11 Marketing Lessons From Bathu

From humble beginnings in a small township to becoming a national sensation, Bathu, the South African sneaker brand, is an incredible homegrown success story. Celebrities covet Bathu, trendsetters from all over Africa rave about them online, and customers want more after purchasing their first pair of these iconic sneakers.

But what’s the secret sauce that propels a brand from a mere concept to one of Africa’s most beloved in such a short span?

Here are 11 marketing lessons you must learn from Bathu.

1.   Embrace Your Roots

Bathu proudly embraces its South African roots. Bathu, the name itself, originates from African slang, which means “shoes.” In addition, Bathu named its shoes to townships such as Egoli Gold (Johannesburg Gold), Naledi Yellow (Star Yellow), Mamba Green, Wakanda Black, etc.

Bathu was born in the township, so when someone wears it, it symbolizes the dreams and aspirations of the township communities. Moreover, those residing outside of townships connect with the people in townships by wearing Bathu.

2.   Know Your Audience Inside Out

South Africans love to touch, feel, and observe products before buying. That’s why Theo Baloyi focused on creating multiple brick-and-mortar stores. Now, the brand boasts 31 stores across the country.

Besides, Baloyi realized that many retail places feel similar, so he opted for award-winning designs with colors as vibrant as the shoes they offer.

3.   Bring in Innovation

When Bathu was launched in 2015, the first sneaker was a colorful mesh design that was new to the African audience. The result? Baloyi sold the first 100 pairs of mesh-design sneakers in no time.

In addition, Bathu’s flagship stores offer Customization Labs where customers can infuse their personal touch into their sneakers, all without any additional cost.

4.   Fill the Gap

The market is, no doubt, diverse and competitive. But still, there must be a gap that can help you penetrate and thrive. Baloyi realized something was missing: an African sneaker brand that truly represented African culture.

Europe has Adidas, North America has Nike, and Asia has Onitsuka Tiger. So, he decided to fill the gap and create a sneaker brand that tells an authentic African story.

5.   Observation Leads to Innovation

In an interview, Baloyi once said, “Six years ago, I was an accountant at PwC. I noted the trend at the time for colorful socks, but that shoes didn’t make them visible, so I wanted to develop a made for Africa shoe that was cool and colorful – a mesh sneaker that showed the socks.

And that’s how the idea for a mesh sneaker was born.” Marketers and business owners can learn from Baloyi to deepen their sense of observation and create unique selling prepositions.

6.   Leverage Corporate Experience

Baloyi said in the interview that his corporate experience let him learn, grow, and make mistakes at the expense of large corporations that could afford his mistakes.

For those lacking corporate experience, Baloyi suggests leveraging the wealth of knowledge available online and through low-cost or free entrepreneurship programs.

7.   Focus on Value-Based Negotiation

A value-based negotiation with suppliers can yield profitable results. For example, Baloyi was unable to meet the minimum order requirement of 1200 pairs at the factory, so he went down there and assured suppliers of mutual growth.

He also promised future orders with them. As a result, they agreed to reduce the minimum order requirement to 100 pairs of shoes.

8.   Never Lose Sight of Your Purpose

Baloyi mentioned in an interview that they aimed to create a sneaker brand that Africans can proudly affiliate with, “from Africa and for Africa.” Bathu has never deviated an inch from its mission.

They not only manufacture sneakers that showcase African culture but have also created more than 300 jobs for locals.

9.   Engage with Your Community

Bathu actively engages with its community through events and pop-up shops. Baloyi strives to help resolve Africans’ socio-economic challenges and wants people to know that “they are not buying shoes; they are creating jobs.”

With this mindset, he landed a wide customer base. He also established a platform called “Bathu for Batho” (shoes for people), aiming to give away one million shoes to school children.

10.    Authentic Influencer Partnerships

Instead of chasing after big-name celebrities, Bathu collaborates with local influencers and common people who genuinely resonate with their audience. These folks naturally started supporting and talking about the brand on their social media.

Bathu has also worked with big companies like Sprite, MTN, Forbes Africa, Opel, and AB InBev to continue their upward trajectory.

11.    Harness the Power of Social Media

Social media plays a pivotal role in Bathu’s marketing strategy. The brand leverages platforms like Instagram and Twitter to showcase its sneakers, engage with followers, and create buzz around new releases.

Their famous collection, “Khalanga Sneaker,” has caused a lot of stir on social media. Even though this collection had a generic design, the power of social media attracted a wide customer base.

Take Away

Bathu has not only captured the hearts of South Africans but also set a benchmark for effective marketing strategies. As marketers and influencers, we can learn from Bathu’s example and strive to create meaningful connections with our audience to emerge as top contenders.

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