On my radar: New urban tribes

2012-06-23 08:55

In 2008, American author and public speaker Seth Godin published Tribes: We Need You to Lead Us.

In the book, he identified an emerging pattern of new communities connecting with one another outside of the usual socioeconomic benchmarks, such as living standards measures (LSMs) created in the late 80s by the South African Audience Research Foundation to define and segment various consumer groups in South Africa.

Since then, the concepts of “tribes” or “clustering” have been growing. However, segmenting solely by virtue of ownership of cars and home appliances is fast becoming obsolete.

LSMs only tell part of the consumer story. For example, a teenager in a township who has a smartphone has the same access to digital media as his counterpart in the suburbs.

The two may be from completely different socioeconomic groups, but their interests may be the same.

Similarly, in many informal settlements today, shacks sport satellite dishes, thereby destroying the neat segmentation based purely on purchasing power.

In 2005, the University of Cape Town’s Unilever Institute of Strategic Marketing released its profiling report on South Africa’s “black diamonds”.

Since then, no other clustering or profiling has been attempted to help define our complex society.

Flux Trends attempts to do just that with its New Urban Tribes of South Africa report.

The report is a snapshot of 12 uniquely South African urban tribes chosen because of their cultural influence and/or spending power.

It is part anthropological essay and part marketing tool, or simply a glimpse at where South African society is presently.


1. The Rainbow Revolutionaries

Who are they?
The true pioneers of our Rainbow Nation.

One in four South African families is in a mixed-race family.

Some have married people of different skin colours, while others have adopted children from a different race.

Why are they important?
Rainbow Revolutionary families usually come from an educated, well-travelled and well-read stratum of the population.

They are concerned with the broader, international issues.

They tend to be liberal, politically active and environmentally aware, and identify with the global culture of democracy and liberalism.

The most surprising findings?
Intercultural and interfaith families have to make some tough decisions on how to bring up their children.

Adoptive parents acknowledge their adopted children’s ethnicity and make an effort to allow their children to explore their traditional heritage.

Rainbow Revolutionaries therefore tend to engage in activities that broaden their understanding of the world and their appreciation of the people who live in it.

They focus on what individuals have in common, rather than on the appearance and rituals that make us different.


2. The Bieber Brats

Who are they?
The Bieber Brats are the sussed, spoilt 9 to 12-year-old children – the true digital natives of our time. They live in the information age of instant gratification and media bombardment.

Why are they important?
The Bieber Brats are South Africa’s first truly cosmopolitan generation. Also known as the “born frees”, they have the first real level playing field.

Mature beyond their years, they have quickly grown into mini-adults because they have travelled and have accessed global and grown-up ideas at their fingertips.

The most surprising findings?
The Bieber Brats have never known life without the internet and cellphones.

As a result, they may become victims or perpetrators of cyber bullying.

According to i-SAFE Foundation statistics, 10% to 20% of teenagers have experienced some form of cyber bullying.


3. The Faith-Based Youth

Who are they?
Otherwise known as “the believers”, this tribe is part of a growing number that has turned to faith to find fulfilment.

As a result, faith-based young people have turned away from traditional, hierarchical religious institutions in favour of emergent “missional churches”, which are more interested in making a lasting difference through missionary actions.

Why are they so important?
Because this tribe prefer to live out their faith through missionary work programmes rather than preaching, they have a deep commitment to social justice and are known to engage in discussion to make sense of global issues – such as South Africa’s wealth gap and the ethics of consumerism – from a moral and/or Biblical worldview.

The most surprising findings?
They find the crass commercialisation of their faith offensive and are particularly disparaging of the commercial “Jesus culture”.

They are aspiring “philanthropic entrepreneurs” with a desire to create strong Christian business and networking opportunities.


4. The Domestic PAs

Who are they?
Domestic PAs are more than the traditional helper.

They are home managers, their “madams’” right-hand ladies.

She orders groceries online, fetches the children from school in the family Range Rover, is part au pair, part housekeeper and a full-time personal assistant.

Why are they important?
Domestic PAs are an increasingly powerful consumer tribe because, although they do not have much spending money of their own, they do have considerable spending power on behalf of their employers.

While her employer might write the shopping list, it’s the PA who makes the final choice.

The most surprising findings?
About 1.5 million Zimbabweans live in South Africa.

They are well-spoken young women, fluent in English with a matric-equivalent education; and they are willing to work for less than their local counterparts, making them an attractive workforce.

They work hard to win their employers’ confidence and see their jobs as a stepping stone to better things.

Domestic PAs often also have small enterprises on the side.


5. The Diamond Chips

Who are they?
The children of the original Black Diamonds.

These tech-savvy, stylish, affluent, urban 20-somethings define themselves by the way they look and the labels they wear.

elf-branding is the new “politicisation”.

They were brought up to expect a certain standard of living, and many live in fear of falling back into the old African poverty trap.

Why are they important?
Diamond Chips often feel pressure to succeed in life, given they are often the first generation in their families to have benefited from private schooling and university education.

Consequently, they carry a huge weight of expectation that they should become as successful as their wealthy and prominent parents, if not more so.

The most surprising findings?
The “Hipsters in the Hood”, a subset of the Diamond Chips.

Hipsters live in wealthy suburbs, such as Sandton, but claim to come from townships like Alexandra and Soweto, which they see as being far more “hip” than boring suburbia.


6. The Techno-Hippies

Who are they?
Techno-Hippies are tech-savvy geeks with hipster tastes and hippie ideas about saving the planet by going green and being sustainably self-sufficient.

While passionate about changing the world on an abstract level, unlike the Faith-Based Youth, they prefer passive activism and have the nickname “slacktivists” (slacker + activist).

