An FNB branch in Johannesburg. Picture: REUTERS / SIPHIWE SIBEKO
An FNB branch in Johannesburg. Picture: REUTERS / SIPHIWE SIBEKO

If confirmation was needed that brands acting responsibly and for social good outperform those that don’t, then the BrandZ "Top 30 Most Valuable SA Brands" survey provides it.

The pharmacy chain Clicks, for example, is up five places to 24th in the 2020 ranking, thanks in part to having improved accessibility and convenience before and during the Covid-19 lockdown. This strategy, notes the survey, helped drive a 31% rise in pharmacy sales in the time leading up to the lockdown.

Clicks is seen by consumers as having fair prices, scoring 131 on a scale where 100 is average. As the survey says, this is increasingly critical for South Africans who have become more price-and promotion-conscious as the impact of economic uncertainty on household income intensifies. Three-quarters of consumers now say they pay more attention to prices and 42% will visit multiple stores to ensure they get the best value.

The annual global survey, which also gives rankings for individual countries, is commissioned by global communications holding company WPP and valuations of brands are conducted by brand equity research experts Kantar. The process combines market data from Bloomberg with insights from more than 3.8-million consumers around the world, covering almost 18,000 different brands in 51 markets. For the SA rankings, close to 30,000 local consumers were canvassed.

Kantar says its analysis shows that consumer expectations for brands to act more responsibly have risen dramatically in the past 10 years, and that 9% of a brand’s equity is driven by corporate reputation. A clearly defined purpose to benefit communities and society is becoming increasingly important to consumers as a result of the pandemic, and 90% of South Africans believe that brands should be talking about this.

Charles Foster, CEO of Kantar’s insights division for Africa and the Middle East, says: "On a macro level, this has been a difficult year for SA, with the pandemic being only one of the headwinds brands have had to contend with. But in a country with a history of resilience and an ability to look to the future, we are seeing great examples of brands — driven by consumer expectations — redefining themselves, in recognition that the current climate calls for them to clearly determine their contribution to society."

Woolworths topped the SA rankings for most responsible brand. Its "good business journey" — a commitment to care for the environment, people and communities with such policies as sustainable sourcing — has contributed to it being recognised in the Dow Jones sustainability index and the FTSE4Good emerging index.

Capitec Bank, up five places from last year at 12th in the SA rankings, with a brand valuation of $840m, performed best on the "purpose" measure, scoring 128. The bank has focused on meeting clients’ needs with initiatives such as using WhatsApp for easy communication, Sunday opening and "human-centric" financial advice on its website.

Pick n Pay, which rose three places in the ranking to 17th with a brand value of $672m, is another company that has actively demonstrated social responsibility, joining other partners in the Feed the Nation campaign to provide meals for vulnerable people. During the pandemic it has partnered with an on-demand alcohol delivery service to provide groceries via a contactless system.

In the main ranking, FNB outperformed its rivals with a brand value of $2.8bn. Standard Bank took second spot and Castle was ranked third. Flavoured beer brand Flying Fish is the highest new entry in the ranking at 28th, with a brand value of $333m. Insurance group Hollard, with a brand value of $285m, is the other newcomer, making it into the ranking at 30th. The total value of the top 30 SA brands in 2020 is $29.7bn, down 20% from 2019.

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