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Becoming a strong and valuable brand in Southeast Asia, according to Kantar Brandz

Becoming a strong and valuable brand in Southeast Asia, according to Kantar Brandz

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Achieving a strong brand in Southeast Asia has notoriously been a challenge with inflation and shrinking budgets, making it difficult to maintain market share and to capture growth opportunities in the region. 

However, according to Jane Ng, general manager, Singapore at Kantar, who was speaking at the Kantar Brandz 2023 seminar, there are many lessons and key features that we can see in common with some of the strongest and most valuable brands in the region. 

Some of these include creating a brand that can anticipate and meet the evolving needs of the dynamic region as well as creating trust, said Ng who was citing the inaugural Kantar BrandZ Top 30 Most Valuable Southeast Asian Brands report which looked at what really makes a brand strong in this day and age and in this region. 

What makes a strong brand?

When it comes to creating a strong brand, brand value ranking company Kantar Brandz noted that there are a few key considerations that make brands stand out.

The first is that they look outwards. In contrast to the strongest brands in most other markets surveyed by Kantar BrandZ, it was reported that the leading Southeast Asian brands generate almost all their business ‘at home,’ with only 20% generated in international markets. This highlights an opportunity for them to expand into new territories to build value, said Kantar. 

"The challenge for Southeast Asian brands looking to grow beyond their home countries and into other parts of the region and the rest of the world is in defining what the core essence of the brand is and then adapting it to cultures outside of their home country," said Ng. 

Adding on, Sulin Lau, regional head of marketing and brand at Grab who was also speaking at the Kantar Brandz event at the National Gallery, noted that in order to build a strong international brand, one needs to first build a better local brand than the local players in each and every country you enter. 

She noted that the way Grab has managed to expand so successfully in the region is because the app looks different in whichever country you are in. For example, in Singapore, Grab has limousines while in countries such as Siam Rep, you have Grab TukTuks.

"Being a superlocal brand means intentionally betting on more complexity than your competitors," she said, noting that a brand should make sure that their unique selling point should also be hyperlocalised in order to connect with the market you are trying to break into.

Additionally, by creating strong connections with local consumers, Southeast Asian brands have the highest demand power, compared with other markets. Demand power is a Kantar BrandZ measure of a brand’s ability to drive consumers’ predisposition to buy. It was found that Southeast Asian brands with the highest demand power have twice the average value, compared with lower performers on this measure.

It was also found that brands in Southeast Asia excel at justifying the prices they charge, by demonstrating why they are ‘worth it’, said Kantar.

Despite budget constraints, consumers are willing to pay more for brands that meet their needs and stand out from the competition. For example, Singapore Airlines’ commitment to excellence, attention to detail, and exceptional customer service supports its ability to charge a premium.

Of course, competitive pricing is just one side of the coin. The flip side is creating trust between a brand and a consumer such that they will be able to justify their price points. 

"We're living in an environment which is highly inflationary and there is a lot of uncertainty. And when there is uncertainty, consumers reach out for the familiar and the trusted," said Ng.

"It is vital that brands develop a proactive strategy to create trust. But what that really means is that instead of waiting for trust to come, brands need to go and inspire that," she continued. 

While traditionally, consumers have trusted well established brands through their proven expertise, craftsmanship, reliability and consistency, in the current environment, more is needed, according to Ng. She noted that consumers tend to trust brands that enable change, which is why sustainability, amongst others, is very important when it comes to building trust. 

"Sustainability is an increasingly important area of concern for Southeast Asian consumers," Ng noted. "So, the three principles of integrity, identification and inclusion, they provide a new motion for trust and what it really means today," she continued.

Don't miss: DBS, Singtel and The Hour Glass top SG's strongest brands in new report

The top 10 most valuable Southeast Asian brands

In its inaugural Kantar BrandZ Top 30 Most Valuable Southeast Asian Brands report, Kantar also listed out thirty of the most valuable brands in Southeast Asia which together, are worth a US$119.6 billion. 

Together, it was found that financial services and telecom providers contribute two-thirds of all the brands in the ranking, and  79% of its value. 

