Exploring linkages between the retail sector and base of the pyramid craft activities in South Africa: branding and marketing as an agent of success

Coetzee, Charlotte (2008) Exploring linkages between the retail sector and base of the pyramid craft activities in South Africa: branding and marketing as an agent of success. (MA(R) thesis), Kingston University, .


As the gap between the 'first' (developed) and 'second' (developing) economies of South Africa continues to widen, it can be productive to consider strategies through which effective linkages could be created between established and emerging businesses.. This study aims to investigate how branding and marketing could be used to promote products created by crafters at the base of the income pyramid within a mainstream retail setting. To address this research goal, an in-depth literature study provides an overview of different views on the role of business in society, considering how business could and should be linked to the context in which it operates. Doing business at the 'base of the pyramid' (BoP), also known as 'sustainable livelihood business', is suggested as an approach by which companies could address sustainabilityissues through core business practices, and engage in a mutually beneficial relationship with people in low-income communities. It is argued that this approach could benefit crafters by creating a platform for knowledge exchange, while at the same time opening new markets for the established businesses, increasing profits and building corporate reputation. As the concept of sustainability is recognised as. the biggest emerging challenge and opportunity for brands, it is suggested that 'sustainable products' have the potential to address sustainability challenges, while at the same time enhancing corporate image. Sustainability marketing is presented as an appropriate tool for promoting BoP craft within a mainstream retail setting, as it aims to incorporate sustainability goals within traditional marketing practices. Belz's conception of sustainability marketing is discussed in relation to this study, while various challenges and opportunities for BoP craft within a, mainstream retail setting (as 'sustainable products') are recognised and discussed. Qualitative research results from an investigation of past and current collaborative projects between South African retailer Woolworths and various community craft producers, are presented. Two case studies that aimed at empowering crafters at the BoP by partnering with them as suppliers, were chosen for investigation. The Conran Africa and Woolworths-Iziko La Lwazi projects are critically evaluated against literatúre discussed within the study. Following analysis of research findings, it is argued that the challenges of effectively incorporating these products into a mainstream retail product portfolio remain significant. Price, market timing, consumer patriotism, and effective in-store promotion are all recognised as challenges across the marketing mix that need to be considered carefully within this context. It was further found that certain elements of Beiz's conception of sustainability marketing were not incorporated into these projects, which showed potential for greater environmental sustainability and credibility of the projects. Through this study it became clear that although marketing and branding have an important role to play in the success of the BoP craft within a mainstream re~ail setting, they form only one part of a very complex value chain. In the light of current socia-political goals (such as Broad Based Black Economic Empowerment [BBBEE]) within South Africa, it is argued that the real opportunity that should be pursued is that of empowering crafters at the base of the income pyramid, and promoting 'sustainable livelihood business' practice, while simultaneously pursuing profits.

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