Doing great work in boom times is one thing, but it's the downswing that really tests a brand's mettle. 2011 featured a range of notable brand performances, and a predictably lengthy list of failures. The basic rule of brand success remained in place throughout the year, however – those who kept the hype to a minimum and focused on delivering a quality experience, inevitably came out on top.
Brand Winners 2011
125 years on and the Coke brand is still rock solid. In May 2011 Coca-Cola South Africa invited employees, customers and business partners to share in 125 years of making a meaningful difference in communities. The brand funded community grants totalling R1.25-million for initiatives that align with its Live for A Difference sustainability priorities: water stewardship, recycling, entrepreneurship, HIV/AIDs and nutrition and well-being. Coke remains the definitive global power brand, and the evidence of its success is, as usual, found in a powerful local presence.
FNB have excelled in their communication throughout 2011. From their radio ads through to the banking functionality they offer customers through to their nimble social media presence, they appear at all times to be on top and in charge. The FNB message was clear and delivered very well, through word and deed. FNB say that they improve the banking experience. There aren't too many people arguing with them at this stage.
SARS have added a new word to the South African tax lexicon. Yes, a whiskey brand may have played with eish first, but it's SARS who have really made it stick. Tax payers have been delighted to find out that they can take the “eish” out of tax-eish-ion. This nifty piece of communication reinforces SARS' long term drive to eliminate the frustration tax payers experience when filing their annual income tax returns.
MTN Golden Lions
Last year the Golden Lions were no hopers who couldn't get 5000 people into Ellis Park. In 2011 they packed the stadium as they won the Absa Currie Currie Cup final for their first home final win in 61 years. They could teach a few other South African sporting brands a thing or two.
Santam – The real McCoy
Santam has found a simple and clever way to demystify insurance with a clear message: insurance brands can look like the real thing, but that might not be enough. The big reveal has left consumers feeling strangely satisfied and rewarded. As long as they don't force Ben Kingsley onto local screens for too long, Santam should be congratulated for achieving where many other insurance brands have failed.
Brand Losers 2011
Julius Malema has become one of most notorious political figures of our time. Newspapers, websites and TV stations display his face daily, and while he generates a great deal of buzz and frequently emerges with sound bite classics – like his desire to retire and take up cattle farming - the lack of substance in his approach to policy and his tendency toward hand-grenade politics have seen him come out on the losing side. His youth league empire is crumbling, and 2012 could be a long year for a man facing multiple investigations on multiple fronts.
City of Joburg
The City of Joburg is reported to be deeply in debt, and it comes as no surprise that most residents are perennially up in arms. The 2011 billing crisis was a complete and definitive catastrophe. With so many operational and fiscal issues at hand, the City of Joburg has a long way to go before it can even think about improving its reputation.
EasyPay's massive fraud scandal seriously damaged the brand's credibility. Does anyone believe this is secure and easy way to pay any more? A lot of catch up work is required.
Posting sexist / misogynist tweets is one thing, but following them up with shockingly constructed apologies was the real death knell for Durex. The brand clearly needs to go back to Social Media 101 classes. Possibly they should begin with the Never Leave the Intern In Charge module.
When the highlight of the sporting year is a quarter final exit from the Rugby World Cup, things are clearly not right. None of our soccer teams can qualify for tournaments, cricket is in the midst of a never ending governance scandal and rugby is making all the right noises, but not going anywhere. Sports fans will be praying 2012 brings better things.
Shauneen Procter is managing partner at advertising and PR agency Idea Engineers. Procter, a founding member of Idea Engineers, developed extensive and versatile experience on top local and global brands, trademarked by her relentless pursuit of innovation and returns.
For more information, visit www.ideaengineers.co.za