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

Brands that punch above their weight


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 Index 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 online and face-to-face 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, 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 12 and 13 on the Top 30, DStv and Sasol. An energy giant like Sasol is always likely to be much bigger financially than a TV provider—even in a place that loves its soapies as much as South Africans do. Sasol has a relatively high Brand Contribution score for its category, but DStv is a beloved brand that people tune in to every day. With its uniquely SA content offerings, it has an intimacy with local dynamics that helps it adapt to foreign rivals, like Netflix. As a result, it tops Sasol in brand value mainly due to its very high and Sasol’s relatively low Brand Contribution scores.

When looking at the top 5 brands for Brand Contribution, the highest-ranked brands are mostly deeply embedded in people’s lives. They are everyday brands: the beer we drink, the food we love, and the entertainment we watch. It’s hard to imagine South African television over the last decades without Castle ads and slogans, like “It all comes together with a Castle.” And where would the TV-mad land be without DStv?

Perhaps the most interesting brand in the list, and the one that should take pride in its achievement, is Woolworths. In South Africa, most retailers score relatively low for Brand Contribution. The reason is that Brand Contribution reflects a broad range of factors—everywhere, in fact, a brand interacts with consumers. In their current race to create value for consumers, retailers are cutting back on everything from brand marketing to in-store experience, which leaves even some of the best-known brands with lowish scores by this measure.

It’s also worth mentioning that many foreign audiences are probably scratching their heads. That’s because there are many flavors of Woolworths in the English-speaking world, none of which are related, and often the name signifies a tired or even extinct brand.

Woolworths in South Africa is something entirely different, a happy combination of a higher end store that nonetheless offers great value. While the financial side of its brand value was impacted by investments overseas, it nonetheless continually makes lists of things ex-pats love about South Africa. In a poorly differentiated category, Woolworths pays exceptional attention to the in-store experience, where it often offers a smaller yet focused selection of goods. It scores especially high on difference, underlying the unique value proposition of the brand.

Ways to Win

Build instant recognition

For a brand to capitalize on any predisposition it has created, it must be salient: it must come readily to mind when a customer has a specific need. Distinctive brand assets—anything that may help to instantly trigger the brand and bring it to mind—can serve as a shortcut to branding and positive message reinforcement. To achieve instant recognition, marketers need to embed, reinforce, and activate assets, as well as emphasize any positive memories already associated with the brand.

Provide a great experience. Salience can often be the easy part, but the rubber also has to hit the road. Once a person selects a product, the brand has to ensure it meets their needs and provides the excellent customer service that seals the relationship. Top brands stress every touchpoint from the moment a person first encounters a brand to long after a purchase.

Be clear in your purpose

One great way to differentiate a brand is through a clearly stated purpose. Castle, for example, has emphasized its role in bringing people together with its #smashthelabel campaign, which seeks to encourage people to ditch stereotypes and celebrate the differences between people. The rule here, though, is clear: the brand purpose must emanate naturally from the brand itself. A great brand doing this outside the Top 30 is 1st for Women, an insurance company geared towards women, which also provides legal counsel for women in abusive situations.

Innovate for disruption. In order to stand out in people’s minds, brands must offer something unique in the marketplace. The shortest way there? Innovating to deliver something different. In South Africa a prime example is Discovery, which is fast becoming a personal and financial health ecosystem. By jumping across categories and entering new markets, the brand is clearly seen as a mover and shaker, with great things yet to come.

Theory in Action

The price of mobile data in South Africa may not be the country’s biggest headache, but it’s certainly one of its major frustrations. In a world where unlimited data plans are relatively common, SA’s mobile providers, which range across Africa, provide their services for far less in other countries than they do in their home market.

This problem has been met head on by Rain, a new and highly distinct player in the SA telecoms market. Rain offers mobile-only data plans with unlimited off-peak browsing. The lack of voice service is less of a problem in SA than it would be elsewhere, given the prevalence of voice chat services like WhatsApp. While Rain does face challenges—its network may be generous but it is also slower than its competitors—overall its smart, SA-specific offering may in time prove a major disruptor in the market.