Mandela brand 'polluted' by online marketing

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
We live in a world where facts and fiction get blurred
In times of uncertainty you need journalism you can trust. For only R75 per month, you have access to a world of in-depth analyses, investigative journalism, top opinions and a range of features. Journalism strengthens democracy. Invest in the future today.
Subscribe to News24
Lockdown For
Voting Booth
The EFF has voted with the DA to ensure they now govern Johannesburg, Tshwane and Ekurhuleni. Was this:
Please select an option Oops! Something went wrong, please try again later.
A brilliant strategic move by the DA not to make formal coalition agreements
24% - 2027 votes
A brilliant strategic move by the EFF to force the DA to negotiate with them
16% - 1360 votes
A recipe for disaster and five more years of unstable local government
60% - 5074 votes
Rand - Dollar
Rand - Pound
Rand - Euro
Rand - Aus dollar
Rand - Yen
Brent Crude
Top 40
All Share
Resource 10
Industrial 25
Financial 15
All JSE data delayed by at least 15 minutes Iress logo
Editorial feedback and complaints

Contact the public editor with feedback for our journalists, complaints, queries or suggestions about articles on News24.