Why do you buy a particular brand of bread when you wake up every morning? Why do people find themselves drinking one beer brand their whole lives.
It’s because of consumer perception. Once a buyer develops a liking for a particular brand it becomes very difficult to convince them that other brands can be equally good.
Kenya is the epitome of a market that is dominated by specific brands that everyone knows about including children. Name them: Safaricom, Colgate, Kiwi, Omo, Sarova Hotels, Kensalt, Ketepa Tea or Sportpesa. These are brands that have a certain romance and mystique about them such that they have become popular.
Superbrands, the world’s largest arbiter of brands with a presence in 88 countries, has its East Africa headquarters in Nairobi and has independently and consistently ranked regional brands since 2007. The organisation holds an awards ceremony annually and publishes an insight book after every two years.
Safaricom, M-Pesa, Colgate, Pampers, Dasani, Citizen TV, Mumias, Tuskys, Supaloaf and Weetabix emerged as the country’s top 10 brands in the 2019/2020 survey.
Business Today reporter Samuel Gitonga sat down with JAWAD JAFFER, Project Director and Associate Publisher at Superbrands East Africa to discuss a wide-range of issues touching on the Superbrands label.
Gitonga: There is the common perception that top brands pay to be rated favourably by different agencies, essentially locking out brands worthy of honourable mention. What has Superbrands done to make it’s awarding process transparent?
Jaffer: Our selection process is very transparent. In Kenya, we contract a research firm known as Kantar TNS which researches and comes up with a list of approximately 1,000 top brands across all sectors. Kantar then conducts one-on-one interviews with consumers in three major cities.
In Kenya, the interviews are conducted in Nairobi, Mombasa and Kisumu. From the consumer feedback, Kantar cuts down the number of brands to 300 and forwards those names to us. We then contact those brands and invite them to participate. We charge the brands a participatory fee and that is how we have managed to maintain our independence. We have made sure that our process is free from any sponsorship because we want it to be credible.
BT: Since you started operating in Kenya in 2007, how has the Superbrands ranking changed how ranked companies conduct their operations. Has it, for example, improved their profitability or market share?
Jaffer: Superbrands is a neutral arbiter and that is the company’s reputation globally. When a brand features in our rankings that could be a game-changer for it. For instance, Tuskys Supermarkets uses our award seal in different platforms. That in turn inspires consumer confidence. They develop trust knowing that it has been endorsed by a neutral party.
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BT: Mumias Sugar is facing financial difficulties related to management and governance yet it has featured consistently as a top brand in your rankings. How is that possible?
Our model is that we do not factor in a company’s operations in our considerations. Our primary focus is the consumer. We seek to find out how popular brands are with the consumers. At the end of the day, it is only the consumers who can say how visible a brand is and how much it impacts them.
BT: Superbrands is synonymous with big corporates. Are there any plans to cover Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs)?
Jaffer: We are working on that, not just in Kenya but in all the 88 countries that we operate. We are working on the modalities of how we can come up with a ranking for SMEs and if everything goes as planned we will roll it out in due course.