action.

5. Make mobile coupons easy and worthwhile

Our Mobile Planet says 54% of SA smartphone users wouldn’t mind receiving ads if they received rewards or freebies. But only 15% have used a coupon to buy a product in-store. Now while South Africa doesn’t have as strong a coupon culture as America does, it has been my experience that all too often mobile coupons are too complicated, have too many catches or are just not easy to use. But the stats seem to indicate that some work here could go a long way to driving customer engagement.

First published in Vomo.

SA’s in high spirits

Spring has sprung in the South African spirits market. Windows are being flung open, images revamped, and new markets introduced to novel ways of enjoying spirits.

This is despite a Euromonitor report, Spirits in South Africa, saying that contrary to expectations that the 2010 FIFA World Cup would increase sales of alcoholic drinks across all sectors, beer was the only market to see any significant growth as a result of the event.

The report found that volumes of spirit sales were heavily impacted by the economic downturn in 2010, but that this is expected to reverse as consumers start seeing increased disposable income. Distell, South Africa’s leading producer of spirits with a 32% market share, has a slightly different spin on this. The company believes the conspicuous consumption patterns of pre-2007 have been replaced with “more mindful consumption in line with today’s tougher times” and that this has resulted in premium brands that offer quality, luxury and value doing well with consumers.

This certainly touches on two significant trends emerging in the South African spirits market: the rise of the premium and super-premium brand and a more sophisticated consumer realising spirits are not just for mixing with ice and a slug of soda. These have in turn led to a rise in popularity of sipping spirits, artisan distillers and spirits and food pairing, in line with international lifestyle trends.

The South African spirits staple, ‘burnt wine’ or brandy, provides a good insight into the rise of the premium spirits sector.

The brandy renaissance

Poor old South African brandy. Just like the Biblical prophets who were accepted everywhere except their home countries, at home brandy all too often still conjures up a picture of beer-bellied men standing around a braai knocking back brandy with lashings of Coke.

Around the globe however, South African brandy is recognised as being among the world’s best, winning the International Wine and Spirits Competition’s (IWSC) Best Worldwide Brandy trophy ten times in the past 13 years. Most recently this was won by Van Ryn’s 20 Year Old Collector’s Reserve in 2011, making this the fifth consecutive year a South African brandy has held this title. In addition, this year South African spirits won seven best-in-class golds and nine additional gold awards.

South African brandies also scooped six gold medals at the Concours Mondial de Bruxelles wine and spirit competition this year, up from two last year. In South Africa, which is the fifth largest brandy producer in the world, traditionally wine-orientated Veritas added a brandy category to its awards in 2010.

Christelle Reade-Jahn, director of the SA Brandy Foundation – set up in 1984 to act as a mouthpiece for the industry – says: ‘The brandy industry is well-geared for growth. With brandy representing almost half of all spirits sold in South Africa, the soaring interest in premium brandies, as well as continuously being judged the finest in the world, the local brandy industry has a bright future.

‘We are now entering a phase of intensified communication – talking to new and current consumers in new ways to get them really excited about brandy and the many ways to enjoy this versatile drink.’

One of the ways Reade-Jahn plans to do this is by tapping into the worldwide cocktail trend, appealing to a younger market, and, with only 25% of brandy drinkers being women, also a female market. The organisation ran a competition this year in conjunction with FHM to find the ultimate brandy cocktail, using digital and social media to promote the campaign. In addition, the Fine Brandy Festival, now in its fourth year, underwent a makeover, ‘adding more luxe and fun lifestyle features which will appeal to the ‘cool’ crowd,’ says Reade-Jahn. The plan is to extend the festival from its Gauteng base to other cities in

South Africa over the next few years.

Distell’s head of spirits, Caroline Snyman, sings from the same song sheet when it comes to South African brandy, saying the local changes in the brandy market mirror the resurgence of cognac in emerging markets such as China, where VSOP (very special old pale) brandy products are considered a trade up from 12-year-old Scotch whisky.

She points to the rejuvenation of one of South Africa’s most popular brandies, Oude Meester, via an ad campaign featuring Oscar and Grammy award-winning Jamie Foxx; as well as the alignment of Flight of the Fish Eagle alongside hip-hop artists and an imaginary executive airline Eagle Air, which takes invitation-only guests to glamorous cosmopolitan destinations.

What about whisky?

Snyman says the whisky market also continues to grow, but that this is not at the expense of the brandy market. South Africa is one of the leading global markets for whiskies and we have also seen some highly regarded local brands emerging, such as Three Ships, which are being well received both locally and internationally. International brands such as Scottish Leader, Black Bottle and the specialty Bunnahabhain range are starting to establish themselves in South Africa as well, she says.

