Hey Sugar, Welcome to the Dark Side (of Marketing)

Hey Sugar, Welcome to the Dark Side (of Marketing)
With new draft legislation coming for South Africa’s food labels, marketers are going to have to start getting creative – and they’d do well to learn from regulated industries.

By Matthew van der Valk

The food industry in South Africa is about to undergo significant changes, with new food labelling regulations set to come into effect. The new regulations aim to promote transparency and eliminate misleading claims on product labelling, with restrictions on the use of words such as “smart”, “intelligent”, and “super-food”, while claims like “fresh”, “natural”, and “pure” must be reflected in the ingredients. The regulations will also ban celebrity endorsements and claims of providing a nutritionally balanced diet.

Foods high in sugar, fat, and sodium will require mandatory warning labels and will not be allowed to be marketed to children or make energy, health, or nutrition claims. This will affect popular snacks and breakfast cereals with high sugar content. Food companies will be forced to reassess their marketing strategies and adjust their labelling practices to align with the new regulations, leading to more transparency and responsibility in their labelling and marketing practices.

Enter Dark Marketing

Dark marketing involves the use of new communication channels when traditional channels are not available. In the past, dark marketing was primarily used by regulated industries such as tobacco, gambling, finance, and pharmaceuticals. However, the principles of dark marketing can be useful for any companies looking to infiltrate consumer conversations and make the word on the street work in their favour. Beyond-the-line marketing (principles that stem from dark marketing) is about living in people’s lives rather than trying to interrupt them. This approach will be hugely beneficial for brands affected by this change in regulation. The likelihood that these shifts will affect more than just the labelling, but also their route to market is very high.

Governments may be able to regulate how brands communicate to people, but they cannot regulate how people speak to each other. By infiltrating conversations and living in people’s lives, beyond-the-line marketing can help break habits and reach consumers in a way that traditional marketing channels may not.

As other industries have discovered in the past, there’s no escaping legislation. The food industry in South Africa will be forced to adapt to new labelling regulations, requiring more transparency and responsibility in their marketing practices. Adopting a beyond-the-line marketing strategy can provide an advantage in reaching consumers by infiltrating conversations and becoming a part of their daily lives. Brands that adopt these strategies will be better equipped to reach their target audience in an increasingly regulated market.

Matthew van der Valk is an Executive Creative Director at VMLY&R South Africa. He has extensive experience in the dark marketing space, working with brands in regulated industries.

This article first appeared on Businesslive.co.za

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