Stay informed! Visit the SA Department of Health's website for COVID-19 updates:

Black Diamonds Marketer’s Dream or Worst Nightmare?

News, Articles, Success Stories and Advice on Franchising

Black Diamonds Marketer’s Dream or Worst Nightmare?

The answer to this question is simple and straightforward: It depends on your approach. Unless a marketer understands this market, makes a real effort to embrace it and is ultimately successful in that, the brand will be doomed.

We are convinced that this is a realistic assessment, with no ifs, no buts and no grey areas in-between. It is not based on the ravings and rantings of political demagogues but on the analysis of solid research undertaken by the respected Unilever Institute of Strategic Marketing at the University of Cape Town. The research was aimed to find our what makes this market of about 2,6 million affluent consumers tick and the following article aims to provide a practical perspective.


The term Black Diamonds describes the burgeoning black African middle class. It does not include Asians, Coloureds or any other race that may claim to have been previously disadvantaged. However, although only black Africans have been classified as Black Diamonds, this does not mean that it is a homogenous group. Rather, Black Diamonds can be usefully divided into four distinct sub-groups see table below.

Black Diamonds – segmentation


SegmentNumberPercentageSpending powerShort description
Mzansi Youth470 00018%R 7 bnYoung males/females, majority students not working yet and still living at home ‘ have spending power
Start-me-ups490 00019%R37 bnYoung ambitious professionals, predominantly males and largely single ‘spending power is growing
Young family710 00027%R49 bnParents of young children, many single parent households, female bias. Want the best for their kids
Established940 00036%R87 bnOlder, stable family men and women with plenty of disposable income, majority married
Totals2 610 000100%R180 bnBlack Diamonds account for 28% of total consumer spending; this figure is growing rapidly

Mzansi youth

  • Young males and females still living at home, largely students.
  • They are acutely aware of their parents and their communities high expectations because they have opportunities that were not open to their parents.
  • Pressure to perform is great because of the investment in them.
  • It came as a surprise that relatively few are interested in qualifying as professionals (which would lead to reasonable expectations of obtaining secure employment in government or the corporate world) but are more interested in entrepreneurship.
  • No longer struggle-focused but confident in the future and want it all Display of bravado notwithstanding, they labour under some guilt-feelings because of the previous poverty of their parents, and the sacrifices they had to make.
  • Can be reached through radio, TV (SABC 1) and, to a lesser extent, print media.


  • The majority of this grouping falls into the 25-29 years age bracket and 83% are single.
  • Gender composition is 64% males and 36% females.
  • They are in the process of accumulating assets, with
  • 81% dreaming of getting the £big promotion at work
  • Many have dreams of becoming BEE types
  • 59% share household costs and 37% send money to family-members living in the rural areas.

Young families

  • Majority are in their late 20s to 30s, with 50% unmarried
  • Bias towards females who are single parents; many still live with their own parents
  • 40% are sole breadwinners.
  • Members of this group are highly career focused and proudly providing for their children want to give them a good start in life.
  • Surplus cash is likely to be invested in home improvements.
  • To access them, marketers need to
  • Help them project their success through their kids
  • Provide them with time-saving solutions
  • TV and radio are the best way to reach this segment
  • Cell phones are used in preference to the Internet


  • 66% are between 35-40 years old or older and married
  • 85% have children
  • The most affluent segment, with ownership of cars, washing machines, Telkom phones and DSTV subscriptions the order of the day
  • 27% employ a domestic worker
  • 95% are convinced that it is important to purchase property in up-market areas as it will appreciate
  • Grounded and highly confident about their future
  • They appreciate the good life and want more of it
  • Invest in their future financial security and to put their children on the path to success
  • Can be reached through TV and newspapers, including weekly newspapers,
  • The Sunday times has the highest readership in this group at 38%, followed by City Press (30%) and Sunday Sun (22%).
  • Reading of magazines is low, with 39% not having read a magazine in the past six months. Of those who do, 22% selected Drum and 19% True Love.
  • 1 in 3 members of this group have access to the Internet, he highest of all segments.

In many instances, individuals move through the ranks but not always step-by-step. Some leapfrog, for example, from Mzansi youth to Young family or from Start me ups to Established.

An interesting finding is that Black Diamonds are generally a credit-savvy, with only the category of Young family often over-extending themselves; this is probably a result of societal pressures to provide.

Conclusions to be drawn

Black Diamonds have certainly become a force to be reckoned with, and this trend is set to continue. Over a period of little more than one year  the time between the previous survey and the current one  this group has grown by 30 percent in numbers, from 2 million to over 2,6 million, and their average purchasing power has kept pace.

The exodus from the former black townships into the formerly white suburbs has also accelerated. Currently, 47% of Black Diamonds live in the suburbs and the trend continues; about 12 000 families (or 50 000 people) move from the townships to the suburbs each month.

Given these findings, it would be easy to conclude that Black Diamonds are moving away from their roots but this is not the case at all, except perhaps in the case of the Mzansi youth. Black Diamond’s reasons for moving are largely practical. They cite easier access to the workplace, better security, better shopping and better schools for their kids as the main motivators. They also see it as a status symbol living in the suburbs shows that they have arrived.
A large percentage of Black Diamonds maintain close ties with family and friends from the old neighbourhood. That’s where they like to spend their weekends and keep cultural traditions alive.

Marketers need to take this into account when they want to reach Black Diamonds. The following summary might help.

Summing up the Black Diamonds


Mzansi youthStart me upsYoung familyEstablished
Key insightsGreat expectationsOn the way upProudly providingGood life and getting better
DriversFree and funArriving and drivenSurviving and stretchedFuture sustainability
CultureBasics but decliningRemains an important partStill quite importantVery important
Brands, productsMaking a statementEnabling meBuying an experiencePart of my life
Employment statusLargely not yet employedCorporate and entrepreneursCorporate and governmentCorporate, entrepreneurs


This report is largely based on research undertaken by the Unilever Institute of Strategic Marketing at the University of Cape Town in partnership with TNS Research Surveys.

Related Posts