It's time for brands to come out to play!


Let’s face it, so far 2016 has been pretty tough for many Africans across the continent. The ‘Dutch Disease‘ is in full swing, as the over-reliance on natural resources such as oil – facing a collapse in prices – and neglect of other sectors has crippled the best of Africa’s economies and its consumers. Growth in sub-Saharan Africa fell to 3.7% in 2015 (World Bank, June 2015).


As a state of economic crisis looms, the mood sours. Weakened economies, unpopular politicking and austere governance has resulted in a backlash from angry and frustrated citizens.

Africa is in dire need of FUN!

Amidst all the negativity, Africans are eagerly waiting for brands, institutions and the powers that be to flip the script and put a cheerful spin on the current state of affairs.



Why in 2016, Africans will engage with, embrace and love brands that bring elements of fun into their offerings.

There’s never been a shortage of optimism among Africa’s consumers.

And why should there be? Despite all the challenges, the continent still has plenty to celebrate!

Just two achievements worthy of celebration?

According to the World Bank, the proportion of people living on less than USD 1.90 a day in sub-Saharan Africa fell from 56% in 1990 to 35% in 2015 (The Economist, April 2016). Furthermore, the World Health Organization says that the continent has successfully defeated a variety of recent and on-going health epidemics, from the eradication of polio in Nigeria (in September 2015) to that of Ebola in Liberia (in January 2016).

Yes, there’s much to celebrate. And yes progress is hard. But still too often organizations – and brands – approach social, political and even consumer challenges in a rigid and transactional way that neglects the need to be HUMAN: social, creative, and playful.


Surprise. Entertainment. Amusement. In 2016 and beyond, Africans will relish brands that bring some much-needed fun to the consumer arena. Introducing competitive and participatory games, embracing humor, or celebrating the unexpected will make life – and consumption – more enjoyable.


The Expectation Economy has ushered in a new kind of melancholy.

The online world is increasingly exposing Africans to the glorious lifestyles of their global counterparts. Comparison has all but zapped the natural joy from young, yearning and aspirational African consumers.


In 1981, the World Values Survey reported that Nigerians were as happy as West Germans, despite the vast wealth disparity between the two countries. Yet according to the 2016 World Happiness Survey, not a single African country ranks in the top 50 happiest countries. As the internet allows everyone around the world to compare their lifestyle with that of the world’s richest people, national happiness is becoming directly proportional to national GDP (Financial Times, April 2016).


Out with the old narratives. In with the new.

The younger generation’s renewed sense of African pride has fueled local entrepreneurs who are reluctant to perpetuate the negative narratives forced upon the continent by outsiders. Instead, these aspirational consumers and the entrepreneurs who serve them are proving that – despite obstacles – Africans can do great things. Play and FUN perfectly captures the zeitgeist of these times!


Bob Geldof’s Band Aid 30 sparked a backlash from artists in Africa and the diaspora. These critics complained that the charity single, intended to raise money for the Ebola crisis in West Africa, took a patronizing attitude and damaged the image of the continent.


Mobile-centered masses

Now, more of the continent's vast population are connected and empowered to play! With the proliferation of mobile phones, reaching African consumers with games and other fun digital services has never been easier.


For the past five years, sub-Saharan Africa has reigned as the world’s fastest-growing mobile region, with subscriber growth rates more than twice the global average (GSMA, October 2015)


Expectations are racing upwards.

As consumers become increasingly spoilt with new products and services, tolerance for lackluster offerings is rapidly falling to zero. In addition to this, the difficulty in capturing the attention of hyper-connected consumers means that brands need to find new and exciting ways to captivate their audience.


So what does this trend mean for your brand?

Five key opportunities for African brands to serve PLAYSUMERS in 2016 and beyond.


Smart brands will use fun to inspire the ambitious and propel the aspirational.


Serving health, safety and security needs in a plethora of fun ways.


Because the only way to deal with the complexities of ever-sprawling African cities, will be via fun!


In 2016, raising awareness and dealing with the issues that continue to plague the continent will take a playful twist.


Because sometimes it’s all about fun for fun’s sake!



In 2016, brands will use fun to inspire the ambitious and propel the aspirational.

It goes without saying: Africans are highly aspirational!

But the zeal to achieve success is often overshadowed by the downheartedness that looms over many of the continent’s younger citizens. With skyrocketing unemployment in some nations, and exploding numbers of young adults seeking a bright future, consumers will demand that brands offer solutions in an optimistic and fun way.



Reality TV show encourages youth entrepreneurship

Mashrouy (meaning ‘My Project’) is a Sudanese TV show designed to address the country’s lack of young entrepreneurship. Created by the Sudanese Young Businessmen’s Association in partnership with the British Council, the third series of the show aired in February 2016. Twelve contestants faced various challenges and pitched their business to a panel of judges, with one winner receiving a prize fund of SDG 200,000 (around USD 32,000). Sudan’s youth unemployment rate is 23%, with over 60% of the population aged under 25.