The next most represented category is telecom providers, with nine brands accounting for around one-fifth of the Top 30’s total value. Next is retail, with 8% of the total value, and travel services with 6%.

Below are the top 10 most valuable Southeast Asian brands:

1. Bank Central Asia (BCA)


Bank Central Asia (BCA) is Indonesia's largest bank by market capitalisation and the largest in Southeast Asia with over 1,200 branches and close to 18,000 ATMs across Indonesia. 

The brand positions itself as a hybrid bank, offering consumers the choice of how they manage their money. Over the past four years, the number of BCA customers banking via mobile has tripled, and mobile is currently the most popular way of banking with the bank.


2. DBS

dbs 1

DBS provides a wide range of financial services to consumers, SMEs, and corporates and is present in 18 markets around the region. It is highly focused on responsible banking practices and creating social impact. 

DBS promotes digital and financial literacy and, through its foundation and partnership with the Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) in Singapore, has been working to improve digital inclusion in Singapore. 


3. BRI 

 bank bri

BRI is Indonesia's oldest commercial bank and focuses on SMEs as well as micro and ultra-micro businesses. It is known for having the largest branch network in the country.

It has also been extending its network of BRILink agents to encourage financial inclusion by delivering services close to where people are. It covers close to 60,000 villages. 


4. UOB

uob bank

UOB is a multinational banking corporation with a global network of 500 branches and offices across 19 countries in APAC, Europe, and North America. 

As part of its strategy to better connect customers across ASEAN and Greater China, UOB recently acquired Citigroup's consumer banking business in Vietnam. This followed the acquisition of Citigroup's consumer units in Thailand and Malaysia in late 2022.


5. AIS 

ais x 5g 1 

Thailand GSM mobile phone network, AIS, has over 41 million customers and a market share of around 52%. It has national coverage spanning all 77 provinces and positions itself as the premium network for Thailand. 

Recent advertising has focused on the reliability of the network and the availability of 5G connectivity. AIS advertising often features Thai celebrities, including the rapper Bambam, actress and model Thanaerng, and the actor known as JJ.


6. Mandiri 


Bank Mandiri is the second-largest bank in Indonesia by assets. It has over 2,300 branches and 13,000 ATMs across Indonesia, as well as 240-plus 'Smart Branches' where customers can transact without needing to wait to see a teller. 

In recent years, the bank has been undergoing a digital transformation, promoting its Livin' by Mandiri super app with ads that take a fun approach to highlighting the app's features and rewards for users. 


7. Telkomsel 


Telkomsel is Indonesia's leading mobile phone network provider, and one of the country's biggest communications businesses. It was the first telecom provider in the country to launch 5G broadband, with its 'Unlock the Future' campaign demonstrating 5G's potential to support AI and the Internet of Things. 

8. Shopee

shopee 1

Shopee has rapidly grown from an eCommerce platform into a broader digital ecosystem with an e-wallet, ShopeePay, and an in-app live-streaming feature, ShopeeLive. 

The brand serves customers in Singapore, Indonesia, Taiwan, Thailand, Malaysia, Vietnam, Philippines, Brazil, Mexico, Colombia, and Chile. 


9. Marina Bay Sands

marina bay sands

Marina Bay Sands (MBS) is a premium resort that has become one of Singapore's most recognisable landmarks and tourist destinations. It has three hotel towers, a retail mall, a Las Vegas-style casino, and the city's largest nightclub. Additionally, it has convention facilities, theatres, and a museum. Atop the hotel towers sits the Sands SkyPark, with the world's longest infinity pool.  

10. True 

true x 5g 1

True is a broadband and mobile network service provider that has its roots in the Orange brand, but has been known as True since 2004. 

It positions itself as a multichannel, omnipresent brand that has services to match all the ways in which consumers live their increasingly digital lives. It offers True Wallet payment services, True Channel content streaming, and True cafes, serving coffee alongside telecommunications services. 

Related articles: 
Singapore Airlines remains best brand in the country for fifth consecutive year
Top 10: What are the most recommended brands in SG?
Check out the top 10 brands in Singapore

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