In Africa, communication technologies have been used in education since the late 1960s. Picture: Ymagoo/Fondation Orange, Author provided
CAPE TOWN - The future African consumer is Africa, South African creative agency Andpeople said during its presentation at the World’s Global Style Network (WGSN) Futures Summit last Thursday.

WGSN expanded its service in Africa, having opened an office in Cape Town, and the company believes that the continent is an emerging market with the potential of becoming an international trend setter.

We are living in the age of hyper-innovation, in which more world-changing innovations will be developed in the next 10years than in the previous 100. 

In an interview, WSGN director of insight and executive editor Andrea Bell said the speed of technology was moving quicker than ever and this proved a challenge for many companies, ranging from sales strategy to communication.

“In the age of hyper-innovation, future proofing your brand is necessary and, in fact, vital for all companies. This will be a time of trial and error, but the companies that will have a competitive advantage will be the ones that have their finger on the pulse,” she said.

The company said it was possible to easily learn what major trends would affect an industry and WGSN would recommend looking at consumer needs first.

She said if a company knew that its core consumer was an upwardly mobile female who preferred shopping via mobile, the company would have to understand what trends would impact her and what call-to-actions that brand or retailer could do to serve this need.

Asked whether there was a method or formula that companies could use to get their teams focused on the future or if companies should rather invest in specialised teams to focus on future trends Bell said, “In-house innovation is key. Our largest partnerships are innovation workshops that get people out of their comfort zones and think of new ways to innovate and engage with their consumer.

“Many companies are extremely siloed - the product development teams don’t speak with marketing and/or c-suite isn’t in contact with design. We recommend breaking down those silos to have open communication. Employees from all departments need to understand the company vision and goals - this alignment is essential for success.”

The Havas CES 2016 report states that as software eats the world, it is becoming clear that diverse groups of people and companies can create more consumer value through partnerships.

Hardware makers need to work with software companies, new platforms need developer ecosystems, and semiconductor companies need to partner with manufacturers.

“The future of brand is through strategic partnerships, whether this is an in-house collaboration with an emerging designer or a brand activation with a company outside of your vertical. This helps to not only maintain your core customer but engage new ones,” said Bell.

Brands should think about the broader ecosystem in which their consumers live and engage, and formulate partnerships that are mutually benecial for all. Due to technology, no brand was an island anymore.

“Smart businesses are tapping into who they can work with to brand build.”

Audi partnered with AirBNB - an interesting move for a car company to partner with a leader in the sharing economy - for a campaign.

The WSGN director said it was a great move for both companies as it opened their brands up to new customers in new markets.

On a more youth-driven note, Taco Bell recently partnered with Forever 21 and the collection completely sold out.

“Ten years ago no one would have imagined a fast food chain would work with a fashion brand, but it’s these partnerships that are tapping into the consumer lifestyle brand. At the end of the day, you have to give your shopper an emotional stake in the brand. The future is definitely collaborative,” said Bell.