2021 Digital Marketing Predictions for Brands In Africa

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Welcome to the 2021 Digital Marketing Prediction for brands in Africa. This is the 3rd in the series. Read 2019 and 2020 predictions here. 

It was hard to predict anything for 2021 considering how 2020 played out. However, there are clear indicators that brands must be open to make a fundamental shift in how they conduct business. This is fueled by uncertainties in the economy, rapidly changing consumer behaviour, media consumption habits and economic impact on businesses and customers.

This shift is the anchor for my Digital Marketing predictions for 2021 for brands in Africa. I’ve termed it:

‘Back to basics, leveraging digital technology.

We are all starting again. New customer priorities are forcing companies to re-evaluate their product-market fit. Customers are also concerned with the cost of goods and services, and how well they serve their desires, wants and needs. Is it essential, non-essential, high cost or low cost? 

Digital marketing, now more than ever, is playing a key role to remove market friction and  seamlessly bring customers and brands together.

I created a 2×2 matrix to illustrate how businesses and customers are reacting depending on the importance of the product or service and cost. This new role also means digital marketing strategies and tools must become better aligned to business objectives.

The predictions are inspired by and grouped under business priorities this year.

2021 Digital Marketing Predictions for Brands In Africa

1. Whisper your why


Brands that whisper their ‘why’ consistently to customers will be memorable. Social Media Marketing and Marketing Automation will play key roles.

In the bestselling book ‘Start With Why’, Simon Sinek shared his innovative Golden Circle and the benefits companies can gain by understanding, articulating and communicating their ‘why’ to their customers. 

Digital Marketing Predictions For 2021 For Brands In Africa - the golden circle

How it is communicated also matters. It shouldn’t only be one loud heavily promoted Ad spot. It should be subtly, continuously, and intentionally communicated at every possible opportunity.

Digital Marketing Ideas to ‘whisper your why’

Social Media

With more engaged eyeballs during the pandemic, this is an opportunity for brands to include their ‘Why’ as a strategic social media content pillar to re-engage and reassure customers. The key is to consistently communicate the ‘why’. As Simon Sinek puts it “people don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it. In the current circumstance where customers are forced to select between essential, non-essential, low cost and high cost products and services, consistently communicating the ‘why’ can be the extra motivation for customers to stay loyal.


Free download: Social Media Calendar Template by HubSpot

Marketing Automation

Marketing automation helps a brand to personalise customer communications in moments that matter to the customer. It is an opportunity to subtly reinforce your brand’s ‘why’ while delivering products and services.

Jason Aten shared his experience from Apple’s marketing automation when he purchased a new Macbook Air for his wife. 

“Here’s what happened. Not more than 20 minutes after the FedEx man delivered the package and I had taken it to my office to begin setting it up for my wife, I received an email from Apple. Not just any email, but an “Explore your Mac with a specialist online” email.”

Digital Marketing Predictions For 2021 For Brands In Africa - Marketing Automation Example from Apple

He continued

“I love that this email does something totally on-brand for Apple by inviting me to do all the things I might want to do right when I’m setting up a brand-new laptop”

Marketing automation gives a brand the opportunity to delight their customers and reinforce their brand promise. 

2. Bold in belief


Brands that are bold in their belief will attract loyal consumers. User Generated Content and Influencer Marketing will accelerate this.

It is about building a community of fans, not just customers. Brands are expected to stand for what they believe, including matters relating to social justice, equality, and climate change. It also includes showing empathy, care and acknowledging their customers’ experiences in an uncertain world. 

Digital Marketing ideas to be ‘Bold in Belief’

User Generated Content (UGC)

UGC is an authentic and trustworthy online content mostly created by true fans. Brands can showcase UGC that affirms their beliefs and encourage customers to tag the brand or use a specific hashtag when sharing experiences online. 

