South Africans typically greet each other with the Zulu word Sawubona—Sawa for short–which translates literally to “I see you.” But the greeting has a deeper, transcendent meaning as well which can best be understood thusly: “I recognize not only your physical form but your humanity.
On its most molecular level, Sawa is an articulation of solidarity with other human beings, and it helps strengthen a sense of community and belonging. Iconic South African figures such as former President Nelson Mandela and Archbishop Desmond Tutu credit the double entendre with helping sustain freedom fighters during the country’s dark days of apartheid.
Building community is also the key to creating the quality content that is central to effective brand marketing strategies.
Flip through your mind’s scrapbook and think about how some of the most enduring marketing campaigns invited consumers to join communities populated by people with similar hopes and dreams.:
“I’d like to teach the world to sing, in perfect harmony” positioned Coca-Cola as a bridge connecting people of different cultures in the polarizing last days of the Vietnam War.
“Just Do It,” encouraged American consumers to buy a pair of Nikes, and join the exclusive club of marathoners, mountain climbers or cyclists. “Not your father’s Oldsmobile,” appealed to the Baby Boomers yearning to blaze a new path.
A good way to conceptualize this approach is to imagine that you’re going to give away t-shirts that advertise your brand; what would the t-shirts say?