South African consumers voted with their hearts and their wallets during this year’s ICON Brand Awards survey. And they chose familiar comfort brands found in both the richest and poorest homes. All Gold Tomato Sauce was the overall winner, with Koo Baked Beans in second place, Huletts Sugar in third and Albany bread in fourth place.
Ask Afrika’s annual research survey looks at brands that are “ubiquitous and quintessentially South African” and which “cross all socio-economic, race, language, and cultural barriers”.
The top 10 winners were announced at an event last week, at Summer Place in Hyde Park, Johannesburg. “We can be agents of justice by giving our attention more generously, by learning to notice the less obvious, but genuinely lovely, things. This is what research does. It stops us, it helps us to notice things. Research matters, because it offers us assistance in getting on with our dreams, coping with our failures, remembering what matters, avoiding what harms us, and rebalancing the excesses of corporate enthusiasm. Research is not mysterious, it belongs to everyone,” said Andrea Rademeyer, CEO and founder of Ask Afrika, in her opening address.
Thirty-one brands made Ask Afrika ICON Brand status for 2014/2015 and were celebrated. “Ask Afrika ICON Brands are about relevance across the South African demographic. It is not a popularity contest, not about what people like or say they like, but about which brands all South Africans use loyally. This is the differentiator between Ask Afrika ICON Brands and other surveys. It is important to understand that even though there is a diversity of brand measures, each looks at different elements of the brand and together they create a holistic picture of the market landscape,” said Sarina de Beer, managing director.
Many brands, despite brilliant ideas and creative ingenuity have missed the mark in a very competitive market because consumer expectations were not their central focus. Ask Afrika ICON Brands is not only about footprint and preference, it is about loyal usage, which is the Holy Grail and the hardest to achieve. A multitude of factors influences consumer loyalty, including public relations, reputation, and price. Out of 8000 brands measured in Target Group Index (TGI) by Ask Afrika only 31 have what it takes to obtain iconic status.
De Beer explored the changing realities shaping consumer expectations and how segmentation can enable relevance, or ruin, despite the best intentions. The list of top performing Ask Afrika ICON Brands has remained consistent over some time. These brands work hard at continuously earning their relevance.
However, the majority of the 31 Ask Afrika ICON Brands ratings are dropping. The trends show that it is no longer enough to bank on trusted symbols that have been refined over many years. There is a profound shift in power taking place in the business arena, with a whole new breed of exceptional brands that play by different rules.
Consumers are now attracted to unproven and unknown brands the way they were attracted to established brands in the past. In fact, established is now often just another word for tired, if not tainted. To remain at the top brands have to be relevant, reinvent themselves and display congruence. Heritage brands have no guarantee of loyalty.
The future belongs to clean slate brands. Clean slate brands can be brands that enter the market for the first time and take over market share rapidly, like the Gautrain, or they can be heritage brands that continuously innovate and re-invent themselves, like Coca-Cola, to live up to the expectations of the constantly evolving consumer. Clean slate brands have universal appeal and are authentic. They stand out from the pack, are characterised by fresh ideas, new or newly represented values, and are relevant.
Future marketers will be hard pressed to demonstrate relevance as consumer demand for innovation and putting values over value becomes increasingly stronger. Brand owners will be required to adapt to a changing retail landscape that includes formal and informal shopping. Marketers will be required to use meaningful segmentation without leaning on stereotypes to win brand success. Innovating to zero will keep brands alive.
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