The news that massive multinational brand Walmart is poised to enter the South African marketplace is big news. Other global brands with a South African presence – like Coca Cola and KFC – have had to adopt a local flavour to be successful here. In terms of overall brand value, Walmart has their work cut out for them – homegrown South African brands are generally the brands which perform the most strongly here. With historical factors, an intimate knowledge of their market and brand personas which resonate strongly with South African consumers all counting in their favour, these are South Africa’s top five most valuable brands…

The Brand: MTN Brand

The MTN Story: MTN was formed in 1994, coinciding with the birth of South Africa’s democracy and became a public company the next year. In 1997, MTN started expanding into Africa, starting with South Africa’s neighbour, Swaziland. By 2004, the company reached 10 million subscribers and in 2008, MTN was named African Mobile Operator of the Year. MTN’s footprint now stretches from Southern Africa, across the African continent to the Middle East. MTN’s sponsorship of the 2010 FIFA World Cup has paid handsome dividends, both in terms of financial earnings – MTN is now worth an estimated R32.8 billion – and brand value, catapulting them to top position of Brandirectory’s* league table of most valuable African and South African brands.

MTN brand philosophy: MTN’s Ayoba campaign has been immensely successful, positioning MTN as the happening South African brand. This one word – which is a colloquial African expression of approval – has become part of general South African parlance, making MTN part of a collective South African consciousness. What more could any brand ask for?

How many subscribers does MTN have? Says MTN, they connect 120 million people across Africa and the Middle East.

The Brand: Coca Cola Brand

The Coca-Cola Story: Described as South Africa’s favourite brand, Coca-Cola South Africa consistently ranks as one of the top ten best performing countries in the Coca-Cola fold. Coca-Cola – the world’s biggest beverage brand – opened its first bottling plant and distribution centre in Johannesburg in 1928. In 2006, Coca-Cola’s Africa headquarters were relocated to Johannesburg from London. Coca-Cola is said to be the largest private sector employer on the African continent, with around 60 000 permanent employees.

Coca-Cola Brand philosophy: Coca-Cola claims to be the world’s best-known trademark, and celebrates its 125th Anniversary in 2011. The Coca-Cola brand is all about enjoyment, a feel-good sentiment captured in Coca-Cola’s current slogan, Enjoy the Coke Side of Life. But, says, Coke, the brand is only one of two invaluable company assets – the other is the Coca-Cola workforce, the people who generate brand value. Say branding experts, Coca-Cola’s global success is due to their ability to adapt to regional markets – diversifying products and creating marketing plans which suit the cultures of regional target markets.

The Brand: Koo Brand

The Koo Story: Part of the fast moving consumable goods conglomerate, Tiger Brands Ltd, canned foods brand, Koo, was established in 1940. Today, Koo is the market leader in its market segment, and a household name.

Koo Brand philosophy: Recently voted the second most favourite South African brand, after Coca-Cola, Koo is a people’s brand – their tagline, It’s the Best You Can Do, alludes to their core brand values; the best quality products at the most reasonable price. Koo’s brand coup has been the ingenious way in which they’ve taken their brand message to the people, with a branded content campaign – a lifestyle radio show aired on radio stations aimed at South Africa’s major demographics. The show is presented by a larger-than-life personification of the Koo brand, Mama Koo and provides consumers with an interactive brand experience. So successful is the campaign in South Africa, that Mama Koo is set to roll out continent-wide.

The Brand: KFC Brand

The KFC Story: Colonel Harland Sanders formed KFC in 1952, out of an earlier company Sanders Court and Café. Today, KFC operates in 109 countries, with 15 000 KFC outlets worldwide. The first KFC opened in South Africa in 1971, and today, there are 600 KFC outlets in South Africa. While KFC does still consider the establishment of more KFC franchises in South Africa, only ‘exceptionally qualified individuals’ qualify for these franchise opportunities.

KFC’s Brand philosophy is reflected in the KFC tagline, Finger Lickin’ Good. The KFC brand value is built, not only on delivering quality products at a good price, but also on the mystique surrounding the KFC secret recipe – a unique blend of 11 herbs and spices. It’s a recipe so secret, that it’s locked away in a vault at the KFC Corporation’s headquarters in Louisville, Kentucky. Only a handful of KFC employees have access to it, and they’ve signed strict confidentiality agreements. KFC’s success in the South African market is attributable to their recognition that what works Stateside doesn’t necessary work in Africa; that they need to diversify their product offering to suit local tastes.

The Brand: Standard Bank South Africa

The Standard Bank Story: Standard Bank’s roots can be traced back to 1862. Originally called The Standard Bank of British South Africa, it played an important role in financing the development of the rapidly expanding diamond fields in Kimberley. Then, in 1886, a tented branch opened on the goldfields of the new settlement of Ferreira’s Camp (later to be renamed Johannesburg). Now known as The Standard Bank of South Africa Ltd, the bank is one of the largest financial institutions in South Africa and operates in 33 countries around the world, 17 of them in Africa.

Standard Bank Brand philosophy: Says Standard Bank, they operate in an environment where customers’ needs are constantly changing. In order for Standard Bank to maintain its brand value, it needs to adapt to these changes, which is why Standard Bank revises its brand positioning every few years. Currently, the Standard Bank tagline is Moving Forward.

*Brandirectory is an online encyclopedia of brands where financial results, visual identities, trademark histories and the latest marketing news are compiled and shared.