While MTN’s brand value has grown by 8% in the past year to R44.2bn, entrenching its leadership as SA’s most valuable brand, First National Bank (FNB) has had its brand value increase by 22% to R19.4bn.

The latest Brand Finance local brand value report, released this week, says FNB has also jumped from being the seventh-biggest brand to the third-most valuable brand in the country.

FNB is also rated the country’s most valuable bank brand, just ahead of Absa (up 3% to R18.9bn) and Standard Bank (down 11% to R18.5bn).

The report says MTN’s brand value grew primarily because of customers spending more on data services.

The brand valuation is in stark contrast to MTN’s latest quarterly update, which revealed marginal growth in its home territory, with revenue up by just 2.5% and lower than full-year expectations.

MTN Group president and CEO Rob Shuter says the brand is executing a turnaround plan focused on improving customer retention and acquisition.

According to Jeremy Sampson, executive director of Brand Finance Africa, in 2017 the value of SA’s 50 top brands was R395bn, showing growth of 3% on 2016 and outpacing the growth of the economy.

This year, he says, the value has jumped by 8% to R426bn as the economy "shows signs of recovery from the Zuma years".

Sampson sees huge brand growth potential, especially as new brands such as Capitec Bank emerge.

One of the big losers in this year’s survey is Sasol, whose brand value dropped 17% to R15.7bn. Sampson says: "Sasol’s exports are particularly vulnerable to exchange rate changes and the value of the strong rand relative to the US dollar reduced Sasol’s operating profit by 11%."

Brand Finance CEO David Haigh says: "MTN is SA’s most valuable brand because of its industry leadership domestically and further afield, and being increasingly recognised throughout Africa as providing a high-quality service, because its brand image is deeply rooted in more than just marketing campaigns."

On FNB’s jump in the ranking, Brand Finance says despite facing the same challenging macroeconomic environment, the bank has focused on cross-selling other financial services to its clients, allowing its brand value growth to outpace that of its closest competitors.

Positive perceptions

In addition to measuring overall brand value, Brand Finance also evaluates the relative strength of brands based on factors such as marketing investment, familiarity, loyalty, staff satisfaction and corporate reputation. Based on these criteria, Capitec Bank has become SA’s strongest brand, taking over from FNB.

Capitec’s brand strength has benefited from positive perceptions among its core customer base, which is consistent with its introduction of more unsecured credit offerings.

Insurance brand Outsurance (brand value up 48% to R2.4bn) and telecommunications brand Cell C (up 47% to R3.7bn) recorded the fastest-growing brand values over the past year.

Says Sampson: "Though Outsurance has faced significant challenges in the domestic market, it has achieved notable success in Australia, New Zealand and the UK, while Cell C’s focus on the prepaid market has benefited, much like MTN, from increased data usage by mobile users."