Kantar BrandZ Emirati and Saudi Spotlight Report 2021 shines a light on the forces driving brand growth in the Middle East

Brands rebound and recover with one in ten brands showing growth in 2021.

Shining a light on the forces that drive brand growth, Kantar launched its 2021 BrandZ Emirati and Saudi Spotlight Report. Covering over 250 brands spanning 13 categories with opinions of 10,000 people from Saudi Arabia and the UAE through the lens of equity and consumer perceptions, the study provides insights on how consumer sentiment towards brands has changed between 2020 and 2021.

The report covers brands in categories ranging from banking, real estate, airlines and communication providers to retailers, food delivery services, skincare, video entertainment and dairy products to find out what sets apart those brands that have succeeded from those that have simply stayed afloat.

Brand growth is not hostage to brand size, category, or the marketplace. Even in these difficult times, one in 10 brands have been able to grow that all-important relationship with consumers by tapping into new, emerging needs with timely innovations, riding the wave of technology adoption in making consumers’ lives easier, and communicating effectively with their consumers.

When Kantar published its 2020 Kantar BrandZ Top 30 Most Valuable Emirati and Saudi Brands report a year ago, many of us hoped that Covid-19 was already in retreat and things would quickly get back to normal. But the reality turned out to be rather different.

That’s why this year, the Kantar BrandZ spotlight report into how brands in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates are faring takes a slightly different approach, which seems befitting of the extraordinary times we’ve been living in.

Kantar BrandZ findings are usually based on two key contributors to brand value: financial value and brand contribution. Financial value is the proportion of the total dollar value of the parent company that can be attributed to the brand in question, considering both its current and future performance. Brand contribution quantifies the proportion of this financial value that is directly driven by a brand’s equity. This is the ability of the brand to deliver value to the company by predisposing consumers to choose the brand over others or to pay more for it, based purely on perceptions. Together, these two factors give us a dollar figure for the brand value of each brand we assess.

“This year, we’re looking at more than 250 brands through the lens of equity and consumer perceptions alone. We are setting aside financial valuations and, instead of providing a dollar-based ranking of the most valuable brands, we shine a light on how consumer sentiment towards brands has changed between 2020 and 2021. This provides insight into how people feel coming out of a difficult year, and how winning brands have adapted to changing consumer behaviour,” explains Amol Ghate, managing director, Middle East, North Africa & Pakistan, Insights Division, Kantar.

By taking a deep dive into why some brands have positively thrived in the past year while others have declined and most have simply managed to tread water, Kantar BrandZ has garnered rich learnings into what drives brand equity and how that looks in the real world…

Key findings

  • Four levers set growth brands apart from the rest: convenience, innovation, value, and communication:
  • A brand that shines when it comes to convenience is one that fits seamlessly into people’s lives. It’s an easy choice to make because it’s in the right place, at the right time, with the very thing someone needs or wants. A convenient brand offers a great experience, whether that’s online or offline – or possibly both online and offline at once. It offers a range of products and services that provide a good match with what people are looking for, and what it offers is well designed for easy and enjoyable use. Noon, with its extensive marketplace of goods, is widely seen by consumers as fitting well into everyday life and being a brand that will grow in importance. Noon VIP, offering free next-day delivery and priority customer support, offers delivery within 90 minutes through its new Noon Insta grocery service, launched during the pandemic. Talabat is another growth brand this year. Already the region’s largest online food ordering service, the brand has helped develop cloud kitchens for online-only restaurants.
  • Innovation must be more than simply something new because while novelty has its place, to have a lasting impact on consumers’ perceptions of a brand, innovation must be meaningful. So, it must be something new that is relevant and helps improve people’s lives. Saudi telecommunications giant STC has earned a reputation for innovation, having expanded its extensive 5G network, created the “stc pay” digital wallet, and launched both an STC Internet of Things platform as well as the gaming and e-sport platform, stc play. Careem is another brand powering growth through meaningful innovation. Originally developed as a ride-hailing app, Careem has expanded to become a one-stop shop that handles food and drink deliveries, bus rides and anything else that involves reliably and comfortably getting people and products from A to B. The business was acquired by Uber in early 2020 and looks to other categories for inspiration in providing the most seamless user experience possible.
  • As Warren Buffett famously said: “Price is what you pay, value is what you get.” Consumers with all levels of income have a keen eye for a bargain, but that’s very rarely the least expensive option. Being a great value brand means being clear about why you charge a premium. HungerStation’s list of partners grows daily and includes over 10,000 restaurants, supermarkets, pharmacies, and florists. The brand’s Fazaa personal shopping services and Quick Market grocery delivery option have helped HungerStation further embed itself in people’s lives at a time when, because of the pandemic, deliveries shifted from being a luxury to a necessity.
  • Just as value isn’t about being the cheapest, strong communication isn’t about shouting the loudest. It’s about landing a memorable message that’s relevant both to the brand and to consumers. A brand’s share of voice is usually indicative of its market share, and when a share of voice is higher than market share, growth is usually the result. The food and beverage brand Almarai serves as a powerful example of the growth that’s possible when communication, backed by innovation, is done well. In 2020, the brand further increased its investments and focused on media efficiency as part of its communication strategy, at a time when the pandemic led many brands to cut back on their investment. The brand had something to say that was relevant to consumers’ lives and delivered its messages in memorable ways. It created buzz, not just noise, about innovative new products such as Greek drinking yoghurt, packaged hummus, and Farm Select 100% Premium Fresh Juice.
  • People are returning to travel, office life, learning, shopping, and leisure activities in the physical world to satisfy the deep human need for real-world interaction, but many of the newly acquired digital habits will stick as they’ve proven to be both convenient and efficient. The new normal will therefore be a blend of both worlds, and the brands that thrive will be those providing a seamless experience straddling the two.

2021 Kantar BrandZ Saudi & Emirati brands special awards

At the digital launch of the 2021 Kantar BrandZ Saudi & Emirati brands, Kantar BrandZ acknowledged the following brands that rose to meet the challenges brought on by the pandemic and guided the way towards the next normal:

  • The Convenience Award acknowledges how well brands fit in people’s everyday lives. This year’s special award goes to Noon.
  • The Meaningful Innovation Award focuses on innovations that add true meaning to consumers’ lives. This year’s special award goes to STC.  ​
  • The Value Award celebrates the combination of price and benefit. This year’s special award goes to Saudia Airlines.
  • The Purpose Award is all about making people’s lives better. This year’s special award goes to T

“This is a tremendously exciting time for brands. Challenges remain, of course, and Covid-19 is still with us. But this region offers many reasons for businesses to be confident that better times are coming. Opportunities are there to be seized. After all, building a strong, resilient, and growing brand is a long-term project, to be worked on in good times and bad,” says Aruna Rajaram, director, Brand, Insights Division, Kantar.

Download the Kantar BrandZ Emirati and Saudi Spotlight Report 2021

Watch the launch webinar on-demand.