As we get closer to the Sunday Times Gen Next Awards taking place on the 21st of August, brands are looking deeper into who is still cool, who’s made a comeback and who has maintained their position among South Africa’s youth.

During a recent Sunday Times Gen Next digitized event, sponsored by Proudly SA and moderated by Refilwe Maluleke, Managing Director of Yellowwood, and the focus was on the youth buying local and creating local brands.

With a rock star panel consisting of Maps Maponyane, TV Presenter and Entrepreneur, Siyabonga Zungu, Brand Manager from Proudly SA and Wesley Vos, Founder of VOSK Shoes, they were asked when they last purchased a South African brand.

Maponyane is the owner of BunsOut Burgers but is also known as a media personality. He said that he loves South African brands, wants to expose as much local potential as he can and be an advocate for supporting local offerings- the last local product he purchased was loungewear from local fashion designer, Rich Mnisi.

Vos went on to say that each pair of his shoes is manufactured in South Africa and has a #imprintafrica on the soul of the shoe, which translates to multicultural travellers leaving behind not just a trail of our origin, but also a little bit of compassion across borders because for every pair of VOSK shoes bought, a pair of shoes will be donated to a child in need.

Vos is the perfect example of a for profit business giving back. He also supports local as the last local brand he bought was a brand called Neurologica, a product used to enhance mental agility.

Zungu’s job is to get people excited about buying South African made products and to change people’s mind set when buying local. He mentions that   supporting local brands is important and has purchased a few during his last grocery shop, specifically mentioning his new Maxhosa face mask.

Zungu mentioned that “post lockdown more South Africans are seeing the benefits of supporting local brands. Besides the obvious benefit of creating jobs locally, the youth are also accessing information to where brands are made. At Proudly SA, we have seen more international markets taking on South African brands and since Covid-19 hit, accessibility to local products has been easier.”

Maluleke pointed out, “While the vast majority of South Africans still shop in retail stores, the pandemic has forced brands to move online.”

Vos explains “If any good has come from Covid-19, it’s that it has accelerated the local ecommerce market forward by at least 3 years. Up until now, South Africans have been so conservative when buying online. People are now being forced to buy online and realising that it’s so easy and can be trusted.”

Youth perceptions of brands are shaped by the influences (and influencers) they’re exposed to on a daily basis, whether it’s through music, television, online, or on social media.  And when one speaks to the youths of today, the brands they aspire to own are – for the most part – imported.

In the current economy, something’s gotta give.

Vos continued by letting us in on the secret to attracting young buyers “to date the youngsters want to see more from a brand. VOSK are more focused on the WHY. Today’s young people want to see the difference your brand makes; whether it’s environmental impact or social impact. If you want to tap into the minds of the youth, you need to ensure that you have an authentic story.”

When asked what brands should do to “win over” the youth Maponyane added “it takes very clear authentic messaging, what your brand will be doing to stand out from other brands and having a purpose for what you are doing.” He carried on to say that through these Covid times it’s been a real eye opener as to which brands have been consistent and which haven’t. “Don’t be like everything or anyone else. Be real, share the brand journey, what you’ve gone through and what you’re planning, be transparent and be representative, that is what brands should be doing to “win over” the youth.”

Adding to Maponyane’s comment, Zungu states that” youth are more informed these days, they are now seeing that we have good quality brands and products. We need to actively start changing the narrative as South Africans.”

During lockdown and undoubtedly immediately post-Covid, there will be few families who’ll be able to spend on branded items as they may have in the past. There will also be thousands of businesses in South Africa pleading for every ounce of support they can get.

In order to compete internationally, all the speakers agreed that South African brands need to stand out, build value, have a differentiating factor and be authentic and that appealing to the youth is a sure way to ensure brand longevity.

The big takeout:  South Africans are resilient, and at times need to change their mindsets – we need to embrace local is lekker – we need to support, nurture and buy proudly South African.