As if to prove the point that the global and local market is moving towards premium spirits, Glenmorangie recently announced the release of Glenmorangie Pride 1981, which at 28 years is the oldest whisky released by the company. The single malt was matured in Sauternes casks for an additional 10 years and there are only 1,000 bottles available. It retails at a whopping R30,000. ‘To recognise how key a market South Africa is, given the recent whisky boom in the country, there will be a bottle available at the SA Whisky Live festival in November’, says the company.

A more discerning palate

The SA Brandy Foundation’s Reade-Jahn also sees consumers trading up to premium and super-premium brands, with most growth taking place in the luxury sector. South Africa’s super-premium spirit sector is worth around R1.52 billion, with premium brandies amounting to a quarter of that.

Roger Jorgensen, a Wellington-based micro-distiller, concurs that South African consumers’ palates and preferences are becoming more sophisticated, and like our international counterparts, we are seeing the appeal of spirits as a sipping drink, rather than served as a shooter or with a mixer.

Although his distilling roots are in potstill brandy, Jorgensen has subsequently turned his hand to vodka – specifically the up and coming Primitiv Vodka – as well as absinthe, gin and limoncello. But he is concerned that legacy liquor regulations in South Africa may stifle manufacturers’ – and especially smaller distillers’ – ability to meet consumer demand for a premium and super-premium product, and also halt the growth of this sector of the industry, when it comes to vodka.

From Russia with love

‘The great northern concept of drinking spirits neat, but always with food and friends, is finding credence here: chilled premium vodka with Cape sushi, or yellowtail gravad lax, or oysters, for example,’ says Jorgensen. ‘Following the craft revolutions in the US and Europe, there are more and more local producers of spirits daring to put their toes in a traditionally difficult market.’

Despite this, Jorgensen is concerned that the current South African liquor legislation (that insists that vodka be sold with an alcohol content of 43%) will stunt this new market sector. A danger is the legislation could squash the nascent premium vodka market by ruining the subtlety of the flavour of the sipping drink with the high alcohol content.

‘The flavour and subtlety of sipping vodka, like a pot still brandy, or Cognac, and many single malt whiskys, is better appreciated with an alcohol content lower than in a 43% spirit. At the higher level the fine flavour and delicacy of the product is masked by the burn of high alcohol content,’ says Jorgensen. ‘Given that vodka is a highly rectified and relatively neutral tasting product, these flavours are indeed subtle, and tend to be significantly masked at 43% alcohol.’

In addition, this ruling is at odds with international standards, and in order to import vodka into South Africa, international distillers may have to produce a South Africa-specific version of their spirit, reducing our exposure to the premium end of the market. Finally, South African distillers, obliged to produce a 43% product, are prevented from entering international competition where the maximum alcohol level required to compete is 40%.

Jorgensen is actively lobbying for the legislation to be amended to allow more flexibility when it comes to the alcohol levels for vodka and to allow a lower minimum alcohol level, or to recognise a separate premium vodka sector that allows bottling at 40% or lower. In addition, he has urged the South African Liquor Brands Association (SALBA) to take into consideration the changing tastes of the public, and its prediliction for premium vodka, when next consulting with the Department of Agriculture on recommended changes to the legislation.

As well as these concerns, Jorgensen also faces the challenge of artisan producers everywhere: how to market and distribute his products in the face of the industry giants with their deep wallets and extensive distribution networks. He is making a name for himself through clever use of social media, introducing his products to early-adopting networks, and teaming up with restaurants and hotels that support local spirits and don’t demand pricey listing or pouring fees.

What is certain is that the South African spirits market is in the middle of a massive transformation, starting from a very solid base. With more variety and more choice, we may just start viewing our local market in the same way our spirits are viewed abroad.

What’s your favourite flavour?

It probably started with Patrón XO Café, the tequila and coffee liqueur. Suddenly tequila wasn’t only for slamming or mixing, but instead for rather civilised sipping. Since then, a deluge of flavoured spirits has entered the South African drinks market.

Most recent to follow in Patrón’s footsteps with a flavoured tequila is Pernod Ricard’s Olmeca Fusion Dark Chocolate Tequila. Released in September, the drink has a relatively low alcohol level at 35% and is described as having “a smooth, silk-like texture that perfectly accompanies the rich dark chocolate flavour, balanced with a dash of tequila.” Serving suggestions include as chilled shooter, on the rocks, or as the basis for a cocktail.

Two flavoured vodkas have recently been launched into the South African market:

Local brand Lovoka offers a caramel and chocolate flavoured vodka-based liqueur that is aimed at both the shooter and the cocktail markets. The brand makes much of its distinctive, BPA-free aluminium packaging. It is suggested the spirit be kept in the freezer compartment and served ice cold. As well as being served as a shooter or cocktail, it is also recommended that it be poured over ice and sipped. DGB looks after sales and distribution for Lovoka.

