How to create an industry-leading brand in six months

Man standing in the sea holding blue flaming torches

In 2016, Zimbabwean film director Sunu Gonera created a music video for musician Khuli Chana’s track, One Source. Sponsored by vodka brand Absolut, the video showed the world a different side of Africa, capturing the raw intensity of African creativity in a vivid celebration of collaborative storytelling.  

The film swept up at the 2017 Cannes Lions awards. Gonera, who’s speaking at Design Indaba 2018, took home a Gold, two Silvers and a Bronze Lion. The film was also nominated for best music video at the South African Music Awards and Metro FM Awards, and became the most awarded campaign at South Africa’s IAB Bookmarks.

Here’s the really interesting part: according to statistics released by beverage firm Pernod Ricard, Absolut Blue went on to become South Africa’s leading vodka premium brand within six months. 

So how did a branded music video make such a powerful impact on both the advertising industry and consumers? 

01. Authenticity

Firstly, it channels what Gonera describes as the “realness and rawness of Africa”. One Source opens with the words “Africa is on fire”. Blue flames light up a stark grey rubbish dump, before a pounding beat and aggressive lyrics assert that “Africa is no longer riding shotgun”. 

02. Collaboration 

It's a vivid and intense pan-African collaboration that places African excellence at the centre. To make the 'one source' of Absolut (an aquifer in Sweden) relevant in Africa, the video explores the idea that we all come from one source – Africa, the birthplace of humanity. 

It brings together the vibrant colours of Ghanian street artist Moh Awudu, as well as the skills of Kenyan digital artist and photographer Osborne Macharia, and sing-songwriter The Venus Bushfires.

03. Fresh thinking

In addition, the team also turned away from the cliched orange and red colour palette typically used to represent Africa, and ditched the tired images of poverty used to represent unrest. The One Source campaign, which includes a music video and a series of web-based behind the scenes films, stands firmly in fresh new creative territory.

Woman wearing bizarre metal glasses

One Source by Khuli Chana/Directed by Egg Films' Sunu Gonera/Produced by Native VML for Absolut

“The consumer is not stupid,” explains Gonera. “I always say, trust the consumer. It was organic. It was about the collaboration. There was an authenticity.”

Gonera describes himself as an 'afrocentric' artist. As international artists continue to move to the continent to create work, he says African artists are increasingly stepping up. 

But he says the industry is at a peak. “We’re having to, as filmmakers, change and adapt the way we think, especially with technology,” he says. “The other challenge is that there’s a massive saturation of filmmakers so the competition for every job has never been steeper.”

Gonera’s solution? To stay fresh – especially when it comes to telling an authentic African story. “It’s usually outsiders telling our stories. Let us tell our stories. I want an inside-out perspective – raw, real, this is who we are.” 

Book your ticket to Design Indaba 2018

We’ll be bringing you more from Gonera at Cape Town's annual Design Indaba festival. The three-day creative event kicks off on 21 February, and we’ll be reporting live throughout.

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Julia Sagar
Editor-in-chief retail

Julia is editor-in-chief, retail at Future Ltd, where she works in e-commerce across a number of consumer lifestyle brands. A former editor of design website Creative Bloq, she’s also worked on a variety of print titles, and was part of the team that launched consumer tech website TechRadar. She's been writing about art, design and technology for over 15 years.