Africa's first solar-powered football pitch to inspire entrepreneurship amongst students

In December 2015, Shell opened a human and solar-powered football pitch in Lagos, Nigeria. The pitch features over 90 underground tiles, which capture kinetic energy created by the movement of the players; the energy is then stored and combined with the power of the solar panels to operate the new floodlights. The initiative aims to promote a sense of community in the local area and enables young people to play more safely at night time.


Remember, PLAYFUL messages cut through the noise. So whether posting a job via an engaging viral video, or encouraging potential candidates to compete for an advertised role, try to consider how your brand can positively inspire, as well as empower, the next generation of Africans to achieve their goals in the most exciting way possible.



Serving health, safety and security needs in a plethora of fun ways.

Time has run out for traditional (read boring) health and safety campaigns.

Of course Africans want to be as knowledgeable as possible when it comes to health and safety. Just without the patronizing, doomsday tone many organizations across the continent have traditionally adopted. Now, whether it's a CSR initiative or a health warning campaign, Africans will appreciate brands that find fun and entertaining ways to keep them informed, healthy and safe.



Night time bike race promotes reflective cycle safety spray

Volvo LifePaint is a reflective spray which is invisible in daylight, while glowing brightly at night when lit by car headlights. Designed for use by cyclists – who can easily apply the wash-off spray to their apparel, LifePaint launched in South Africa with a free December 2015 event hosted at Johannesburg’s Hunter Cycling Shop. The store hosts a monthly nighttime event for cyclists, and a special edition of the Jozi Hustle took place giving cyclists and media the chance to try out Volvo’s LifePaint.


Cancer Association of South Africa

Humorous campaign raises awareness of testicular cancer

An online campaign to deal with the awkwardness of talking about testicular cancer, and raise awareness of the disease, was launched by the Cancer Association of South Africa in February 2016. ‘Testi-monials’ includes an animation featuring testicles talking about the cancer and its effects, and offers advice on how to self-examine and detect signs and symptoms. Testicular cancer is the most common cancer in young men aged 15 to 39 worldwide.


Ebola Strike Force

Mobile game helps prevent Ebola

Available to download from November 2015, Ebola Strike Force is a mobile videogame designed to educate people about the Ebola virus. Created by Nigeria-based ChopUp Games, the USD 0.99 app gives players tips on how to prevent getting Ebola, providing educational advice and health tips in a fun, interactive scenario. A leaderboard gives gamers the chance to compete against each other across Ebola Strike Force’s 30 levels.


Yes, health and safety are serious issues. That doesn't mean communication around them should be dry and boring (and therefore easier to ignore). How can your brand find new and PLAYFUL ways of dealing with these issues? Remember, it can pay to think mobile and gamification!



Because the only way to deal with the complexities of ever-sprawling African cities will be via fun!

Live hard, work hard, PLAY hard!

Increasingly overcrowded cities continue to create new challenges for inhabitants. Think overloaded or non-functional infrastructure, shared living amenities and resources, and more. Of course, only multifaceted and solutions can solve all these problems. But one way to empower citizens? Offer new forms of incentives and gamified solutions that help them collectively address some urban problems and encourage community building.


EcoMobility World Festival

Urban neighborhood goes car-free for one month to make space for playful activity

The EcoMobility World Festival was held in Johannesburg during October 2015. The event saw the city’s Sandton district go completely car-free for the duration of the month-long festival. The business district provided residents and commuters with alternative transport options, such as buses, trains and bikes, as well as promoting walking in the city. A program of free events were hosted on the streets, such as fun runs, bike races, scavenger hunts and team challenges.


British Council

City spaces transformed to encourage interaction and creativity

In March 2016, Lagos was the location for the British Council’s Playable City program. Eleven participants from Nigeria and the UK were invited to ‘explore, exchange ideas and develop new works around the theme of mobility’. The ten-day program saw spaces around the city ‘transformed into places of unexpected interaction’ where participants worked on prototype ideas to improve mobility in Lagos. Playable City events have previously taken place in Japan and Brazil.


Want to seize this opportunity? Find creative ways in which to turn urban problems into fun and solvable challenges. For example, a single water-source, shared by a large community, can become a focal point of community-based collaboration or an opportunity to gather locals who are interested in new ways to share information. Just remember, this is about making the lives of consumers BETTER and more FUN!



In 2016, raising awareness and dealing with the issues that continue to plague the continent will take a playful twist.

African activism often means PLAYFUL activism!

One sign of the overlap between activism and PLAY? In 2015 in the US and UK, only 2% of hashtags related to political issues; the figure for Africa was 10% (Warc, May 2016). Now, at a time when Africans are all but exhausted from protesting, marching, rebelling, rioting and more, savvy organisations with serious motives are beginning to explore more light-hearted methods of bringing about change.


Integrity Idol

Liberian reality TV show focuses on honesty and transparency in government

December 2015 saw the final of Integrity Idol Liberia take place. The aim of the reality television show was to find the most honest government official in Liberia, with thousands of nominations being submitted before judges selected five competitors including a nurse, a court clerk and a caretaker. Each contestant appeared on national television and radio, as well as on social media sites, and viewers could vote for their favorite entrant via telephone or SMS. The aim of Integrity Idol was to encourage honesty, transparency and integrity from public officials.


