Heritage Day 2020: Weaving your culture into your brand

Celebrating your culture

On Heritage Day (September 24), South Africa celebrates the rich diversity of the many cultures that make up our country. And where can this diversity be better seen in the many small businesses that make up our economy – from Durban’s spice emporiums and the Cape Malay eateries of Bo-Kaap through to the many crafters around the country producing beautiful traditional beadwork, pottery, fabrics, and baskets?

Some small business owners are drawing on the wellspring of their cultural background, finding that sharing and honouring their roots helps them to connect with new customers and differentiate themselves from global brands. Consider the example of Miss Jacqs – Fabric Boutique, a thriving business that specialises in contemporary, homemade African print materials.


Running a business rooted in your heritage and culture can be deeply rewarding as well as profitable. Here are some ideas about how you can make your heritage a compelling part of your brand’s identity, in turn helping you to create an exciting and authentic experience for your customers.

  1. Identify your target audience.
  2. Combine tradition with contemporary ideas.
  3. Invite people into your story.
  4. Use social media to bring your world to life for the audience.

Let’s take a closer look at the tips.

Identify your product and your target audience


If you want to draw on your culture to build a business, a good place to start is to think about the product or service you could offer and which audiences will be interested in it. Do you want to create a place where locals and tourists can enjoy traditional foods like morogo or shisanyama? A bakery where people can experience vetkoek and koeksisters just like your grandmother used to make?

Or do you want to ship traditional products to homesick expats living in other countries around the world? The possibilities are endless. You can start the journey by doing some research into what’s available in the market and where the gaps are. Ask your friends and family what they might be interested in buying.

Combine your heritage with contemporary ideas

One exciting way to celebrate your culture and heritage is to fuse its traditions with modern ideas and designs. This can set your business apart from the many others producing similar goods to the ones you’re selling. For example, you could look at ways to incorporate traditional IsXhosa or Swazi patterns and motifs into clothes with a contemporary cut. Or you could create tasty dishes that combine locally farmed products and recipes with outside culinary influences and flavours to create a new, African spin on fusion cooking.

 Invite people into your story

Use personal storytelling telling to make your brand come to life for your customers and to give texture to the heritage you are sharing with them. People relate more deeply to stories than they do to facts and information. Share your family history, the stories of others in your community, and your journey towards creating a business of your own. Tell them about why your culture and heritage mean so much to you through personal stories and anecdotes.

This is a wonderful way to spark curiosity, show a human side to the business and get people to buy into what you do.  The principles of storytelling are related with word of mouth marketing, social sharing, and social media marketing. In other words, if you do a good job of telling your story, your customers and followers will also tell other people about it.

To develop your story, you can ask yourself the following questions:

  • Who is your audience? For example, are they from your community and do they share your culture? Or are they overseas visitors?
  • What message do you want to convey? What is the point and the emotional core of your story? Your story could be amusing, nostalgic, poignant, inspiring…how do you want your audience to react?
  • What is your call to action? Subscribe to your newsletter? Do you need them to buy a product?

 Here’s what will make your story stand out for your reader:

  • Entertaining: A story needs to keep the reader engaged and interested.
  • Educational: Good stories spark curiosity and add to the reader’s knowledge.
  • Relatable and emotional: They are relatable to readers and tap into emotions and experiences that most people undergo.
  • Memorable: Whether through inspiration, scandal, or humour, good stories stick in the reader’s mind.

It’s a good idea to develop a core narrative that would be suitable for use in the ‘About’ section of your website. Once you’ve nailed this basic story, you can use it to inform the messaging your use on social media and other platforms.

Use social media to bring your world to life for the audience

Once you have your overarching story in place, social media is the ideal place to share and develop it further. Platforms like Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, podcasts and the blog on your own website are among the many options you can choose from. The goal here should be to share experiences and stories in a bite-sized format to get people engaged in and excited about what you do.

The power of video, photography and audio can all really help bring what you do to life – whether it’s you narrating your journey from a rural village in Limpopo to running your own fashion brand in Sandton in a podcast, a livestream on Facebook of your restaurant’s preparations for a Heritage Day braai, or a colourful Instagram Stories splash showcasing your latest fabrics arrivals.

Here are few tips about how to make social media work for you:

  • Social media is still about people – you will go a long way simply by being conversational, authentic, helpful and considerate.
  • You don’t need to be everywhere – rather focus on using one or two channels well. Instagram and Facebook are good places to start for most small businesses.
  • Focus on quality over quantity – rather produce one or two really good posts a day than flooding people’s feed with irrelevant or boring content.
  • Be sure to check your facts, spelling, and grammar.
  • Start with your followers’ perspective – what matters to them? Share information that is useful, entertaining, or valuable from their perspective.
  • Invite your followers to respond to your posts and engage in open dialogue when they do.

Image by: https://unsplash.com/photos/GSh_PwsZsPQ