South african consumers’ ethnic identification and attitudes towards advertising ethnic appeals

Prof Adéle Potgieter, Prof Thérése Roux

Vol 20 | Issue 1 | pp. 64-78


Existing literature on social media groups’ identity in South Africa is both outdated and insufficient, notably lacking a comprehensive exploration of ethnic identity and demographic disparities. Previous research in South Africa has examined social group identity in advertising, however, it lacks focus on ethnic identity and demographic variations. The purpose of the study was to investigate demographic variations in ethnic identification and attitudes toward advertising ethnic appeals, guided by social identity theory (SIT) and cue evaluation theory (CET).

This research study followed a positivist paradigm and utilised a descriptive research design. In addition, the study employed purposeful sampling to select consumers from four ethnic groups in South Africa: Afrikaans, English, Nguni, and Sotho-Tswana. Only bilingual consumers were surveyed. An online structured questionnaire was distributed on social media platforms via a research company. The survey was completed by those who passed filter questions to ensure they were proficient in at least one African language and English, as an additional language, and self-identified to the major ethnic groups selected. This resulted in a sample size of 704 completed surveys.

The findings provide marketers with insights into how diverse demographic segments within major ethnic groups relate to their own and other ethnic groups. The overall results demonstrate that South African consumers are enthusiastically embracing their cultural heritage and actively supporting their ethnic communities’ welfare and rights. It, furthermore, uncovers varying ethnic identification dimensions and attitudes toward advertising ethnic appeals between gender, age, and ethnic groups, presenting opportunities for targeted marketing strategies. Marketers should acknowledge the potential of leveraging native language advertising as a tool for ethnic targeting, while multicultural visual elements could be employed to effectively convey messages that transcend linguistic and cultural barriers.

Keywords: Age; Advertising cues; Emerging markets; Gender; Multi-cultural; Native language.

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