South African Retailer Woolworths Pulls off Beautiful, Subtle Branding Coup With Mandela Flashmob Tribute

This post is part of Rassak’s “YouTube Tuesdays Plus” featuring mini case studies of marketing videos (sometimes we look at other digital media too). New on Tuesdays. Don’t miss one, subscribe.

rassak experience youtube tuesday woolworths nelson mandela tribute flashmob video

The list of “flashmob” videos (in which somebody films a group of people who seem to appear out of nowhere in a public place and perform) is long. And some of them get very popular. So it makes sense that companies selling products would try to capitalize on the idea with flashmob videos of their own. It is a bit ironic given the noncommercial nature of the original flashmobs. Ce’st la guerre.

I really like this recent one produced by Woolworths (not the defunct US retailer but the  South African one sometimes called Woolies). According to the date on the video, it was shot two days after Mandela died—so this was well planned well in advance. This video could easily have come off as a crass commercial hijacking of Nelson Mandela’s legacy. It doesn’t feel that way to me though. It feels loving and beautiful and powerful and kinda normal… almost like it could really have just happened in the store at any moment.  The words and translation to the song are below. The song is sung by the Soweto Gospel Choir* who are dressed up here as  Woolies employees and shoppers. The success of this video as a marketing-communications piece is it’s subtlety. The video feels 98% NOT about Woolworths. But it is very much about Woolworths showing that they put as much thought into that aspect of the video as they did to the music. They chose a really nice store to shoot in, giving a nice glow to the Woolworths name—I don’t know for sure, but I doubt all their stores are this new/nice. Note too how many times you actually see the Woolworth’s logo on aprons, etc. But they’re not in the way.. they’re not in your face.. they’re part of the landscape.

Asimbonanga [we have not seen him]
Asimbonang’ uMandela thina [we have not seen Mandela]
Laph’ekhona [in the place where he is]
Laph’ehleli khona [in the place where he is kept]

Asimbonang ‘umfowethu thina [we have not seen our brother]
Laph’ekhona [in the place where he is]
Laph’wafela khona [in the place where he died]
Sithi: Hey, wena [We say: hey, you]
Hey, wena nawe [Hey, you and you]
Siyofika nini la’ siyakhona [when will we arrive at our destination]

*Personal note: a couple summers ago Kristin and I and the boys had a fantastic experience in Soweto. Here are some pix if you’re interested. A lot of people told us not to visit … that it’s unsafe there.. one mini story about that: we went on a four-hour bicycle tour, stopping many times. We didn’t lock our bikes once. Imagine doing that in, say, San Francisco or NYC.

Like it? Share it!

Curious how BKW can help you tell your story effectively? Let’s talk.  Our focus is on the technology and life sciences industries.

Read On...