Kgaugelo Maphai, Managing Director, The Media Shop, Johannesburg

Traditionally, most marketers used technical tools such as Living Standard Measurements (LSMs) or, most recently, Socio Economic Monitors (SEMs), to profile their target market in a quest to understand consumers better. There are hundreds of tools and models that “marketeers” and brands use to segment the ever-changing consumer, particularly in today’s digitally infused consumer marketplace.

Kgaugelo Maphai, managing director of The Media Shop in Johannesburg, a leading media agency that provides creative and pioneering communications solutions for South Africa’s leading brands, has built an intuitive approach to understanding marketing. An ardent believer in the importance of connecting brands and consumers within a diverse South African consumer landscape, he strongly believes that to be an effective marketer, you must have a deeper understanding of consumers. Over the years, he has spent time learning about different consumer behaviours, what influences them and how to communicate effectively with them in their own environments.

The genesis of a marketing marvel with a purpose

“Our plan is to diversify and evolve into an integrated marketing and communication agency, offering other services beyond media buying.”

From early childhood, Maphai was exposed to South Africa’s cultural diversity, having gone to Sacred Heart College, a Catholic school in Johannesburg, which exposed him to a multiracial and multicultural environment, enabling him to appreciate and value diversity from a young age. Born in Pretoria, this marketing maestro has lived across South Africa – including in the Transkei, Diepkloof in Soweto and Cape Town – and Massachusetts in the US. “We come from humble beginnings, but my parents had a vision to succeed against all odds,” he observes.

Migrating from one area to another as his parents – academics – sought to create a better future for him and his siblings, Maphai made the best of this exposure and took interest in understanding different cultures, something that is still his “passion point” today.

He sees South Africa as country that has the world in it – a melting pot of indigenous and global cultures. “I would never wish to have been born in any other country. I’m a patriot, through and through. My country and its people are very important to me,” he states.

His quest to gain a deeper understanding of South African consumers led him to approach SABC Radio for a job, particularly focusing on African language stations. Maphai says that these consumers were complex in nature as they originate from different homelands, townships, cities and villages, which each had their own identities and nuances. “I didn’t want to make a mistake of saying because I am black, I understood black people,” says Maphai. That’s how he landed a number of roles at the SABC, starting as an account executive on the African language radio stations before moving to Metro FM. He was later recruited back to head up trade marketing for all the radio stations.

What he did differently was not just to sell advertising. He used this opportunity to share deeper insights with media planners and marketers alike. Following his success at the SABC, he was headhunted to join free-to-air television channel eTV in 2002, and contributed towards the success of the station at the time, but felt that radio was where his heart was. He later joined East Coast Radio as national sales manager in 2004.

Maphai ascribes his success in radio sales and sponsorships to his ability to educate the market about how people lived in townships, having himself lived in different areas, from homelands to townships. “Our industry didn’t have access to the homes of consumers. They didn’t understand how consumers lived every day. They were not exposed to townships, and a lot of great stories from townships in those days were not shown on TV,” he explains.


“While heading up trade marketing at the SABC, we launched The Truth Programme, an experiential marketing platform that we used for client immersions. We took our clients to townships and deliberately excluded Soweto, as marketers would typically visit Soweto at some point in their lives. We went to various homes, mansions, supermarkets, and formal and informal businesses. By the time we left, clients had a great sense of economic activity in areas that they had never been to. The insights gathered equipped our clients to make informed media decisions, going beyond just numbers.”

Following a series of accolades in broadcasting and media sales, Maphai joined hospitality group Peermont Global as group marketing services manager, responsible for integrated marketing communication across the group. He was also accountable for the company’s 13 properties in South Africa and Botswana. It was an opportunity for him to see things from the client’s perspective.

The entrepreneurial journey

The natural progression from his “employed life” was to go into business, which culminated in the birth of Dream Team SA, a boutique talent management consultancy that managed personalities in music, arts and broadcasting. Having observed the music industry in the US in the late 80s and how musicians and sportspeople[HA1]  [KB2] were used as brand influencers, he was reminded of his vision to set up a sophisticated talent management agency in South Africa for talented black people. With his eyes firmly focused on enabling artists to thrive as brands, he and his business partner signed big names such as TKZee, KB Motsilanyane and Thembi Seete.

“We wanted to revolutionise the management of black talent. We asked the question: how do we turn warm bodies into brands? By adding tangible value for artists in the form of financial acumen, legal support, reputation management and publicity, we helped create sustainable careers,” says Maphai.

In 2009, they negotiated a synchronisation deal with MTN, where TKZee’s music was used in all the adverts for the “Ayoba” campaign in the lead-up to the 2010 FIFA World Cup.

“Our model was simple – identify talented personalities, build their brand equity so that over time they could generate various revenue streams. We also felt that to gain credibility, we had to identify an up-and-coming personality. We got introduced to Khuli Chana, who was looking for a management company. A few meetings later, we signed him,” Maphai says.

“We had a different value proposition – each personality was treated like a unique brand. We partnered with various specialists including a publicist, a brand strategist and an entertainment lawyer to provide real value for our talent.”

An entrepreneur by nature, he bought into a brand activation agency, Brandswell, at which he was a director for the past six years before taking the reins at The Media Shop. “Our plan is to diversify and evolve into an integrated marketing and communication agency, offering other services beyond media buying. In the process, we hope to cooperate with small and medium enterprises to enable them to grow.

“The Media Shop has embraced the Marketing, Advertising and Communication Sector Charter (MAC Charter), and complies with many of the requirements because it is the right thing to do. In my role at The Media Shop, I want to collaborate with SMMEs within the marketing and communication space to help unlock meaningful growth opportunities,” he says.

Maphai plans to continue his journey by driving a culture of valuing diversity within the workplace and translate this into tangible value for consumers. “I’m encouraged that my team at The Media Shop understands that we can no longer predominantly rely on quantitative methods to understand and profile consumers. There’s more to our people and cultural diversity is a lifelong journey – we’ve only just begun,” he concludes.