In the middle of the pandemic, when consumers feared the worst with lockdowns in multiple African countries, NESCAFÉ Central & West Africa launched a campaign to engage the brand’s target audience to Start Strong, Stay Strong, and Finish Strong.  OneSong campaign is a user generated content campaign across 6 countries in Africa. Consumers created and shared a one minute original song to a given soundtrack to inspire and unite Africa during the pandemic. Winners were selected by public vote and rewarded with cash prizes, and included in a  professional production of the OneSong.  The campaign reached over 138+ million people across Central & West Africa,  1,700+ contestant entries and 54,000+ votes submitted across all social media platforms. The brand selected one winner from each country and produced the OneSong.


Here’s a guide to using UGC on social media by Hootsuite
Read about different UGC platforms here

Influencer Marketing

In 2020, I predicted that influencer marketing will have a turbulent year, giving rise to new influencers: Nano influencers. According to Business Insider, there are two primary ways of categorising influencers: Reach and Niche. 

Digital Marketing Predictions For 2021 For Brands In Africa - Influencer Marketing Key Facts

I predict that a new category called ‘Belief’ will emerge for brands to select influencers. Brands will work with influencers that align with and promote the brand belief, not just the product or service.

In a 2019 influencer marketing survey report by MediaKix, ‘on-brand messaging or aesthetic’ was 4th out of the top 5 determining factors when choosing an influencer.  This factor will become more significant in 2021. 

Influencers to work with

In the same survey 80% of marketers find influencer marketing effective.

Influencer Marketing Effectiveness

An Africa focused report by Geopoll also found that 80% of consumers in Kenya and Nigeria said they have bought a product/service due to an influencer’s recommendation before. 

Influencer Marketing in Africa - Kenya and Nigeria

Influencer marketing is here to stay and brands must find innovative ways to get ROI. 

3. Transparency with the Truth


Brands that tell the truth will gain consumer trust. Data Privacy will continue to take center stage.

There has been a significant rise in the spread of fake news. Government institutions, brands, organisations and individuals have all been caught in this. 

WhatsApp’s privacy policy communication and the subsequent user reaction is a good example that demonstrates how sensitive consumers have become when it comes to the use of their data. Blake Morgan in her Forbes article noted also that Elon Musk’s tweet (an influencer) about Signal, a rival app, saw a huge boost in new users. Signal’s servers eventually went offline under the load.

When Clive Humby said data is the new oil, many people compared data and oil as raw materials that are not valuable until processed. Another area of similarity is that companies are willing to go to ‘any’ length to get it, many times disregarding its impact on the data owners or inhabitants of the oil field areas. 

Apple vs Facebook has made headlines but every brand and company is expected to be transparent with the truth about how they collect, process and use consumer data. This isn’t only to become compliant or to prevent customer  backlash, it can also create competitive advantage. As WhatsApp was grappling with how to allay consumer fears, Signal and Telegram were reaping the rewards with record breaking downloads and customer acquisition. 

Digital Marketing ideas to improve ‘Transparency with the Truth’

Blockchain Technology

First, this is a big bold prediction for brands in Africa, and yes it does look a bit far fetched considering that the technology is still at infancy, but I am happy to dream because I have shifted my focus to blockchain and the possibilities. 

Blockchain in digital advertising can empower consumers to own, and decide how their data is used, which marketer or advertiser to sell it to, and how much they will receive in return with no middleman or platform like Facebook or Instagram. Blockchain applications in advertising  will allow full transparency, accessibility and security on immutable distributed ledgers.

It is not just customers that will benefit from the technology. Brands are now challenging how much they pay to advertise to consumers, and importantly if the money spent brings the expected ROI. The Guardian and Rubicon lawsuit is a recent high profile case in the programmatic advertising ecosystem where increasing number of intermediaries means only a fraction (about 35%) of Ad spend reaches the publishers. In addition to this, click frauds, bots, brand safety and ad blockers continue to reduce ROI on Ad spend. IBM conducted a pilot with MediaOcean using IBM’s Blockchain product and MediaOceans access to over 5,000 publishers to deliver promising results and savings. 

Expect more improvements in 2021. This has already started with Integral Ads Science, an ad verification company addressing issues around fraud, viewability and brand risk acquiring Amino Payment a blockchain powered programmatic advertising company. 

In summary, these are the 2021 Digital Marketing Predictions for Brands In Africa.

2021 Digital Marketing Predictions for Brands In Africa - Summary Table

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