What are the levers driving growth for brands in the Middle East?

The Kantar BrandZ Emirati and Saudi Spotlight report looks at why and how some brands have thrived over the past year, while others have stagnated or declined.
26 October 2021
KBZ 2021 middle east
Amol Ghate

Managing Director, Insights Division, Middle East, North Africa & Pakistan

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When we published our Kantar BrandZ Saudi and Emirati brand ranking a year ago, many of us hoped that COVID-19 was already in retreat and things would quickly get back to normal. The reality turned out to be rather different…

That’s why this year, our Kantar BrandZ Emirati and Saudi Spotlight Report 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.

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), we have 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:

  • Brands offering great convenience include retail names that have built their business in bricks and mortar but pivoted quickly to meet new expectations, as well as those born digital.
  • Innovation must be more than simply “something new”, as novelty has its place, but to have a lasting impact on consumers’ perceptions of a brand, innovation must be meaningful. It must be something new that is relevant and helps improve people’s lives.
  • 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.
  • 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 share of voice is higher than market share, growth is usually the result.

Brand growth is not hostage to brand size, category, or the marketplace. Even in these difficult times, one in 10 brands has been able to grow its relationship with consumers by tapping into new, emerging needs with timely innovations and riding the wave of technology adoption in making consumers’ lives easy or added value to their brands, while also ensuring they are communicating effectively with their consumers.

In the past year, 7.8% of Saudi and UAE brands have managed to grow their Brand Power. Those with rising Brand Power saw their usage increase on average by 1.8 times their Power growth rate. Power is a measure of a brand’s ability to drive volume sales, and it’s been shown over many years and across global markets to be closely related to market share. That’s because Power – an attribute that exists in the minds of consumers – leads to greater real-world usage of a product.

People are returning to travel, office life, learning, shopping, and leisure activities in the physical world to satisfy our deep human need for real-world interaction, but many of our 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.

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.

Read more in the full Kantar BrandZ Emirati and Saudi Spotlight Report. 

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Kantar BrandZ 2022 Emirates and Saudi Arabia Report
Discover the most valuable Emirati and Saudi brands, and how strong brand perceptions can provide a shield from future downturns.
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