It was the #1 on the UK, USA and other hit parades in 1979. It was the ANC Youth League’s battle song. It was banned by the National Party in 1980. It is remembered as ‘We Don’t Need No Education’. If you were 10-20 years old then (now you’d be 40-50) you are unlikely to have seen the video. If you are under 40 now, the song was before your time.

Chart 1 shows the extent that education in South Africa has increased in the past 15 years according to AMPS.

There are three times as many people with university degrees and three times as many people with matric as there were in 1997!
One can only imagine the strain that this increase in levels of education has placed on the system. Theoretically there should now be three times as many schools, three times as many university facilities and three times as many teachers and professors as there were 15 years ago.

Remember that we have to cope with a greater population growth than most countries with whom we compare ourselves when we set our ambitions (the First World) and, whilst they just need to maintain the same levels of education as before, we are increasing the level of education inside this growing population.

One would expect that, with this increase in levels of education over time, the younger cohorts would be better educated than the older (Ch 2).

As one would expect, the 50+ cohort has the lowest levels of education. Only 31% have matric or more compared to 53% among those aged 35-49 and 62% among those 25-34.

Obviously, the 15-24 year old cohort includes a lot of people still in high school.

Hopefully, the 25-34 year old group still has some students, else these numbers might show that there is a decrease in numbers of people graduating from post-matric institutions.


Every generation believes that they know more than their elders.

This is especially true when it comes to technological advances – especially computers, internet and mobile devices. Chart 2 shows that this is true as far as education is concerned.

Very often this is reflected in brand lifecycles. My grandfather smoked Rembrandt van Rijn My father smoked Peter Stuyvesant (red) and would not have been caught dead with a van Rijn. We smoked Lucky Strikes and would not have been caught dead with a Stuyvesant. My children smoke Peter Stuyvesant Blue and will not be caught dead with a Lucky or Benson & Hedges.

We see the same with facebook. As more and more older people join facebook, so their children see it as “uncool” and move to other platforms. It is a very fine edge that brand marketers need to maintain between keeping their loyal users and not offending the incoming generation.

The 50+ cohort is the least educated of the cohorts in Ch 2. This is the cohort that sang ‘We Don’t Need No Education’. The new electorate is better educated and will see themselves as knowing better than their elders. The recent election still had the ANC campaigning using “Do it for Madiba”, and this worked. Increasingly, future elections will be based on the perceived ability of the government being able to provide jobs and increased lifestyle expectations. The Black Diamond segmentation for some years ago showed that distance e from the struggle (measured in years) was a key differentiator in terms of attitudes to one’s future, poverty and race.


People study so that they can earn more and hence have a better lifestyle. People are encouraged to study when they see that people who have better lifestyles are better educated.

Fortunately, this is what is happening in South Africa: there is a lifestyle reward for achieving higher levels of education.

The Economics Of Expectation

With education comes expectation.

It is a standard economic recommendation that Third World countries need to invest in education. The example that is used most often is the Marshall Plan for post war Japan where investment in education went along with massive economic growth. Sadly this growth stopped a few years ago and a decline set in because the educated people want to sit in offices and strategise leaving fewer people to do the work.

Similar problems can be seen in the USA where production (work) is outsourced to other countries and now China is rapidly overtaking the USA as the biggest world economy.

Erik: I have seen in European countries (France, Holland and Denmark) that governments have very real problems to provide job opportunities for graduates. Their solution has been to increase bursaries so that many people have two or three degrees because the government does not want to flood the job market. Whilst Europeans are very xenophobic, they still need immigrants to fix the potholes in their roads.
Marketing Implications

People are not only living a better lifestyle than before but they are also more educated than before – and expect to live a better lifestyle in the future.
Brands are intricately involved with how one experiences one’s lifestyle. Brands are used by people to show others what lifestyle they have achieved – or, in many cases, to what they aspire.
One of the most important things a marketer must do is to ensure that brand users feel proud to show others how much they have achieved when they use the brand. If people believe that a brand signals a lifestyle that is lower than what they aspire to be seen to have achieved, they will not use it for very long.

A recent example is the relatively poor uptake of the Mzansi account designed to help more people to become a part of the formal banking sector. As was warned at the time, it became to be seen as a “poor man’s account” and did not achieve huge traction as a result.

Source: SA Marketing Magazine