Brand managers, here’s how to sell to struggling poor

A beggar (right) on a Nairobi street. FILE PHOTO | NMG

My favourite market segmentation tool, Y&R 4Cs, separates people by their key motivations and among the seven defined groups, everyone is determined to move up to the top of the food chain, apart from those at the very top and those at the bottom of the barrel.

There is one particular segment that believes that success lays just around the corner and that Lady Luck may come knocking on their door.

Colloquially, they call themselves ‘masufferer’ or hustlers and they live from hand-to-mouth, depending on a daily wage. In the ‘90s the mass produced packaged goods that catered to this consumer set had a leg up on the competition who responded only to The Mainstream’s needs and circumstances.

While CPC, Unilever and the rest offered bigger packs with lower per-unit costs based on economies of scale, a plan that worked extremely well in the developed world, local companies like Bidco offered miniature packs that could be bought daily.

This idea was grounded in a powerful market insight which embraced the methods used by traders in the slums and deep rural Kenya.

The traders would buy these large-economy packs, break them open and repackage them into smaller units into light plastic bags for daily use in line with their shoppers’ spending ability.

In reality, this phenomenon wasn’t new because it had existed within the Indian trading community since the Kenyan railway was built.

In African economies the proportion of the Struggling Poor is significantly larger than those of The Mainstream and this tends to affect commercial and political activity accordingly.

Life is not kind to them because lack of advanced education tends to limit their choices and the careers that they settle for.

They, therefore, believe that religion and luck have inordinate influence in their pursuit of happiness and the possibilities for their future success.

The churches offer salvation and charismatic religious leaders go much further to sell outlandish miracles for their tithe, which they buy hook, line and sinker as they seek relief from their daily struggles.

Lotteries and betting companies sell the dream of an immediate end to their suffering and a heavenly life on the other side of the train tracks.

The gambling sector is having such an impact on this target audience that it has gotten government attention, even though betting as a pastime has existed since money was invented.

Even as the politicians set policy to curb the seemingly unfolding gambling problem, they target the Strugglers during elections and sell them the dream of an immediate end to their suffering and a heavenly life on the other side of the train tracks.

This is evidently a case of the pot calling the kettle black.

When selling products to this market segment, it is critical to emphasise savings, discounts and special offers because they are always looking for a good deal.

Price is more important than quality and promises to change life’s circumstances will capture their attention, especially when the story is related by one of their own in the form or a testimonial.

Their core motivation in life is escape and brand managers that aim to appeal to this target group must take this into account.

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Note: The results are not exact but very close to the actual.