Europe’s Thunder Toffee Vodka has also made it to South African shores. With its roots in après ski society, the producers claim to have developed a recipe that delivers a silky smooth, balanced flavour. The spirit is free of additives and preservatives, and scooped a gold medal at Vodka Masters and the Spirits Business Magazine Awards. At 29.9% Thunder is also recommended served chilled or can be used in toffee flavoured cocktails.

First published on South African Food Review.


Understanding viral marketing content

Is viral marketing really a category in its own right? Is it either accurate or feasible to say you offer viral marketing services, or have launched a viral marketing campaign? This implies that you can plan and predict a campaign “going viral”. Or is it more a case of the best a marketer can hope for is to set the scene, make sure all the right ingredients are in place, and then, if the timing is right, see the campaign go viral?

The latest piece of what I would consider truly viral content doing the rounds on the internet is ‘Buck Norris’ – the video clip of 17-year-old cyclist, Evan van der Spuy, being knocked off his bike in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa by a red hartebeest. At the time of writing, in less than a month almost 12 million people have watched the original clip posted on YouTube, not to mention hundreds of thousands of views of secondary clips, as well as spin-offs (you know you’ve made it on the internet when someone spoofs you), and international news coverage from UK daily Metro to online newspaper the Huffington Post.

Key to the clip was timing, both of the filming and the encounter, but key to the clip going viral was Max Cluer, owner of Team Jeep South Africa and organiser of the cycling event posting the clip up to YouTube immediately, while there was still buzz amongst the immediate audience about the incident. These Twitter and Facebook conversations were an ideal vehicle for making the clip spread virally around the world, earning Cluer’s Team Jeep brand unprecedented exposure, thanks to the logo on Van der Spuy’s cycling kit.

This is also crucial to laying the foundation for a piece of content to go viral: don’t be overly promotional. Team Jeep was seen in the context of super-awesome content that was worthy of sharing. It wasn’t a Team Jeep advert. Brian Mung’ei, Head of Business Development at Nairobi, Kenya-based web and marketing agency, Pamoja Media agrees:

“Don’t make the campaign an advertisement. A campaign doesn’t need to educate people about the product but rather on the benefits of the product. Think of a perfect online ad as a ‘behind the scenes’ version of a normal commercial TV advert. This means one needs to have a different mindset in that it’s not pushing a brand or product, rather about story-telling. The product does not even have to appear anywhere on the video for people to understand the ad and remember it,” he says.

Bozza’s Head of Brand Strategy, Catherine Lückhoff takes it a step further saying: “You don’t create virals – content either becomes viral or it doesn’t. All you (agency, client, marketing person etc.) can do is to know your market and create content that is sticky. Our experience is that contextually relevant local content is key. Content has to add value; be that through entertainment, education, a combination of, or giving users access to information.”

Bozza is a case in point. Dubbed a mobihood – a mobile neighbourhood – Bozza allows communities across Africa to share their stories and interact via a mobile phone. It launched a proof of concept on MXit in 2010, with hyper-local made-for-mobile video content. Within three days it had 40,000 subscribers and within three months, 170,000.

It can be pretty scary for brands to realise how little control they have over their brand anymore. But for content to truly become viral, they need to give up this control – or face an unpleasant viral backlash, as Brandhouse found out when it lost its sense of humour back in 2009 over user-generated spoofs of its Lou Gossett Jr. ad campaign.

Pamoja Media’s Mung’ei advises brands: “The web gives the audience greater control of how to interact with the campaign such that they can save, replay and most importantly share the advert within their networks. Ensure the video is free to access, download, embed and share online. This is basically the underlying essence of viral campaigns. If someone has to log on to your website to be able to view the advert and then ‘like’ your Facebook page to share it, someone needs to get fired.”

First published in African Business Review.

[The ready-made feature I] Opinion pieces make your client shine

In my opinion (sorry!), opinion pieces should always be an essential part of any public relations campaign. But today, more than ever, with newsrooms under so much strain and more and more companies clamouring for your audience’s finite attention span, they are an essential part of the mix.

In a series of three articles I take a look at some sure-fire ways to get your client or company’s opinion piece placed. (For brevity I’ll refer to clients, but this applies equally well to internal comms practitioners).

But first, let’s remind ourselves what opinion pieces are, and why they are such a vital PR tool.

[The ready-made feature II] How to successfully pitch opinion pieces

In part one of this three-part series, I defined what opinion pieces are and why they are such a vital PR tool. Now, in part two, I take a look at the mechanics of pulling together an op-ed and getting it placed.

