Why FNB Is South Africa’s Most Valuable Brand

In the annual brand value parade, businesses are having to grapple with the nuances of creating a lasting impression, furiously driving sales and standing out from the competition.

For South African brands, the tough journey towards improved pricing power, an embrace of collaborative ecosystems and a consistent commitment to sustainability have played a significant role in dictating their position in the market this year, as well as their perceived value.

These are the key trends that have emerged from the Kantar BrandZ Top 30 Most Valuable South African Brands survey, out this week. The top brands have a collective value of $31.6bn. Banking, fast food and retail are the most resilient categories and 20% of the most valuable South African brands have shown growth.

Ranked No 8 with a brand value of $1.2bn, Woolworths is one of the fastest risers in this year’s ranking. A key driver behind this rise is its strong pricing power — the ability to raise prices without losing customers.

Kantar says in tough economic times, brands that can impose higher prices without customer churn have meaningfully differentiated themselves. Strong pricing power reflects a brand’s resilience and its ability to weather economic storms. It’s an amalgamation of trust, perceived value, differentiation and strategic communication. Brands that harness these elements successfully are well-positioned to thrive, even in challenging market conditions.

For Woolworths, says Kantar, this relates to product quality, customer service and other unique selling propositions. The report says this underscores the imperative for brands to always offer a meaningful difference, especially to justify premium pricing.

The report also says that in today’s interconnected world, the so-called lone wolf approach seldom works. Brands are no longer just isolated entities, they’re part of broader ecosystems that offer value to customers, and this is evident in how South African retailers and banks are forging powerful partnerships. A testament to this trend is the increasing number of loyalty and rewards programmes. FNB’s eBucks, for instance, offers its customers shopping at 40 retailers, including Clicks (No 22; $459m). Here, a symbiotic relationship exists. Customers get 15% back on total purchases, online and in-store, at Clicks, driving traffic to the retailer and fostering brand loyalty for FNB.

The survey also says sustainability is no longer just a buzzword, it’s become fundamental pillar of business. Woolworths again leads the charge here with its “good business journey”. However, says Kantar, it’s not just about environmental conservation, it’s about behaving responsibly in the broader societal context — an ethos also embodied by brands like FNB.

This year Sasol (No 21; $472m) has taken significant strides, rivalling Capitec Bank (No 9; $1.2bn) and Checkers (No 20; $525m). These brands share a common trait: a commitment to social responsibility and exemplary treatment of employees.

FNB is the top South African brand with a brand value of $3.4bn. The financial services category is the largest in this year’s top 30, featuring 11 brands and a total brand value of $13.6bn. Kantar says South Africa’s oldest bank, FNB, continues to reinvent itself, remaining relevant to existing and new customers and maintaining a point of difference with others in the category.

Standard Bank ($3bn) is the second-most valuable brand, with telecoms brands MTN (No 3; $2.8bn) and Vodacom (No 4; $2.7bn) and alcohol brand Castle (No 5; $2bn) completing the top five.

Ivan Moroke, CEO of Kantar South Africa’s insights division, says: “FNB continues to raise the bar despite being the oldest brand in the top 30 and operating in a highly competitive sector that includes some of the hottest fintech start-ups. With its focus on innovation and building connections with customers, especially younger people, FNB features high on our future power index, while its work with communities, helping to drive societal change, has seen FNB feature high on our brand purpose index.”

While the overall value of the top 30 declined by $3.3bn (-9%) vs last year, against a backdrop of high inflation, rising petrol prices and load-shedding, South African brands performed better than those in many other markets. A fifth of brands in the ranking showed growth, finding new ways to build value despite challenging conditions.

Finding growth through international expansion and branching out into new categories are also notable trends. This includes Vodacom offering financial services, Dis-Chem Pharmacies (No 29; $299m) moving into medical insurance, and Checkers offering cellphone services, while several major retailers have entered the baby category.

This piece originally appeared in the Financial Mail.