Getting local, Jabulani Dhlakama, Creative Director(DDB Zambia). Taking us through his career and how culturalization helps brands get closer to markets.

Getting local with Jabulani Dhlakama, Creative Director at DDB Zambia. Taking us through the path to his career and how culturalization can help brands get closer to markets. This is part of our ongoing creative Feedback Sessions on the blog.


D.IO: So, tell us... Where are you at this current moment? Are you having coffee, stealing a moment in the office or perhaps a coffee shop?

Jabulani: In the office, having a cup of tea.


D.IO: What was the path that lead you to this career?

Jabulani: My mother was a fashion designer and a tailor. I started sketching when I was in grade 4 under her guidance. Soon after that, my uncle, who was a prominent cartoonist in Zimbabwe started teaching me how to draw storyboards. From that point, I was always one of the top two art students at primary school. My high school art teacher, Mrs. Gumede, told me on the first day that I would end up "doing something in art."


I didn't agree with her because I wanted to be a doctor. I continued excelling in art until I completed my G.C.S.E Ordinary Level Certificate.


At that point I was sixteen and I was confident that art was my "thing." In place of going back to school to complete my Advanced Level Certificate, I opted to go to college to complete a National Certificate in Applied Art, which is a combination of Fine Art and Graphic Design. Subsequently, I went on to complete a National Diploma in Design for Print. I had simultaneously scored an internship at one of the best local ad agencies, Think Tank Advertising.


Think Tank Advertising is where "I found myself." My CEO realised I was good at coming up with concepts, so while I was learning to use design software and a Mac from the seniors, I was spending a substantial amount of time conceptualising. After becoming Studio Manager and winning a few awards, I left to join DDB Zambia.


D.IO: What are the first three words that come to mind when thinking about your country / city (it can be sights, sounds, tastes, feels, mood, people, texture etc).

Jabulani: Friendly, colourful, happy


D.IO: Have you seen any examples of brands, artists or organizations that incorporate the memories/associations you just mentioned?

Jabulani: MTN Zambia, Airtel Zambia, Zamtel and Trade Kings.


D.IO: Can you provide a recent example that portrays some of the dynamics of your local culture and society?

Jabulani: Trade Kings’ Boom Mum Knows Best campaign.

D.IO:  What feelings does your country / city evoke?

Jabulani: My country evokes an array of mixed feelings. I am happy, sad and sometimes proud.


D.IO: Do you think it is important to localise international campaigns?

Jabulani: Very important


D.IO: Is it a make or break for brands to localise?

Jabulani: The content or images used in international campaigns, may contain content that is taboo in local regions, which would have undesirable effects on the brand or product.

People may not understand what the ad is selling or may feel that it is not speaking directly to them because they do not relate to the images or language being used.


D.IO: Do you believe as a creative you are well placed to help brands translate local nuances? Why?

Jabulani: Yes, I understand how locals, within different market segments, communicate.


D.IO: What is the one thing you would want campaigns to capture about the local demographic?

Jabulani: Campaigns need to capture the essence of culture more effectively. Campaigns are strengthened when the ‘big idea’ is able to encompass an aspect of local culture and can translate this aspect of culture further into the modern era.


D.IO: Are there any examples of global campaigns that have incorporated the local nuances of your market while staying true to their brand? How do you think they captured / merged this complex relationship?

Jabulani: No, I don’t believe there are any. For instance, Standard Chartered Bank Zambia typically run the same campaign globally, but will merely change the campaign image to that of

African people when marketing in African regions in an attempt to make it more locally acceptable.


D.IO: How does the process of adapting global campaigns as opposed to creating new campaigns dim local creativity? Can adapting campaigns capture the local essence when local creatives are limited to simply adapting global campaigns?

Jabulani: Adapting global campaigns kills local creativity because local creatives are unable to adopt narratives in a way that will connect with local people. It's challenging to adapt a campaign and try to make it appeal to locals by simply changing the headline or copy into vernacular.

Even changing the image to Africans rarely does the trick because the tone of voice or setting used is something that does not resonate with locals.


D.IO: What is the one rule you follow for positioning a brand to fit into the local environment?

Jabulani: Research


D.IO: With consumers deeply entrenched in the digital sphere, how does this affect localisation and brand experience given consumers may experience a brand online first?

Jabulani: I think it's important for localisation to happen at the same time as the global campaign so that consumers only get to see communication that is targeted to them, whether it is online or print.


D.IO: What other markets do you look to for inspiration?

Jabulani: America


D.IO: There is this idea of culturalization vs. localization of brands, what is the difference if any and does this help brands gets closer to the local market?

Jabulani: I think culturalization is when the big idea is extracted from a population’s cultural experiences while localization is simply tweaking the language or image to suit a market.

I believe culturalization is more powerful and will help brands get closer to their target market because people will feel this brand is intrinsically connected to them.

abulani's number one rule for positioning a brand to fit into the local market is something we are equally as passionate about, Research! A big thank you to our stella creative Jabulani for taking the time to share his take on Localisation. Stay tuned in for more insights to come!

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