The eminent annual Sunday Times Top Brands survey continues into its 21st year and is the longest-running consumer brand survey in SA. Based on research conducted by TNS, the Top Brands awards celebrate brands that have stood out from the crowd and provide a representative snapshot of how they have performed.

A recent Redzone discussion, facilitated by chief creative officer and co-founder of TILT, Arye Kellman, unpacked what differentiates top brands from their competitors. Karin du Chenne, chief growth officer, Africa & Middle East at Kantar, said many of this year’s top brands have been consistent winners. The Top Brands study is based on 3,500 interviews conducted around the country.

This year’s overall favourite brand was Koo. “Brands that do well in this survey are those that are consistently delivering authenticity. A brand like Koo has made an emotional connection with consumers,” Du Chenne said.

As an increasing number of brands move to a more purposeful positioning, they’re also making choices that have a positive impact on society. One brand that has consciously established a purpose-led strategy is Capitec. “Its positioning – providing banking services to the traditionally unbanked – has been highly effective and this has enabled it to be the top bank in SA in this year’s survey,” said Du Chenne. “It is the fastest-growing bank in the country at present and the only bank hiring staff. It understands its customers and innovates to make their lives easier, for example by providing long banking hours and positioning branches in easily accessible areas.”

Another brand that did well in this year’s survey was Joko. According to Du Chenne, the brand is “in touch with how important it is to take a decisive positioning. Customers are responding positively to their more purposeful positioning.”

Brands live in consumer’s lives, pointed out Oresti Patricios, CEO of Ornico Group. When the consumers are surveyed it’s the brands that are uppermost in their minds that are mentioned. A top brand, he said, is one that gets it right on all the consumer touchpoints, and allows consumers to interact with it at their convenience.

Deryn Graham, public relations manager at Proudly SA, says one of the misperceptions her organisation is constantly trying to address is that imported products are of a higher quality than locally produced goods. “We struggle to get the message across that local products are well made and trusted, offering value for money.” Brands that can offer products to suit local conditions, she added, have an advantage.

A brand that is making very effective use of data, using behavioural economics, is Discovery, which is trying to drive people’s behaviour towards healthier living. “When brands use data correctly, it can pay off handsomely,” said Du Chenne. “Data needs to lead directionally by providing insights. And human insights are what differentiate good marketers from poor marketers.”

The big take-out

Brands that do well in Top Brands awards are authentic and purposeful, and make an emotional connection with consumers.

Another brand that once again performed particularly well in the survey was Shoprite. The brand was 2018’s overall favourite and though the retailer didn’t manage to clinch that top spot again this year, it continues to offer customers real value. “Even though Shoprite doesn’t have a loyalty programme, it does track what moves and it has partnered with suppliers to offer smaller pack sizes,” says Du Chenne.

Other brands that do well consistently are those that stand out creatively, such as Nando’s. Creativity grabs consumer attention, says Patricios.

Influencer marketing is a strategy some brands are using to great effect, pointed out Kellman, adding that one brand that is using influencers very effectively is Investec. With a hi-tech, high-touch approach the bank has focused on effective client support – calls to its client support centre are resolved by graduates within the day.