If you are having a brand crisis or are looking to introduce a new product that you are unsure of, then it would be a good idea to have Rudo Maponga in your corner. Maponga is the founder, managing director and head research consultant at ROS-SA, a 100 % black-owned marketing and consumer research consultancy, which helps brands achieve the ever elusive mass appeal.
The branding entrepreneur
Maponga, 34, founded ROS-SA in 2010 after leaving her previous employer, TNS Research Surveys, where she was the manager of the Black Diamond department between 2008 to 2010. The company employs six people with an average of 30 freelance field researcher specialists for more niche projects.
She enjoys the work and compares it to that of any successful entrepreneur – identifying a problem and coming up with profitable solutions. “Strategy is what I like and trying new concepts and ideas,” she says.
Although still a relatively young company, ROS-SA has done work for companies like Multichoice, Revlon Cosmetics, Tiger Brands and fast food chain McDonald’s Corporation. The goal when working with each brand is to help them understand the type of products or services which would be profitable to introduce in the market. This is exactly what the company achieved when they played a part in introducing McDonald’s Sharebox after identifying a gap in the restaurant’s offerings.
“Keeping your finger on the pulse will not only ensure you stay in business, but can also give you a competitive edge in the market”
First know thy brand
The fact that Mapongo runs her own business means she understands the immense value of a strong brand and is able to pick out profitable trends. She is a respected voice in the industry having co-written an award winning paper titled “The Rolling Stones, Exploring the Job Hopping Phenomenon Amongst Black Professionals in South Africa”, which looked at the statistics behind the employment habits of black professionals – a moment she says is a career highlight.
Maponga says her golden rule for any business owner is that they should interact with their clients to find out what they think about their business and products. “Know your market, in terms of your customers and your competition. Keeping your finger on the pulse will not only ensure you stay in business, but can also give you a competitive edge in the market,” she says.
Maponga says more businesses should be investing in their marketing efforts and not just big companies, who she says form the bulk of her client base. “The mistake is that they don’t approach market researchers. Most of our research is for big companies. Small businesses shy away,” she adds.
Because of the current economic downturn, there has never been a more crucial time for small business to talk to their consumers and to find out what they want.
“Consumers are a bit cautious at the moment in terms of their budgets. Spending is lower than in the previous years. This is happening whilst the cost of running a business is still increasing, resulting in squeezed profits and this means it is less feasible to run a small business.”
Maponga’s message is that you can never be too big to perfect your product. “Legend has it that Mr. Ackerman (Founder of Pick n Pay) still walks into the Pick n Pay Cavendish store and asks customers what they think about the service.”