We’ve stopped what we are doing and creating your personalized BrandZ™ report, which will appear in your inbox soon.

Brand Contribution


There are some brands that punch above their weight in BrandZ™ rankings because they score well on a measure we call “Brand Contribution.”

Brand Contribution is a score between one and five that reflects how well a brand differentiates itself from its competitors, generates desire, and cultivates loyalty. The Brand Contribution score a brand receives is the result of extensive consumer research, so it reflects the quantification of current sentiment among consumers towards a brand.

The inclusion of Brand Contribution scores in the formula used to generate brand value is one of the major ways that BrandZ™ rankings are distinguished from other brand valuation methodologies. BrandZ™ is the only ranking that uses interviews with consumers themselves to quantify the place that brands occupy in people’s hearts and minds.

Brands with high scores for Brand Contribution tend to be resilient to challenges in the market, though, as the SA Top 30 clearly demonstrates, major social and macroeconomic disruptions can affect their brand value nonetheless. Brand Contribution is also not built in a day; it is the result of conscious and consistent investment over time. If a brand scores highly on this measure, consumers are predisposed to choose it over its rivals and are more likely to be willing to pay a premium for it.

We can show how Brand Contribution works by looking at numbers 3 and 4 on the Top 30, Castle and Vodacom. While Castle is clearly a very well-loved brand that sells a great deal of its products, its financial strength is limited due to the price point at which it operates, and the natural limitations on how much beer people drink. On the other hand, Vodacom operates in a more or less essential category, with 93 percent of all South Africans owning a mobile phone — almost exactly the same number as in the United States. As a result, it is financially the much larger of the two brands, but Castle edges it out in brand value because of its much superior Brand Contribution score.

The top five brands for Brand Contribution are likely familiar to all South Africans. They are things they experience or want to experience on a daily basis. For their consumers, they are everyday brands, the entertainment they watch, the beer they drink, and the restaurants they love. It’s worth pointing out that while Woolworths may be an upscale brand out of reach for many in the country, its Brand Contribution scores reflects its popularity within its own consumer set.

If you are looking for an obvious stand out among this group it has to be Flying Fish, which managed to knock last year’s #1, Nando’s, from the top of the podium. Flying Fish is soaring because it has taken a new approach to the beer category. Its “fresher” flavors of pressed lemon and chilled green apple serve as refreshing alternatives to traditional beers.

As a result, the brand scores particularly high for Difference (behind Woolworths, it is the second most different SA brand). What’s more, Flying Fish has plenty of runway for growth, mainly because of its relatively low score for Salience, which shows that it can reach many more consumers than it already has.

Ways to win

1 Innovation drives difference

The most meaningfully different brands in the world all have one thing in common: they innovate to make sure they stand out from the others. Overall, for example, banking is a fairly commoditized category in South Africa, but Capitec has been a strong performer in the category, rising 5 notches this year to #12. It has been digitally focused and now boasts a rough parity between digital and in-person customers. Its new headquarters, iKhaya, serves as both a physical embodiment of innovation as well as an encourager of it. Boasting a new unique “doughnut” shape, it is designed to encourage collaboration between different groups in a company.

2 Keep talking

If you have a brand and it never speaks up, is it really a brand? Not in consumer’s minds. For better or worse, South African brands over-index on Salience. Research also shows that global consumers are not merely tolerating advertising during the crisis but seeking it out. The reasons are complex, but essentially advertising reminds us of normal times. So, in good times and bad, it’s always a good idea to reach out.

3 Helping always helps

South African brands have not been shy and jumped in to help out during the crisis. This is the smart move. Meaningful actions today will help build enduring connections in the future. In one interesting example, soap brand Lifebuoy urged people in many countries, including South Africa, to wash their hands frequently, but made the point that they should use whatever soap they have nearby. This admission that its competitors are useful in the crisis nicely connected with the prevailing mood.

4 Brand is an investment, not an expense

South African brands currently have some of the lowest brand equities scores of any nation, particularly for the Meaningful Difference that drives long-term brand value. It’s important to remember that brand building is not a cost, it is an investment that can help grow a business significantly over time. While many brands in the country choose to grow through the scale of their operations, this has left them vulnerable during the economic crisis. The more resilient brands tend to put time, money, and effort into increasing their equity. For the rest, there is no time like the present to shift gears.

Theory in Action

Besides Flying Fish, Nando’s is the only other South African brand with a score of 5 for Brand Contribution. This is unsurprising, given its constant and welcome presence on South African screens, not to mention its addictive product line. Its response to the ongoing pandemic was emblematic of its typical role is not merely a brand but an influential commentator on South African life. Taking a jab at rival KFC, it ran a cheeky ad that called attention to the need for handwashing by saying, “Turns out finger lickin’ isn’t good.” Today, Nando’s scores well on all brand equity measures and has unsurprisingly risen in this year’s ranking to #5.