Why are they so important?
Techno-Hippies have a real desire to change the world.

They are constantly looking for a fashionable cause they can get behind and “wear” like a badge or brand identity, which poses the quest

ion: can one create real social change without hitting the street and protesting?

The answer, based on the success of the Kony 2012 viral video, is a resounding yes.

The most surprising findings?
Their pursuit of internet entrepreneurship and the dream of living the self-sufficient lifestyle of the modern “new rich”: people who are considered wealthy not because of their possessions or bank balances, but because they have freedom of time and location.


7. The Black Pinks

Who are they?
The flamboyant African gay community.

A highly aspirational and sophisticated tribe working towards established and financially secure lifestyles.

Why are they important?
The new black-and-pink rand is a powerful spending force in our economy.

In the 1990s, the term DINKs – double income, no kids – was coined.

They are a marketers’ and retailers’ dream customers, and are the future DINKs.

The most surprising findings?
The two subsects of this tribe:

(1) The younger Skinny-Jean Creatives who are loud, out and proud and in many cases, the BFF of the highly visible celebrities and socialites; and (2) The older, more established Pink-Chino Corporates, who prefer to fly under the “gaydar”.

The more closeted Pink-Chino Corporates are what many people refer to as “the after-nine’s”.


8. The Indo-Asians

Who are they?
The Chinese and Indian minority communities.

They form about 2.5% of the population but are slowly taking over the economy.

Why are they important?
The tribe’s academic excellence and economic dominance can be attributed to the Asian culture of determination and a strong work ethic.

These give them a career advantage over their Western Techno-Hippie and African Diamond Chip counterparts, who value social status, life experience and fun over corporate success.

The most surprising findings?
The disproportionate representation in terms of this tribe’s numbers compared to their academic achievements in tertiary education institutions.

For example, while Asians only make up 4% of the American population, they account for 20% of Ivy League students.

9. Afrikaans Artistes

Who are they?
There are two distinct sub-tribes:

»?The Creative Collective
The 35 to 55-year-old Generation X “culture vultures” who appreciate art and design, and the creative geniuses who produce it.

In many cases, the Creative Collective are the creative heads that drive those industries.

They are the avid foodies and design aesthetes who have steered our lifestyles subtly but unwaveringly, without us knowing it.

»?The Liberal Millennials
The Liberal Millennials are the Afrikaans culture’s answer to the hipster.

These feisty and free-spirited 20 and 30-somethings are just as creative as the Creative Collective.

However, rather than just appreciating or creating art, the Liberal Millennials are using the arts to express their cultural identity and redefine their heritage.

Why are they important
Both sub-tribes have a strong desire to clear their beloved Afrikaans culture of its tainted associations with apartheid.

With their keen eye for design, strong appreciation for all things arty and creative, and their still-significant economic power, the AfrikaansArtistes are a desirable target market for (and creators of) Proudly SA clothing and design brands.

The most surprising findings?
The thriving Afrikaans music scene and the diverse music idols.

These include the militant Fokofpolisiekar and Van Coke Kartel, the mainstream aKING and Die Heuwels Fantasties, Koos Kombuis, the retro-zef Bouwer Bosch and the pop-culture Dans Dans Lisa.


10. Single Parent: Double Life

Who are they?
Young and single women trying to balance motherhood and life.

These moms have their own hopes and aspirations, and are not likely to let having a baby get in the way of following their dreams.

So they ship their babies to mom and lead glamorous double lives in the big city.

Why are they important?
This tribe exists and thrives because of our deep-rooted culture of “ubuntu”, where it is accepted that a family or your close community contributes to raising a child.

However, the rising number of teen pregnancies is worrying, and TV shows like Teen Mom don’t help the problem.

The most surprising findings?
These highly aspirational and ambitious single moms are not afraid of dating their way up the social ladder.

They hang out in trendy bars where, with their girlfriends, they “hunt” for sugar-daddies who will sustain their double lives.


11. The Lost Generation

Who are they?
The LostGeneration is the unemployed, uneducated, disempowered, disillusioned youth – the “dead capital” we are building, according to Dr Mamphela Ramphele.

Gauteng Education MEC Barbara Creecy admitted that more than 35% of children who start primary school never finish Grade 12.

Other statistics indicate the dropout figure is closer to 66%.

Why are they important?
Our education system is losing children at every step.

The Global Competitiveness Report revealed that South Africa is ranked 133 out of 142 nations in terms of the quality of our education.

Suicides now account for 9.5% of teenage deaths – many are related to a sense of hopelessness about the future.

If we do not stem this tide, South Africa will not evolve.

It’s that simple.

The most surprising findings?
The sheer numbers of this growing tribe are disturbing.

If 500?000 learners who signed up for school in 2000 did not make the class of 2011, then in just six years we could easily add three million young people to this tribe.

It is a collective crisis.


12. The Empowerment Kugels

Who are they?
The new African ladies of leisure are the matriarchs of the Diamond Chips families.

They are the wives of political royalty or black economic empowerment tenderpreneurs.

Why are they important?
Upholding traditional and cultural values is important to Empowerment Kugels, who believe that you don’t need to let go of your culture when you come into cash.

They respect their roles as subservient wives to powerful husbands.

That said, the matriarch is still an influential force, pushing their men forward and ensuring they make the right decisions.

The most surprising findings?
Most Empowerment Kugels are financially dependent on their husbands.

Many choose to turn a blind eye to their husbands’ infidelities in exchange for their secure and privileged lives.

It is the unwritten rule of this tribe.

» New Urban Tribes of South Africa is published by Pan Macmillan and will be available from Amazon, Exclusive Books and Kalahari.com

»?Chang is the founder of Flux Trends: www.fluxtrends.com

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