When a South African brand wins one of the country’s premier awards twice in two years and pushes aside competition like Coca Cola to take the honours, it must be something special.
But who could imagine that a brand could still achieve this after being part of the FMCG scene for more than 70 years?
The brand that recently achieved this distinction is Koo, the household staple that was voted South African consumers’ most respected brand in the annual Sunday Times Top Brands 2012 survey.
Brenda Koornneef, business executive: group marketing and corporate strategy at Tiger Brands, says that Koo and other heritage brands such as Jungle, Tastic Rice, Oros, Fattis & Monis, All Gold, Enterprise, Purity, Ingrams, Doom and Black Cat that are at the heart of Tiger Brands offerings earn their status as national favourites by always remaining relevant to consumers.
That basic requirement of relevance, she says, is key to building the magic that surrounds a brand and lifts it above other offerings, and making it a consistent consumer choice.
For heritage brands, the task of marketing is one that never ceases. Without losing its cache the brand must be periodically refreshed to meet the aspirations of new generations of buyers.
“More than any other type of brand, heritage brands must be aligned with real consumer understanding so that we can better satisfy their changing needs,” says Koornneef.
This means digging below the surface of the brand, going beyond the obvious benefits it offers and finding the true essence of the brand. This rung-by-rung approach, known as “laddering” into the consumer, is what provides the ultimate clues to the essence and the positioning of the product.
“In the case of Purity, the Tiger Brands baby food offering, the obvious benefits of the product are that the food is healthy and provides proper nutrition. Digging deeper, however, shows that moms buy the product because they want their babies to grow up healthy and strong. At the deepest level, they believe that Purity will help their children become the best they can be. It is this truth that makes the product a must-have in a mother’s mind,” says Koornneef.
This approach feeds across into factors that determine the ongoing health of heritage and other brands.
“The tests of brand health and strength begin with testing a consumer’s top-of-mind awareness by seeing if your product is spontaneously mentioned when a category is named.
“This must then translate into a strong likelihood that the brand is purchased, used and then repurchased because it meets the consumer’s needs. The ultimate test, and one that is vital to heritage brands, is advocacy. It is this step that sees the consumer recommending use of the brand to others,” says Koornneef.
The recent strategy behind ensuring that heritage brands continue to maintain their market presence is to broaden their appeal in the segments in which they have already achieved icon status. Take Jungle Oats and Energade as examples, says Koornneef.
“Jungle Oats has mother brand status as a breakfast cereal. This made it relatively simple to enter other breakfast segments and introduce new products carrying the Jungle 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 confectioners count lines. The result was on-the-go energy bars. It is now the number four count line in South Africa,” she says.
Similarly, Energade was taken into the confectionery market with new offerings that included energy jubes and jellies.
The ultimate strength of heritage brands lies in their unvarying quality and the knowledge that consumers will always have their expectations met.
“This is vital for consumer buying in economic times like these. Buying a heritage brand, which may cost more than another product, is the true test in these times. It is up to us to ensure that we always deliver the quality and experience the consumer expects,” says Koornneef.