Corruption Watch

South African event encourages youth to playfully address issues surrounding corruption

In December 2015, South African public sector agency, Corruption Watch, partnered with youth content agency, Livity Africa, to celebrate International Anti-Corruption Day with a gathering of young activists at a Johannesburg jazz club in the student district of Braamfontein. The event involved young leaders, students and radio personalities discussing issues regarding tackling corruption in South Africa. Attendees were also encouraged to participate in more light-hearted interventions such as a bribe detector test, whereby after being wired up to a machine, participants had to openly confess (or deny) paying bribes.



Music video raises awareness about child brides

2015 saw RL Grime work with UNICEF to raise awareness of the issue of child brides in Chad. Almost 70% of girls in the country are married before they finish high school, meaning that it has one of the highest rates of child marriage globally. The US-based music producer’s soundtrack accompanies a YouTube clip created by UNICEF showing the problems associated with child marriage, such as risks in pregnancy and a lack of education.


Of course, the continent faces many challenges that aren't amenable to a PLAYFUL approach. But for those that are, humor and fun are a great way to cut through, communicate and incite change. So think about whether the challenge YOU are addressing is best suited to an approach that is raw, direct and serious, or whether you can introduce some PLAY.



Because sometimes it's just about fun for fun's sake!

A FUNdamental human need!

Yes, the continent faces many serious challenges. But African consumers will still embrace fun for fun's sake: no-frills, nostalgic, futuristic, solo, communal and more. In a culture where celebration, optimism and communal expression are seamlessly intertwined with everyday experiences, brands simply must offer some PLAYFUL EXPRESSION!


Menlyn Park Shopping Center

Shopping mall sunrise dance event takes place in secret

In March 2016, the first Secret Sunrise event took place in Pretoria. Hosted at the Menlyn Park Shopping Center, the event began before sunrise and saw guests take part in a group session including yoga, meditation and dancing. In Secret Sunrise events, guests are encouraged to wear fancy dress, and given wireless headphones, so they can all hear the same soundtrack as they dance. Tickets cost ZAR 100 (USD 6.90), and the location for events is only revealed to attendees the day before. Similar events also take place in Johannesburg and Cape Town.


Jupiter Drawing Room Cape Town

Selfie-booth creates holographic images

The Holobooth generates holographic selfies which people can view using a prism and their cellphone. Conceived by creative agency Jupiter Drawing Room Cape Town, the portable selfie booth was unveiled at the Design Indaba Festival in March 2016. People record a 15-second selfie video, which is then processed and uploaded online, before being sent to the participant via email or SMS. People can then view the holographic selfie can then be viewed by placing a prism on their cellphone in a darkened room.


Guinness Africa

Beer brand’s ad creates viral dance craze

Unveiled in March 2016, the #MoveWithSpecial ad from Guinness was designed to generate a viral dance trend, and encourage people to create and share their own street dance styles. Promoting the brewer’s Africa Special, the video features music from Buraja Som Sistema, remixed by Nigerian producer Spellz, and African street dance inspired by Krumping and Korudo dance styles. People were invited to upload images and clips of their own dancing to social media, hashtagged with #MoveWithSpecial.


There are many obviously African modes of expression that can be adopted for PLAYSUMERS - Guinness chose to focus on dance. And while these offline playful time-fillers are often easy to execute, there's still many avenues yet to be explored. How about tapping into the newer, more futuristic and fascinating world of tech and delighting Africans with novel, forward-looking forms of fun, as Jupiter Drawing Room Cape Town's selfie booth does?



To understand where these opportunities come from – and where they're going – it pays to see them in the context of our Trend Framework.


The Trend Framework

16 mega-trends that provide context and structure when tracking the evolution of consumerism.

The five opportunities featured in PLAYSUMERS didn’t come via a spontaneous midnight brainstorming session ;)

Instead, the process was rather more straightforward – and structured.

That’s because all the trends we spot and share are really newly-emerging directions of travel in one (or more) of our 16 mega-trends. These mega-trends are the big, slow-moving currents in the consumer arena and, taken together, they form the Trend Framework: our complete picture of consumerism today and where it’s heading.

Grab a glimpse of the Trend Framework below (clients of our Premium Service have full access).

Having a robust and comprehensive Trend Framework allows us to assess the implications of the hundreds of innovations we receive from TW:IN (TrendWatching’s global network of spotters) every day. Meaning we can keep spotting and sharing great trends.


Africa's PLAYSUMERS will keep evolving...

It won’t surprise you to hear that this Bulletin draws on new directions of travel we’ve spotted in African in the PLAYSUMERS mega-trend ;) That’s the mega-trend via which we track the evolution of the basic human need that is entertainment, humor, fun and play.

Seeing the five opportunities we’ve outlined in this Briefing in the context of the Trend Framework means understanding more about where they came from – and where they’re going next. We’ll be watching!

So what are you waiting for?

Gather your team together and start brainstorming how your brand will tap into Africa's eager PLAYSUMERS!