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More Than a Love Affair: Why Brands Need to Embrance the Ethnoscape



Brand Manager for AB InBev’s Castle Lager, Vahith Baliram talks about the evolving state of brand collaborations in the street lifestyle sphere

More Than a Love Affair: Why Brands Need to Embrance the Ethnoscape

FORT Review – a thought leadership platform that aims to strike a finer balance between timely and timeless ideas by producing cutting edge thought-leadership pieces, takes its next step forward this year with a new video series launched in February 2018.

Directed by FORT director Bongani Morgan, this nine-part video series presents varying and diverse topics, with viewpoints on subjects including black excellence, erotic capital and urban culture among others.

Brand Manager for AB in Bev’s Castle Lager, Vahith Baliram, is one of the contributors for this edition of FORT Review. Vahith’s piece is titled, “More than a love affair: Why Brands need to embrace the ethnoscape”. In his article he talks to the concept of collaborations between brands, mostly focusing on lifestyle and street brands, within the context of modern street culture.

To find out more about “More than a love affair: Why Brands need to embrace the ethnoscape” and what these collaborations and the impact of street culutre is on brands and the marketing industry is today they asked Vahith the following questions:

Q> Tell us about this concept of a hype beast and why it is important in the market?

Vahith Baliram > ‘Hype Beasts’ are people who are willing to spend money to get the latest street-wear items. These items release every weekend from brands like Jordan, Nike, Supreme, Off-White etc. and people are willing to stand in lines, camp overnight, take part in raffles and basically do whatever it takes to get items form these ‘drops’.

I believe that their disposable income makes them important to the market. Their ability to drive up the price of specific items based on demand also creates an additional revenue stream for some of the ‘hype beasts,’ who make the move to becoming ‘resellers’ and create small businesses, which can be highly profitable in the short term.


Q> Talk us through collaboration, a central theme of your article and video, why is it such a passion point for you?

VB> Collaboration allows you to potentially access a new base of consumers who were previously unknown to your brand, this avenue allows you tap in to that channel as well as conversations that your brand was never involved in previously – and in doing so helps you build relevance in the market.

I also just feel that collaboration is key to driving brands cultural relevance in the market, and from what I’ve seen street-wear brands, both local and abroad are doing a great job of defining what culture looks like on the streets and collaborating with them authentically can only open your brand up to more success.


Q> Do you have a local example within the South African (SA) context on which brands in your opinion are doing it right?

VB> Shelf Life comes to mind due to their work as well as collaboration with other brands. Shelf-life is renowned as the leading street-wear and premium sneaker store in SA, and by building their brand they have also been able to collaborate with other big brands looking to find relevance in the SA market.

A few years back they partnered with New Balance on an exclusive collaboration – in my opinion, a collaboration like this adds credibility to the New Balance brand and allows them to leverage of the Shelf-Life brand to find a place in the SA market. Recently, there was also an exclusive collaboration between FILA and Shelf-Life which I believe gives FILA a level of credibility in the SA market which was previously lacking.  

Q> This concept of embracing the ethnoscape, could one argue that this is a way to either create or maintain relevance in a fickle market?

VB> I do agree that it can be fickle at times, but one needs to look at it as only a part of the entire brand strategy based on your calendar of activity. For me, it’s basically a campaign as part of the broader brand activity for the year. It helps you by creating a jolt of electricity and new news that can open your brand up to new consumers, but then you need to reinforce that with meaningful campaigns that drive further brand equity.

In this day and age, we also need to remember that brands are built through constant and various interactions with consumers, collaboration is a tool that can help you achieve that.

Q> Where does authenticity come into play in this ethnoscape and collaboration space?

VB> I think you need to collaborate with brands that make sense to your brand. There has to be a level of synergy between the two brands which consumers can also buy into in order to understand  the collaboration.

This will in turn adds to the desirability and success of the collaboration. There also needs to be a level of innovation and bringing together key elements of each brand rather than just thinking of slapping logo’s together.

For Vahith's full video and the the FORT Review series visit FORT’s website [] as well as their social media platforms: @fortnetwork.

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Genres: Storytelling

FORT, Wed, 25 Apr 2018 11:15:42 GMT