Translating Trends into Brand Success

Africa Outlook takes a look back at two of Africa’s unsung company success stories from 2015, Java House and Brandtone, both of whom are hoping to continue to gain customer and media attention in the new year

Java House, Nairobi, Kenya

Interview with Bryce Fort, Java House Director and Managing Director of ECP

Java House has received significant media attention in recent years, due to the success the chain has seen has from kick-starting Kenya’s coffee culture and pursuing a franchise business model that focuses on the ultimate sit-down dining experience, with varying economic entry points ranging from a simple cup of coffee to a gourmet dinner. The coffee house has repeatedly won an assortment of industry and business awards including ‘Best Value for Money & Best Coffee House’ at People’s Choice Awards; resulting in a formidable reputation as Kenya’s coffee house pioneer.

After receiving investment from ECP (Emerging Capital Partners) in early 2012, the coffee house has since expanded to 44 branches in Kenya and Uganda. In addition to the casual dining restaurant brand, the Company has also launched - under the guidance of Bryce Fort, Java House Director and Managing Director of ECP - Planet Yogurt, the first self-serve frozen yogurt brand in Africa, and, more recently, a Nairobi-based pizzeria called 360 Degrees.

Africa Outlook (AfO): What key market trends has Java House identified in Kenya’s food & beverage industry this year, and how was this translated into brand success in 2015?

Bryce Fort (BF): While Kenyan-sourced coffee beans are loved around the world, the local beverage of choice has traditionally been tea, influenced by the region’s colonial history. Since Java House’s founding, there’s been a gradual change in consumption habits with coffee becoming increasingly popular, especially among Kenya’s growing young professional demographic. In 2015, we saw this coffee culture continue to intensify with coffee lounges positioned as mass-market establishments. This, coupled with the growth of Kenya’s middle-class, has provided an opportunity for us to expand quickly across Kenyan towns and also internationally into Uganda.

Kenyan consumers want international-quality products and services delivered at a price that represents value for money in a local context. At Java House we aim to meet these, often conflicting, goals. We have created an environment that not only provides comfortable surroundings but also a relaxed environment that goes beyond the typical coffee shop. They are lounges in which our customers can hold business meetings, go on a date, have quiet time or a full meal any time of day, and also be part of a dynamic, bustling city.

AfO: Looking ahead to 2016, what opportunities do you foresee in Kenya’s quick-service dining industry?

BF: With Kenya’s improving economy leading to an increase in disposable income, coffee culture is likely to get bigger. We are also experiencing growth of a young and increasingly urban population with greater exposure to, and adoption of, Western culture who will continue to demand coffee and international cuisine in general. As this happens, customers will become more discerning, focusing brands to innovate and refine their offerings. So 2016 is looking to be an exciting time for Java House and other fast food outlets offering premium cuisine. We are looking to expand across Kenyan counties with the goal of opening 12 new outlets in 2016.

AfO: What do you personally think makes an African brand successful?

BF: Africa is at an exciting phase of development. Recent political stability coupled with economic growth across the continent has led to a thriving business environment and increasing incomes. With these changes, a more formalised retail sector is emerging where consumers are increasingly turning to brands. For African brands, innovation will be the key to success. What Africa lacks in legacy systems and infrastructure, it makes up for in leapfrogging technologies and flexibility. Brands need to be willing to adapt to the changing environment, making use of mobile and web technology to grow their business. 

Brandtone, South Africa

Interview with Donald Fitzmaurice, CEO of Brandtone


Brandtone is an award-winning mobile marketing Company headquartered in Ireland that conducts campaigns in emerging markets for brands including Unilever, Syngenta, SAB-Miller, Kellogg’s, Knorr, PepsiCo, BP and others.

Brandtone can help entrepreneurs by connecting consumers with their brands using a mobile, following its values-driven approach. The development of a permissioned database means that brands can begin their relationship with the consumer early, and continue the contact with consumers into the future. This helps to drive brand loyalty, but also keep consumers, and traders engaged; something which is important in a fast growing market.

Africa Outlook (AfO): What key market trends has Brandtone’s data-driven marketing campaigns identified in Africa, and how was this translated into brand success last year?

Donald Fitzmaurice (DF): African markets, in simple terms, operate largely in the same way as a typical emerging market when looking at the key trends. Consumers and traders in these markets have access to one ubiquitous technology: the mobile phone. A key trend has been about transforming mobile connection and technology into relationships between brands or organisations, and the consumer and trader. The difference, though, for African markets is that the needs of the population and the pressures aren’t the same as other emerging markets. We have identified one key area within African markets that could benefit greatly from the values-driven approach we take towards mobile marketing, which is family planning.

As wealth on the African continent increases, the aspirations of the middle-class evolve. The ‘new middle-class’ of Africa desire different things; they are more interested in consumer goods, not only for necessity, but also for luxury. They desire better education for their children, improved healthcare for their families as well as support from financial products that will help them in later life. From these facts alone, it’s clear that the opportunities for entrepreneurs in African markets are vast and only set to increase.

Brandtone has recently announced a partnership with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, to work with family planning products in the Kenyan market.  The way we operate our values-driven approach is through three core principles: we always trust the consumer or trader to initiate the interaction, we reward them for buying the product and profiling themselves, and ask for their permission to reengage them in the future. These values are present in every engagement and underpin the transformation of a connection into a relationship.

AfO: How has technology been helping brands tap into African markets?

DF: Technology, specifically mobile data and big data, will be useful in helping global brands to build direct relationships with consumers in Africa. The largest and most profitable route to market in Africa is the informal retail trade, where the use of big data and technology will help to optimise the performance, as well as provide a better understanding of this channel.

Big data analytics is set to gain some serious momentum in 2016, with businesses using the big data in order to better understand their customer and consumer. For us, this will mean an ability to use mobile and big data to coordinate consumer and trader promotions in a manner that could ultimately lead the way globally.

AfO: What key factors do you personally think make a successful African brand?

DF: A brand that lives the values of the local and regional culture, while delivering products and services that are better than those offered by global competitors. 

In order to facilitate this, key engagement tactics will need to involve transforming connections into relationships, irrespective of the channel used to make them, and using mobile technology and data will be a very important way of enabling such connections.


View the full article in January's Africa Outlook magazine here.