An Up-and-Down Year
Beverages, Retail, Technology, and Lifestyle Platforms find room for growth in a difficult business climate
For the third straight year, the value of the BrandZ™ Top 30 Most Valuable Dutch Brands remains concentrated at the top of the ranking. The Netherlands’ number-one brand, Shell, accounts for more nearly one-fifth of the brand value of the entire Top 30. And the top three brands in the Dutch ranking – Shell, Philips, and Heineken – account for nearly half of the ranking’s total value. The Netherlands’ top ten brands, meanwhile, comprise 83 percent of the value of the Dutch Top 30 – the highest such proportion of any country tracked by BrandZ™.
Beyond these statistics, however, the category-level picture in 2021 is one of increased parity. One result of 2021’s brand value realignments is that the Netherlands now has five leading brand categories of relatively equal value. Oil & Gas is still the biggest category by total value (and, like last year, only consists of Shell) – but it now represents 18 percent of the Dutch Top 30 - down from 21 percent the year prior. The second largest category, Beer, is now close behind, with five brands combining to make up 17 percent of the Dutch Top 30’s Total Value.
From there, Technology places third, at 15 percent. It is followed by Banks at 14 percent and Travel services at 12 percent.
This year also saw significant swings in the absolute values of many leading Dutch brand categories. Most of these changes are in line with current worldwide market changes - COVID-19 has created clear trends in which categories of brand flourish, while others struggle. The coffee brands that makeup up the Netherlands’ Beverage category, for instance, have well benefited from increased home consumption of that drink during periods of “working at home.” Conversely, the five brands that comprise the Beer category in the Netherlands have been hamstrung, both at home and abroad, by the 2020 shuttering of many bars and restaurants.
Beer brands have had to work hard to develop alternative means of distribution, and have had to innovate to “win” in the areas of grocery and online sales. These channels call for new and innovative types of beverage offerings, format sizes, price strategies, and product bundling - as well as different types of marketing and brand storytelling.
Those beer brands that have adjusted the fastest to the era’s new forms of drinking occasions will be best-positioned to survive and thrive in the coming years. Encouragingly for the category as a whole, overall consumer perceptions of Dutch beer brands have not deteriorated even as health circumstances have pushed pub receipts down: global and local perceptions of Dutch beer brands have remained stable year-on-year for key measures like Meaningful, Different, Salient, and Brand Power. The category’s brand equity scores, in other words, remain plenty strong, which should bode well for a robust “bounce-back” when health conditions improve.
Similarly, the Netherlands’ three ranked Banks brands – ING, Rabobank, and ABN AMRO – continued to perform well-above-average on brand equity traits like Meaningful, Salient, and Powerful, while also steadily increasing measures of customer satisfaction with their brands.
This was not enough, however, to compensate for the fact that during a global recession, big banks will inevitably end up with many underperforming assets on their balance sheets – thus driving an overall decline in Banks’ brand value. What’s more, leading Dutch brands rank only slightly above the global brand average for the important variable of Difference. This is not a surprise, because big banks often ace difficulty in Differentiating themselves – but finding ways to secure this elusive Difference could be crucial to turbocharging Dutch banks’ recoveries. Banks should use this difficult moment to show what they stand for, and to pioneer new “high tech and high touch” forms of empathetic customer service.
Perhaps the biggest success story this year is the Dutch Retail category, which not only added two representatives to the Top 30 in Kruidvat and Etos - but also grew by 16 percent. This, in a year when traditional paths to purchase all but evaporated – all while Retail brands faced the challenge of implementing new hygiene protocols, and racing to keep up with increased demand for online shopping. Not all retail brands were up to this challenge. But in the Netherlands, an impressive six out of seven returning Retail brands achieved year-on-year brand value increases (with the seventh retail brand declining less steeply percentage-wide than the overall Top 30 – also a respectable result).
Ways to win - Philips
Taking the short-term view, Technology brand Philips’ brand value gain of eight percent for 2021 may have seemed like a foregone conclusion. After all, the brand is a leading manufacturer of health technology (notably, ventilators) during a year when health equipment was in high demand. But Philips’ success becomes even more impressive when put in the wider context of the company’s decades-long efforts to pivot toward becoming a health-tech leader. This pivot saw Philips sell off its high-profile entertainment technology, white goods, and lighting businesses – a risky strategic transformation that will be studied in business schools for years to come. The result was Philips found itself well-prepared to meet this historic moment. As a result, Philips has now moved up to the number two slot on the BrandZ™ Dutch Top 30 rankings, up from four in 2020 – indeed, it is now within striking distance of ranking leader Shell. Just as importantly, Philips ranks high on attributes like Meaningful, Salient, Responsible, and Purposeful, meaning that its strategic efforts have paid off not only in increased sales, but also in robust brand equity.