The movement calls on companies that do business in South Africa to become members of the Proudly South African campaign brand. Only member companies can use the Proudly South African logo on their products to identify themselves to consumers. Membership criteria is based on four factors:
1. The company’s products or services must incur at least 50 percent of its production costs, including labor, in South Africa and be “substantially transformed” in the country -- meaning that a company cannot merely import and repackage a product in order to be “Proudly South African.”
2. The company’s products and services must be consistently high quality.
3. The company must be committed to fair labor practices.
4. The company must be committed to sound environmental policies.
Research has shown that the campaign has established a whopping 71 percent brand awareness rate among consumer groups within only two years of inception; also, 23 percent of the 42 percent who purchase Proudly South African goods have actively sought the logo.
Proudly South African brand executive Melanie Leloup says that the company is aiming to grow that awareness by three to four percent per year through what is referred to in-house as a “consumer education” campaign. This consists of, at its basic level, an above-the-line advertising campaign in magazines and newspapers and on local TV telling consumers about the Proudly South African brand. In addition, there is an aggressive Proudly South African billboard promotion across the country. Finally, local celebrities regularly appear on TV, explaining what the brand stands for.
Exactly what it stands for, however, has changed slightly over the last year or so.
“The logo is about national pride and as such clearly shows the South African flag,” Leloup says. National pride and job growth are issues, Leloup claims, that are “very close to the consumer.” She points out that research over the last few years has shown that South African consumers are a varied lot, with each member of the family a committed shopper. This information has made the Proudly South African brand focus on an educational advertising program that appeals to South Africans across spectrums of age, race and gender.
In research polls conducted before the Proudly South African campaign began, more than 90 percent of South African consumers said they would support locally made products simply out of patriotism, while three-quarters said they would “find it encouraging” if they knew buying South African products would help in the country’s efforts at job creation. Thus, the brand’s initial focus was to equate the Proudly South African logo not only with the national colors, but also with job creation.
Recently, however, the very same consumers have indicated that while they are willing to buy South African products in principal, they feel that South African-made products and services do not have, on the whole, the quality levels of imports. This is a sore point for local businesses. South Africans are especially susceptible to the allure of overseas brands that for so long were the forbidden fruit under apartheid-era sanctions. This allure, as well as a flood of ultra-cheap Chinese-made imports that started soon after the country’s liberation in 1994, has had a calamitous effect on, amongst others, the local textile industry.
Aiming to change the local perception that overseas brands are better than homegrowns within the next three years, the Proudly South African campaign has dedicated over R60 million (approx US$ 8.5M) to the campaign’s growth. To this end, Leloup is careful to point out that ”ensuring quality” is now one of the campaign’s most important criteria. The upcoming advertisements will focus on this idea in tandem with the concept that buying South African aids in local job creation. “Consumers are just becoming aware of the logo,” she says, “and we plan on giving them more education to reassure them of the quality of South African products.” The effort will be shaped partly by the South African undertaking to adhere to “international standards” of quality control, and to make the Proudly South African brand label partly an “endorsement of quality,” whether the product in question is a bag of tea biscuits or a travel service.
The campaign has gone one step further in this regard to initiate a strategic partnership with the internationally respected South African Bureau of Standards Holdings (SABS) to ensure quality on all Proudly South African branded products. Proudly South African will assist SABS by offering the Proudly South African brand on negotiated terms to SABS client companies. At the same time, SABS will help the proudly South African brand members -- the biggest growing portion of which hail from the SME (small to medium enterprise) sector -- adhere to global levels of quality.
Discovering that becoming a member of the Proudly South African campaign can have a direct affect on a company’s ability to get successful tenders from the federal government, foreign companies are also vying for the label.
The Nissan Car Company, with its manufacturing facilities in the town of Rosslyn, recently became a member of the campaign. TotalSA, the half-French petroleum company, with service stations across South Africa and subsidiary companies in Botswana, Namibia, and Swaziland, has been named a member as well. Total has enjoyed a 50-year, exclusive association with the South African National Parks board. This has led to Total’s consistent winning of tenders to supply the main fuels and lubricants for use by SANParks in all of its parks in South Africa, and also fuel and lubricants for resale at some 32 service stations operated by SANParks throughout the country. These kinds of successes have led the Proudly South African campaign to remind potential members that the government itself will support the idea that Proudly South African members trade with one another -- and with the government itself.
In the end the name itself denotes what the campaign intends to accomplish for the brands, the nation and the populace; it is not enough that products be South African by assembly, design and/or headquarter, but that they be proudly so.