Much has been made of the impact that social media has had on the youth, human interaction and society at large. This is reflected through the rise of cyberbullying, cancel culture, clout chasing influencers, social media managers and the saturation of hashtags. However, what of the brands and corporations? Has social media now deluded them too? A prime case in point is that of South African’s new favourite couple, lovebirds Hector Mkansi and Nonhlanhla Soldaat, stemming from the viral KFC proposal video.
In the early aftermath of the video going viral, adverting, marketing and public relations personnel behind many of South Africa’s premier personalities and brands started to scamper. Racking their collective brains to figure out ways that their clients could capitalize on the heartwarming love story. It’s unclear who or what exactly got the ball rolling, but things soon began to snowball. Financial service providers, car manufacturers, catering enterprises, tailors, cosmetics companies, celebrities and artists alike all began to throw their proverbial hats into the collecting basket.
Each pledging to offer their services in preparation for ‘the big day’ and some even attempting to play the long-term game, by offering the couple favourable interest rates on bank, car and home loans. With each refresh of my newsfeed, the pledges kept pilling in. It was soon clear that no one or corporate legal entity was prepared to miss out on the viral affair. I too tried to join on the festivities and offer the trending couple my two-cent congratulatory tweet, however I couldn’t quite bring myself to do so. Instead, I wanted answers.
Why were South Africa’s major brands so desperate to attach their names and logos to the event? Now, a few days removed from the media circus, I’m convinced that all those who pledged, did so to manufacture and drive their own social media engagement and outlook. As brands have awoken to the fact, that for your product or service to thrive, it must directly speak and appeal to the millions that make up the black middle and working class. Hector Mkansi and Nonhlanhla Soldaat represent an authentic yet unremarkable South Africa love story but one that gained virality thanks to KFC’s CCTV camera footage.
However, what the corporate creatives quickly realised was that it was a sure-fire way for their clients to communicate an important message. “See? We too care about black people! And while we have your attention, be sure to visit our website, download our app, like our social media pages, order products and purchase our services!” The proceeds of which will go towards securing their bottom line. I hate it!
For years, South African business has neglected the opportunities presented by the uniqueness and needs of this country’s black majority. However as calls for industry transformation and better representation have grown louder throughout the decade, advertising, marketing and public relations departments have done a 180-degree pivot. Their new approach is to pander to whatever Black Twitter applauds; with campaigns now purposefully streamlined to appease this audience. My message to them is: We black people are not stupid and can see through this farce! Congratulations to Nonhlanhla Soldaat and Hector Mkansi on their engagement. Yes, I know there’s no such thing as bad publicity.
This piece was written by Mondli Mpumelelo Hadebe.