Mandela brand 'polluted' by online marketing

2013-12-12 10:41
This blanket with the likeness of Nelson Mandela is one of several items being sold at informal markets after the death of the icon. (Duncan Alfreds, News24)

This blanket with the likeness of Nelson Mandela is one of several items being sold at informal markets after the death of the icon. (Duncan Alfreds, News24) (Duncan Alfreds)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Cape Town - As the country mourns the death of Nelson Mandela, many traders - online and offline - have jumped on the name to sell everything from blankets to electronics.

Large retailers like Incredible Connection, Woolworths, Pick n Pay as well as major bankers Absa and FNB featured a message of condolence for Nelson Mandela prominently on their websites.

Several Twitter users also changed their profile pictures to that of Mandela as a mark of respect for the values espoused by the former South African president.

However, the brand Nelson Mandela can be used to ostensibly market a company image, rather than pay respect to the Nobel Peace Prize laureate.

Until Wednesday, online classifieds website displayed the likeness of Mandela over the site's logo. Online platforms make it easier to change and adapt marketing strategy, particularly as more consumers migrate to the web.

Mandela brand

"Online marketing has become a key focus for brands globally, and we are seeing an exponential growth of this channel in South Africa too," Axe South Africa brand manager Vincent Viviers told News24.

Unilever made extensive use of online marketing channels in their Axe Apollo campaign which will see one South African going to space.

However, after the announcement of Mandela's death the company withdrew high profile marketing in SA as a mark of respect.

The brand represented by Mandela should be respected for what the man stood for, argued a marketing executive.

"The Mandela brand's core values stood for the good of the people and I believe that the brand is then owned by a South African based Mandela foundation, set to benefit the beneficiaries of the foundation," Dineo Molaba, account manager of Corporate Services at FleishmanHillard told News24.

She warned that the Mandela brand should remain free of opportunistic marketing of consumer goods because it might impact on his stature and legacy.

"As with all personality-based brands, guidelines are instilled to ensure that a brand stays true to its roots. The Mandela brand guidelines are centred on Mr Mandela’s face not being placed on commercial products, and not being associated with tobacco and alcohol," she wrote in a thinly veiled reference to the House of Mandela Wine range, run by his granddaughters.

Intellectual property

In a global online environment, it is difficult if not impossible to protect a brand like Nelson Mandela from being exploited by unscrupulous operators.

According to the UN Interregional Crime and Justice Unit (Unicri), organised crime syndicates have turned to cybercrime and intellectual property theft because weak enforcement made the practice highly profitable.

"Transnational organised crime networks have turned to counterfeiting and piracy to take advantage of the high profits and minimal penalties set forth by intellectual property rights law as well as the weak enforcement measures associated with these crimes," said Marco Musumeci, responsible for the anti-counterfeiting programme at Unicri.

Molaba said that brand owners need to ensure that they jealously guard their brand, as it could be related directly to the bottom line.

"I think that generally people should understand that the stronger the brand is, the greater the correlation is to consumer purchasing.  That is why businesses need to invest heavily in protecting such an intangible part of their business."

- Follow Duncan on Twitter
Read more on:    un  |  unilever  |  nelson mandela  |  e-commerce  |  internet

Join the conversation! encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions. publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24


Book flights

Compare, Book, Fly

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.