Below-the-Line Marketing: 5 Superpowers to Becoming the Consumer’s Hero

below the line marketing the consumers hero


On the 29th of March, our own Andreas Smit featured as guest lecturer for the University of Pretoria’s BCom Honours (Marketing Management) students. Andreas is a sales and marketing specialist with over 15 years’ experience in trade marketing spanning corporate, agency and as an independent consultant. A lifelong learner, Andreas has a BCom Honours degree in Marketing, multiple post graduate diplomas and is currently pursuing his MBA through Henley Business School. The lecture served as a reminder to the marketers of tomorrow that the consumer is at the centre of all successful campaigns, and included some useful insights into customer-centricity that underlies below-the-line marketing strategies.

Abstract: The Consumer Needs a Hero and it's You!

The temptation for marketers is to fall in love with the brands they represent. Which is great. But pontificating about the merits of a brand without bringing it back to how it adds value to consumers is a pitfall to be avoided at all costs. Remembering that, as marketers, we ultimately represent the consumer, is a useful framework and north star that can be leveraged to guide effective campaigns. In short, if you want to resonate with target consumers, you have to work to understand them and position your brand’s value propositions relative to their wants and needs. You also need to understand where and how they consume your brand (the buyer journey).


Andreas’ passion for this framework served as the foundation of his superhero-themed talk: ‘The consumer needs a hero,’ exploring the role of marketers as custodians and creators of impactful messages that create lasting bonds with consumers. 

Andreas drew on his extensive experience at Tradeway Promotions, a data driven leading below-the-line marketing agency that offers a variety of below-the-line marketing services including brand activations and eventsdigital, and field services. He noted that he has experienced “first-hand the changing consumer landscape and the conundrum facing consumer goods and services brands in South Africa.”


These brands are torn between the global push for digital-first marketing strategies and a target customer who remains largely analogue in their buyer journeys. Reaching and engaging with this audience demands a degree of physical, experiential marketing – tangible experiences where consumers act and transact. A consumer-facing brand without a consumer-inclusive marketing strategy is bound to fail. 


To guide prospective marketers, Andreas recommended honing the following 5 ‘superpowers’: 

01 Be of Undeniable Value

All life is a value exchange. You get what you give. The more value you create the more you’ll be valued.


All products and services deliver value relative to need. Broadly, needs can be broken down into functional, emotional, life-changing and socially impactful. Each of these needs is a lever that marketers can draw on to secure customer consideration and loyalty. It’s through demonstrating how your brand values align with those of your consumers (and therefore with their needs) that brands find lasting relevance. The way you as marketer deliver value is through the power of great communication. Communication that is firstly, heard by your target market, secondly, understood, and finally, that makes sense relative to their needs. It’s a combination of what, where and how you impart your brand’s message that creates value. 

02 Don't be a Marketer!

You are not a marketer. You are a communicator. You are a human connection specialist. 


By all means fall in love with the brands you represent. That will only make you a more authentic communicator. But fall in love with how they meet the needs of your consumers. And then share that love! “You communicate to make your audience feel and then act on those feelings. Do this ethically because you have the power!”, notes Andreas.

03 Buck (-sp-) the Trends

Beware the universal truth. 


According to an article on Forbes, brands that want to build a great brand should stop following trends and start advancing movements. While there are short-term benefits to riding the coattails of another brand’s innovation, that approach won’t lead to significant growth. Great brands spot powerful ideas on the horizon that resonate with their core values (and those of their customers), and they pursue innovative ways to advance those ideas.


We’re seeing this play out everyday in South Africa’s consumer goods and services space. As marketers we’re eager to explore the cutting edge of digital marketing that’s clearly working in developed countries. But South African consumers are different. Just 4% of all retail purchases were conducted online in 2022. We are still constrained by low digital literacy and limited access to connectivity. Failing to show up in trade – formal or informal – is not just a missed opportunity. It risks alienating the majority of South African consumers from your brand.


This goes back to making yourself a hero to consumers. By understanding how and why people choose one product or service over another, marketers can identify which products or services people want, effectively shape their marketing strategies and campaigns and influence consumers’ actions. 

04 Stay Humble.

You don’t know what you don’t know.


We all know what assumptions are. The product of conditioning, education, biases. You don’t deserve your biases, and your customers certainly don’t either. Be curious. Don’t assume for instance that because your target customer is low on digital literacy that they are not highly sophisticated in other areas. Work to understand their needs and you’ll only get better at communicating your brand’s value (and proving your own).

05 Focus. Act. Learn. Move.

Fail fast, and fail forward. 


All marketing is an experiment. Even with the most robust market research, some messages will land and others will fall flat. What’s important is that each time you fail (or succeed) that you learn and adapt. The goal is ongoing, incremental improvement. Take comfort in the fact that markets move. What worked today may not work tomorrow. Don’t get complacent in your success or despondent in your failures. There will be many of both.  


Smit concluded the evening with this key comment: “I would like to leave the class with one primary message and that is that you are the future heroes of your consumers and customers. You are accountable to your consumers for clear, honest, and uplifting communication, to your brands for value creation, and to yourself for continual development.”


Dr. Michelle van der Merwe, the Marketing of Services lecturer, and the students were pleased to hear that the University of Pretoria’s Marketing Management honours alumni employed at Tradeway Promotions have made a positive impact on the company.  The audience was also excited to learn that Tradeway Promotions is keen to appoint more students for its apprentice-style BCom Honours (Marketing Management) programme. 


To learn more, or find out how to leverage below-the-line marketing activations to build lasting consumer connections for your goods and services brands, contact Tradeway today.


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