Following the Footsteps of Your Consumers - First Thursdays Braamfontein

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Braamfontein has come alive with the consumer movements of First Thursdays. A completely new experience for a huge market, First Thursdays has made a lasting impression on many Jozi citizens. For the first time, the city’s nocturnal consumers have a collective exodus to embark on - one that sheds light on the opportunities that the local creative industry can tap into.

Every first Thursday of the month, the shadows and flashing lights of Braamfontein at night will be buzzing with consumer activity - especially consumers who are in a mindset of experiencing speciality culture, art, the craft industry and sharing in niche interests. As the crowds aamplify in numbers, local businesses can open their doors to unexplored markets.

The brand communications sphere of Jozi has a transparent reflection of who is “up and ready to engage” in the course of this monthly event. As consumers discover their city in a culturally unique way, brands and creative agencies can in turn discover a new behaviour in many of the key markets they engage with.

First Thursdays - Origins

First Thursdays originated in Cape Town a couple of years ago. Being an already culturally enriched city, the city bowl comes to life as city workers, students, tourists and culture/art enthusiasts of all ages follow the footsteps of the CBD’s creative paths.

Cape Town’s nighttime consumers have never been at a lack of interesting social activities to partake in. The city is closely-knit, and the CBD is densely populated with the main attractions and highlights. In fact, within a 4 KM radius of the city centre, one will find Cape Town’s most well-established restaurants, the city’s trendiest clubs, and the most famous art galleries/cultural offerings. This easily accessed hub of nightlife has fared well for Cape Town consumers and brands, and has brought communities of otherwise unfamiliar markets together in one spot, for one purpose. First Thursdays in Cape Town is flourishing.

In Johannesburg, the country’s largest city, there is indeed too an impressive environment of creative culture. However, the geography and city plan of the metropolis is quite the opposite in design and proximity when compared to Cape Town. Instead of boasting one central hub designated for nightlife, Johannesburg facilitates “mini hubs” of culturally diverse offerings. Maboneng is perhaps the most renowned example of the ideology of creative innovation. Consumers were responding well to such glimpses of creative culture come to life, and thus a Joburg edition of First Thursdays came to fruition. Where better a place in the city to host this trek of intrepid consumers than the suburb of Braamfontein, which is home to “some of the best public art in the city”.

First Thursdays - Why did it trend?

First Thursdays has made a great impact on the city of Johannesburg, especially to the consumers that flock to the visually empowering occasion. Finally having an organised cultural nighttime event, Johannesburg can cater to the palettes of the art loving markets - which has been growing as the awareness and hype of the event becomes more apparent.

It’s a fun, mysterious and especially different route to take when exploring a city at night. Adding to the cultural melting pot of Braamfontien, First Thursdays is bringing people of all ages to this epicentre of creativity. Wits University, being within a close proximity to Braamfontein, is home to over 30,000 students. With youthful age brackets always looking for something new to experience, this was the perfect opportunity to facilitate the psychographics of art students, as well as those interested in the industry.

Being a city with landmarks at inconvenient distances apart, Johannesburg’s citizens can socialise and meet their recreational needs in one central location. This encourages a healthy balance of repeat and first time consumers, each drawn in by the spectacle of something new each month.

South African art, conceptual and traditional, is highly decorated in it’s creativity and underlying emotion. Often seen as an industry that celebrates people’s socio-cultural differences, First Thursdays in Braamfontein promotes the essence of the city’s beautiful art. As long as there is a platform for local artists to exhibit their work, there will be fans in South Africa’s metropolises, looking to be “wowed” or perhaps searching for inspiration. Some events featured this month included Jaco Van Der Merwe and Louis Minnaar’s “A is for Apocalypse. Z is for Zombies.” and “Another Window” by poet Phillippa Yaa de Villiers and artist Dean Hutton.

At it’s core, First Thursdays in Braamfontein is a trending event because of the way in which it reaches out to the greater art community of Johannesburg. By showcasing the this offering at night and allocating one slot per month, the event is given a mystique-like aura, and excitement for the following month’s event is organically heightened.

First Thursdays Braamfontein - Why it Matters to Brands

Where there is a market of consumers shifting towards a trendy event, brands have direct access and can further strategise their consumer engagement.

A crowd is never quite satisfied until their hunger has been quenched. Local food markets and restaurants of the Braamfontein precinct now have a special monthly date with art enthusiasts and creatives, and can market themselves as being a part of the cultural rush.

Some brands have already accommodated the influx of consumers that awaken the spirit of Braamfontein every Thursday of the new month. Puma’s retail store in the precinct eagerly awaits the market traffic and stays open a little later than usual.

One important aspect of any nighttime event is catering to the social lifestyles of the younger consumers that will be looking to continue the evening further. This is where clubs and bars in the area can attract inspired individuals looking for a place to unwind after an evening of cultural delights. From exclusive venues through to consumers looking for more of a general setting, drinks will flow during the course of First Thursdays - and luckily the Braamfontein precinct has much to offer in this department.

First Thursdays Braamfontein - Why it Matters to Agencies

Being the newfound heart of Jozi art culture, creative agencies in Braamfontein and the greater city bowl can use this landscape to experiment with digital executions. This is due to the masses of students and visually empowered/creative individuals that would attend First Thursdays.

A perfect way to host networking opportunities and work together with the local art community, the agency landscape can use this event to sponsor local talent, thereby stimulating brand awareness and potentially attracting clients.

Working with brands to rollout campaigns in this hotspot of consumer conversation would be a seamless strategy to follow through with. The condition of nighttime is ironically the best time of day to showcase bright, visually composed brand communication - as the visuals are amplified by the lack of natural light. We only need to look at the nocturnal brand activity that takes place every evening in Times Square, New York to see the effectiveness of this.

As First Thursdays in Braamfontein, the heart of Johannesburg’s art community, continues to create hype on social media and forms part of the city’s conversation, the creative landscape of the city - including its artists and their work, as well as the advertising and marketing sphere - will become more converged, synchronised and ready to place a unique beacon of creative culture on the city.

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Photo Credits


Derek Keats

Paul Saad


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