How Facebook Will Kill Zimbabwe’s Big Brands

ImageIt seemed once that big brands and the companies behind them were invincible, permanently successful, unsinkable ships, just like the Titanic. Today businesses large and small are in trouble like never before. It’s problems in the local economy, it’s the global crunch, it’s the effect of politics, but it’s also something else quite unexpected…


Social media is changing things much faster than Big brands are adapting. It’s shifting the balance of content power and reordering the hierarchy of authority in the market place. If that’s a little confusing, let me explain.

You see, the vast majority of Zimbabwe’s big brands were built in a different era, a world we no longer live in, not really.  In that world building a brand was done with a decent service/ product and a whole lot of money – money to build big factories, to employ a hundred people and money to interrupt the masses with your advertising. The marketing formula was simple

  1. Pay expensive advertising agency to create marketing message.
  2. Pay expensive mass marketing medium owners to send that message to as many people as possible, as often as possible.
  3. Make money from the 1% that respond
  4. Repeat.

If your service or product wasn’t that good, it didn’t really matter, as long you had enough money to keep reaching the masses with your message – You could still make a boatload of money and make your logo famous.

Things are changing, and fast.

Agencies have completely lost the monopoly on content creation. In a Zimbabwe with well over a million active Facebook accounts and growing, everyone is becoming a content producer.

And the bad news for businesses?

The content they’re producing is considerably more interesting and credible to them than almost anything your advertising agency can do for you on ZBC TV or the newspaper. Oh and Facebook is free.

No, traditional mediums aren’t dead, not yet, but they are much less influential than they were just 3 years ago in Zimbabwe.

So what does all this mean for big brands in Zimbabwe?

It means the interruption based, monologue style, top-down approach to marketing that grew your brand, is not going to sustain, let alone grow it much longer. It means  that if you’re not actively and strategically participating in Social Media today, you’re fading away from the conversation in your market.

Any brand that isn’t part of the conversation it’s market is having, is nothing more than a nice logo soon to be forgotten. If you’re not leading or at least participating in the conversation, then you’ve left it to your smarter competitor to answer the burning questions, guiding the frustrated masses (or niches) down their own sales funnel, not yours. To be clear, this is what is commonly known as ‘business failure’.

And what are all these people broadcasting to their friends? What they want to. Not what marketers want them to. They’re having conversations about their problems, aspirations, irritations. They’re recommending stuff to each other and proposing solutions as they see fit.

Your brand is likely absent from most of those conversations. Even if you’re being mentioned, it’s not your marketing message they sharing with each other – the one you paid the newspaper to blast out…they’re sharing their own experience and opinion about you. The truth. The way your product really performs, the way your receptionist treated them, the truth about your customer service – everything but your marketing message.

I’ll say it again, a brand that isn’t in the conversation the market is having, is either dying or already dead. What just two years ago was a mere audience, passively consuming your content and enduring your interruption marketing techniques, that same audience are now also publishers. They own their own channels, some reaching hundreds, others even thousands.

Get in on social media and talk to your market, don’t exclude yourself from the conversation, lead it.

You’ve been warned. Share this on Facebook!

6 Replies to “How Facebook Will Kill Zimbabwe’s Big Brands”

  1. Nice read as usual.
    To go off topic a bit; I think there’s huge opportunity for the traditional media, the ones you say “are much less influential than they were just 3 years ago in Zimbabwe.” They just need to see social media for the huge opportunity it is to attract more eyeballs to their platforms. So far they see these conversations taking place without them as an annoying disruption.
    Them, more than anyone else right now, already have a massive audience that they can deliberately direct to their platforms. Imagine, for example if, on a popular radio show, as DJ would say, lets continue this discussion on Facebook or Twitter. Or, listen to this show at your own time from our website. Or a TV anchor giving viewers the Facebook, or YouTube address of a live TV show and encouraging the viewers to say out their thoughts int he comments (Mai Chisamba for example). Or Mai Chisamba herself taking questions and suggestions on Facebook and reading these out on her show and answering them.
    Not only would it encourage more people to subscribe to the ZBC, PowerFM or whatever channel Social media channel but they could start realising ad revenue on from these platforms. With 500k people following a PowerFM page for example just the mention of a brand on the page can lead to lots of feedback from the market and an opportunity for the brand to introduce their message.

    1. True that mate. The opportunities for big brands are incredible. Still, the sort of examples you’ve mentioned, brands that are used to having to actually engage an audience, as Mai Chisamba does so well, are much more likely to see this than typical corporates. For the corporates, social media is going to require a major paradigm shift before they can ‘get it’ and that could take a while. Thanks for coming round! Does Mai C have a FB page?

  2. This article says it all and organisations need 2 accept this reality before its too late. A lot of organisations have already embraced social media which in turn reduce adverting costs. Corporates should also liaise with other highly subscribed social media pages(the rising FB jokes providers) and share info, in order 2 maintain their grip. These days less people take their time 2 view programmed television than watching movies & surfing the internet.

  3. This is the correct blog for anybody who needs to find out about this
    topic. You

    realize so much its virtually onerous to

    argue with you (not that I really would want…HaHa).
    You definitely put a brand new spin on a subject thats been
    written about for years. Great stuff, simply great!

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