NATIONAL PRIDE HEIGHTENS
It has become clear from analysing Australia's top brands that during times of economic uncertainty, Australians double-down on brands they trust.
The trio of disasters that have hit Australia in the past 12 months—bushfires, drought and a global pandemic—has rallied consumers behind local brands that went to great lengths to ease the pain on the country.
This explains why Woolworths and Kmart jumped up the top local brands listing, which includes four retailers this year (Coles at 4th and Bunning's at 9th). Supermarkets have been at the heart of relief efforts during these crises, donating millions to the bushfire and drought appeals and pivoting their businesses to serve home-bound consumers during COVID-19.
"The boost of retailers is indicative of the importance placed on these brands since COVID hit Australia in mid-March," explains Nick Foley, the president of Southeast Asia Pacific and Japan at Landor and Fitch. "Woolworths, Coles and K-Mart have all kept the lights on and their doors open as we’ve panic-bought our way through being kept at home."
These were already strong brands in Australia, Foley says, but have become much more relevant during lockdown.
"Bunning’s has served as convenient outlet as many of us have sought to alleviate boredom by finding things to do around the house," he adds.
In the face of so much adversity and uncertainty, trust is the major factor informing the shifts within Australia's favourite brands between 2019 to 2020. This explains why the last remaining international brands have been pushed out of Australia's top local brands, and replaced with a brand that no longer exists: Holden.
"Nostalgia underpins trust and we are seeing this brought to life given the sudden resurgence in the Holden brand," explains Foley. "Indeed, for many years when this country still manufactured cars, Holden’s strap line was ‘People trust Holden’."
Holden has a rich heritage in Australia, but after being hit by declining sales, it ceased the production of vehicles and engines at the end of 2017.
Toby Harrison, the chief strategy officer of Ogilvy Australia, says it is "fascinating" to witness times of crisis reverse preconceived notions of progress, with a brand that is no longer in operation vaulting up a ranking.
"During times of instability, it is only natural that we turn towards the brands we know and trust. We’ve seen this occur every time there is a crisis, and it is totally understandable, because familiarity provides us with a sense of comfort," Harrison says.
"What is rather fascinating is that this runs rather counter to the zeitgeist of modern branding. In prosperous times, we look to brands to lead the way, innovate and evolve with culture. However, in tough times we want the opposite—we look to staid brands as a way of emotionally transporting us back to a simpler, happier time.
"I think this partly explains why a dying brand like Holden has returned to the top 10. Whilst many Australians are feeling uncomfortable due to the state of flux COVID-19 has delivered, icons like Holden epitomise a time where things were settled, stable and prosperous. That’s a feeling Aussies want to hold on to, even if they didn’t buy into the brand itself."
This notion also explains why Qantas topped the list of Australia's favourite local brands for another year, despite being all but grounded.
"The airline has stood down the majority of its workforce and farewelled its last 747 Jumbo from its fleet bound for a graveyard in the Nevada desert, yet this is the brand that has the most resonance with Australians in the current environment," questions Foley, adding that as the country battles with a once-in-a-century pandemic, it’s helpful to remind ourselves that we are witnessing "far from normal" behaviour amongst consumers.