SA’s heritage food-bev brands are tops

South Africans love their heritage brands. KOO, one of South Africa’s most enduring brand icons, has eclipsed the granddaddy of all heritage brands, Coca Cola, to take the laurels in the recent Sunday Times Top Brands 2012 survey, its second win in two years. In the Brand Icons survey run by Media 24, Tiger Brands had eight brands in the top 29, with All Gold placed second.
In assessing the KOO victory and other time-defying heritage brands in the same stable, Brenda Koornneef, business executive: group marketing and corporate strategy at Tiger Brands, stresses that it is the group’s consistent objective to always own the number one or two leading brand in every sector in which the company participates.

With over 40 brands in the market, and about 20 of them regarded as core to this strategic marketing philosophy, the iconic heritage brands lead the marketing charge.

She says both surveys show clearly that local brands perform amazingly against all-comers and have taken their place in the hearts of local buyers.

KOO, which was launched in the 1940s, is still a market leader and enjoys heritage status alongside ‘oldies’ such as Tastic Rice (introduced in the 1950s), Jungle Oats (120 years old), Fattis and Monis (over 100 years old), All Gold, Purity, Oros, Ingrams, Doom and Enterprise (95 years old).

However, it does not necessarily follow that it is plain sailing for marketers to maintain these dominant positions.

“Heritage brands with decades of history behind them live and exist within the hearts and minds of consumers. We therefore do not have the luxury of using a blank sheet of paper when it comes to marketing these products.

“To maintain their status we have to understand what these heritage brands mean to consumers, how they fit into their lives, what they want and expect out of them and ultimately what their relationship with these brands means. We therefore cannot take the liberty of deciding that Koo, or any heritage brand for that matter, needs to change. We need to carefully guide and renew these brands based on our consumer understanding.

“Unlike multinational names that are bound to strategies devised internationally, we are bound to our local consumers. Whenever we want to refresh a brand, critically important to maintaining its position over time is that we first have to gauge where the brand is in the minds of consumers.”

It is only when a product assessment reveals that the relevance of a brand with present-day users is beginning to slip; typically revealed by them associating the brand with a previous generation of users, that carefully considered marketing refreshment action could be taken, she notes.

“This consumer insight signals the starting point to a process that requires identifying the essence of the brand and updating it without compromising the elements that made it a heritage brand in the first place. We conduct continual research and consider a heritage brand relaunch every five years at a minimum.

“In the interim, between these re-launches, we keep on renovating and innovating. Variants of the product may be changed, new communications campaigns may be launched and growth into new market segments explored.

“All these actions make the brand feel that it is not yesteryear’s brand, but a brand that is today’s and tomorrow’s brand of choice. The secret, however, is staying true to what the brand is. If the essential character of the brand stays intact, it will retain its status with someone who may have bought it for many years, while still attracting new buyers.”

Consumer credibility builds new markets

What is remarkable about the heritage brands is how they can travel into completely new markets. It is a particular brand’s entrenched consumer credibility and its intrinsic strength that enables a transition to take place, says Koornneef, pointing to Jungle Oats as an example.

“It has mother brand status as a breakfast cereal. This made it relatively simple to enter other breakfast segments and introduce new products carrying the brand name. It was important that while undertaking this that we stayed true to the values of healthiness, wholesomeness and energy associated with the product.

“It is these base values, and particularly the brand proposition of ‘energy’ that moved Jungle Oats further into the breakfast segment and on into confectionery count lines. The result was on-the-go energy bars. It is now the number four count line in South Africa.

“We have now achieved these transitions and growth with several of our heritage brands. We have taken Energade into the confectionery market with energy jubes and jellies. Koo moved into the chakalaka market, where it now has more than 80% share.

“It is wonderful what has been achieved by taking the strengths of these heritage brands into new segments. What has remained unchanged is what the brands mean to consumers.”

“Exciting too is the fact that our core brands are performing well in new markets in the rest of Africa too – as the group expands its footprint and core brands across the continent.”

What has made the awards more meaningful for the group is that recognition was accorded its products in a tough consumer market, where buyers are examining all product offerings carefully before making purchasing decisions.

“Our research has showed that people are looking for special offers, but their aspirations are staying with the heritage brands. It is our responsibility to make sure that we deliver on the product performance and quality they expect and that their association with our brands continues,” she concludes.

Source: BizCommunity

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