Brand Strategist Luandri Smith, on her fascination with people, how creativity is turned into a technicality and the belief that collaboration is key to equipping one to translate local nuances.
This week we caught up with Luandri Smith as she not only tells us how creativity has turned into a technicality but the power collaboration has on local nuances
D.IO : So, tell us... Where are you at this current moment? Are you having coffee, stealing a moment in the office or perhaps a coffee shop?
L.S : Stealing a moment in the office - with some coffee!
D.IO : What was the path that lead you to this career?
L.S : I always found people fascinating. I believed I should become a psychologist and eventually found myself studying Industrial Psychology in Stellenbosch. I hated it, but loved my Consumer Behaviour lectures. By a series of fortunate events, I found myself reading a brochure for Vega's Brand Building and Management degree and immediately knew that was the degree for me. After my first Brand Strategy lecture, I was in love. The rest is history (in the making).
D.IO : What are the first three words that come to mind when thinking about your country / city (it can be sights, sounds, tastes, feels, mood, people, texture etc).
L.S : Friendly. Warm. Colourful.
D.IO : Have you seen any examples of brands, artists or organizations that incorporate the memories/associations you just mentioned?
L.S : Amarula, Springboks, Johnny Clegg, Chappies.
D.IO : Can you provide a recent example that portrays some of the dynamics of your local culture and society?
L.S : I have this weird habit of watching YouTube videos of the Drakensberg Boys Choir. Seeing boys of all races singing Shozoloza with so much pride portrays South Africa as we would like it to be. However, #FeesMustFall shows it as it is - we are all together but we are broken. Like shattered glass on the floor. Even the State of the Nation Address shows the angry underbelly of our country that is increasingly becoming prevalent in everyday life.
D.IO : What feelings does your country / city evoke?
L.S : 90% Pride. 10% Sadness.
D.IO : Do you think it is important to localise international campaigns? Please elaborate on the above answer. Why do you say so?
L.S : Very important. South Africa is unique in so many ways. We have different cultures, languages, customs, religions, economies etc so we cannot possibly believe an international campaign can effectively resonate with us without some adaptation. We are not the West. We are not the East. We're not even the rest of Africa. It's time to be South African in South Africa. Even if it's difficult.
D.IO : Is it a make or break for brands to localise?
L.S : Not necessarily...not yet, anyway. International brands can often be seen as aspirational, and could act as a vehicle to escape South African living.
D.IO : Do you believe as a creative you are well placed to help brands translate local nuances? Why?
L.S : No, because I don't have the insight to comprehensively translate the nuances. My paradigm is very much dictated by my culture, bilingual nature, religion, upbringing and geographic location. If I would collaborate with a variety of different people, I would be better equipped.
D.IO : What is the one thing you would want campaigns to capture about the local demographic?
L.S : We are not the stereotypes. South Africans are so much more than that. For example, if a campaign automatically equates Afrikaans people to Christian, conservative farmers who like the rustic life - you miss me, an Afrikaner, completely.
D.IO : Are there any examples of global campaigns that have incorporated the local nuances of your market while staying true to their brand? How do you think they captured / merged this complex relationship?
L.S : Coca-Cola! I believe the reason why they do it so well is that the local nuances is just showcased. It's not like they are delivering comment the way Nandos does it. If they did comment on it, it would be too intrusive. They merely mirror our demographic - and it's enough.
D.IO : How does the process of adapting global campaigns as opposed to creating new campaigns dim local creativity? Can adapting campaigns capture the local essence when local creatives are limited to simply adapting global campaigns?
L.S : Creatives aren't starting with a fresh clean slate. They are given an art piece and asked to make it "the same, but different". It turns creativity into technicality. Instead of letting creatives think out of the box, we are trapping them in the very same box.
D.IO : What is the one rule you follow for positioning a brand to fit into the local environment? Please discuss a case where this has failed or succeeded.
L.S : #1 Rule: Do not assume!
D.IO : With consumers deeply entrenched in the digital sphere, how does this affect localisation and brand experience given consumers may experience a brand online first?
L.S : Localisation shouldn't be a part of the campaign - it should be the campaign. This means that digitally, it must translate. Localisation must be a comprehensive and overarching activity across all brand contact points.
D.IO : What other markets do you look to for inspiration?
L.S : Asia. I love the story of De Beers in Asia. The three diamond ring was used for engagements in the West as the diamonds represented "Our Past, Our Present and Our Future". In Asia, this message fell on deaf ears so they changed the copy to "Your Past, Your Present and Your Future" and introduced the concept of the Right Hand Ring - a ring a woman buys herself as a reward for her own success.
D.IO : There is this idea of culturalization vs. localization of brands, what is the difference if any and does this help brands gets closer to the local market?
L.S : They are similar but not one and the same. Localization is speaking to South Africans. Culturalization is either speaking to Zulus in South Africa and/or speaking to South Africans in other parts of the world. Culturalization is much more segmented, but is effective when done correctly. It can help getting closer to a certain portion of the local market.
Thank you Luandri! Your pride in South Africa comes through effortlessly and it is an absolute privilege to engage with you whether it be through research projects or sharing engaging insights.