1. Have a strong opinion

First and foremost, make sure your client has an opinion. More than that, make sure their opinion adds value, moves a story along and is controversial, rather than just regurgitating what others have said.

Unfortunately, some companies simply can’t easily agree on a point of view, whether for personality or business reasons. If this is the case, as a PR professional you are going to be hard-pressed to produce an authentic and evocative opinion piece for your client.It can be done, but I believe the most successful pieces are based on a strong opinion generated by a client, then packaged and conveyed by the PR.

Read the rest of my article on Bizcommunity.

[The ready-made feature III] Reincarnating your opinion piece

In parts one and two of my series on the opinion piece and its role in the PR mix, I defined what opinion pieces are, why they are such a vital PR tool and the mechanics of pulling together an op-ed and getting it placed.

In this third and final part, let’s look at what do to if your piece is rejected, as well as how to maximise the impact of your content.


“Eep! My opinion piece has been rejected!” As we know, in the PR game, this happens. Even the most beautifully crafted, succinct, eloquent prose can be turned down for reasons out of your control.

If your target publication has rejected the piece, feel free to submit it to the next most appropriate publication on your list, or to re-use it in another way.

Packaging’s role in sustainability is not what you thought

The packaging industry should not rest on its laurels, even though according to the recent WWF Dairy Lifecycle Analysis report, packaging only contributes 4-6% of the total carbon footprint of the milk production lifecycle. According to the report’s author, The Green House’s Dr Philippa Notten, packaging has the highest influence on the rest on the rest of the lifecycle compared to any other stage from the farm to the consumer.

For instance, the carbon footprint of a container is equivalent to that of 1.5 tablespoons of milk inside the container. In addition, wastage that takes place later in the lifecycle of milk has a higher carbon footprint: wasting one litre of milk at home is equivalent to wasting two litres at the farm. So, in the context of this report, it is vital for packaging companies to concentrate on extending the life of milk both in the supply chain and once it reaches the consumer, to make sure every litre is used. This is more important than other sustainability concerns and debunks some assumed sustainability practices, such as the benefits of larger packaging.

Long-life milk is one solution, reducing refrigeration requirements, allowing consumers to buy more milk at once, cutting down on trips to the supermarket and extending the life of the milk at home. Tetrapak has recently launched what it says is the world’s first aseptic carton bottle, the Tetra Evero Aseptic one-litre carton bottle, which combines the features of a bottle, such as ease of pouring and storing, with the benefits of a carton, including being lighter to transport with less additional packaging required than some other containers. The carton bottle is made from FSC-approved renewable paperboard and uses half the electricity than other aseptic bottling lines.

From milk to wine, Backsberg has been shaking up the vino packaging market with the use of PET bottles in its eco-friendly Tread Lightly range of wines. The polyethylene terephthalate bottles weigh 50g compared to the 400g a glass wine bottle weighs; have a carbon footprint of 29% to 52% less than glass bottles; use 40% to 50% less energy in manufacturing and the supply chain; and have allowed Backsberg to reduce its deliveries by a quarter.

Retailers can use less shelf-space to display, refrigerate or store the bottles, which don’t break if dropped. These benefits continue on the to consumer and it is intended that consumer choose the lightweight bottles for outdoor activities where glass is not allowed or appropriate.

The PET bottles are produced by Mondipak Plastics and consist of a dual layer of PET with an oxygen barrier layer sandwiched in between to prevent oxidation. According to Mondipak this ensures the wine has a shelf life of up to two years.

Recently Mondipak has released a 187 ml version of the bottle for the airline industry, with the U.S.-based JetBlue using them. Other wineries to jump on board are Simonsvlei, which is using a light green version of the bottles for its Lifestyle range; and Boland Cellar for its eco-friendly Flutterby range. Woolworths uses the bottle for its white One Off wine.

Sticking with the wine industry, Rhebokskloof is claiming a first in the South African wine industry with the tree-free labels since the end of last year. The labels are produced from 100% renewable sugar cane fibre. The 110 gramme uncoated paper allows for all the usual value-added printing features, and apparently stays put when wet, even in an ice bucket.

First published on South African Food Review.

Twitter and Facebook marketing – are African businesses cashing in on free advertising?

There’s no such thing as a free lunch, right? That seems to be the case when it comes to social media marketing, both in Africa and around the world.

There’s no denying that social media, by many once considered a here-today-gone-tomorrow fad, is a key arrow in a marketer’s quiver. It’s word of mouth on steroids and free, right?

Or not.

Social media experts in Kenya and South Africa warn companies not to view social media marketing, on platforms such as Facebook and Twitter, as free. Yes, these platforms are umpteen times more cost-effective that traditional advertising such as TV or print, but do need time, money and strategic thought to be effective.

Read the rest of my article on African Business Review.