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Guinness & Africa’s Elegant Persons.

Guinness recently created a campaign for Africa that has become a hit for its clever cultural appeal. Because culture and reinvention are often challenges that face brand owners I found this story inspiring. Case study written by Alexander Knight of Creative Culture.

They call themselves Sapeurs – a name derived from La SAPE (Society of Elegant Persons of the Congo) – and represent a community of unlikely fashionistas, breaking away from the norm through the outward expression of their impeccable attire. Bright colored suits crafted in world-renown Parisian mills are not an unlikely sight among these everyday working-class men.

La SAPE does not merely dictate a way of dressing, but more so a way of life. This group of blue-collar workers adopts a strict code of honor, and conduct themselves in a moral and astute manner, choosing to rise above the results of a nation recently torn by civil war. It soon becomes clear that the refined and unique garments are not merely a boastful façade, but rather a reflection of their optimistic outlook on life.

So what is it that makes this campaign so culturally-effective?

1. Finding a unique cultural representation of the market
Discovering inspiration that is relevant to the target market is what gives the campaign its authenticity. This can only be achieved through comprehensive cultural insight. In this case, it is clear that Guinness sought to identify an inspiring segment in order to effectively engage their audience not only in Congo, but also across the continent.

2. Communicating the message in a way the audience can relate to
Many people spend years searching for a greater cause to live by; a driving force that explains why we do what we do. While not everyone can assimilate to a life in a post-war developing nation, everyone can relate to the universal urge for self-improvement. Armed with this conclusion, the campaign breaks down cultural barriers to show that we are not that different, after all. Even considering details such as the music selection, it is evident that the campaign was not only intended for an African audience, but retains a strategically broad approach. The ad grips the global audience with an indie rock track titled What Makes a Good Man created by British band, The Heavy.

3. Connecting with brand values
While the lives portrayed in the campaign are completely unique, the brand still successfully connects this powerful human story with its own core brand values, which include power, communion, and goodness.

The viral TV ad was complemented by a short documentary, which can be viewed on their dedicated website as well as their YouTube channel. The resulting campaign generated over 2 million YouTube views in a month, gained significant media and blog coverage, and remains a telling example that well-informed cultural insight can yield an incredibly effective campaign that impacts the target audience in a powerful way.

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