INDONESIA's STRONGEST LOCAL BRANDS
There’s been a shakeup at the very top of Indonesia’s ranking of top local brands. As part of Asia’s Top 1000 Brands survey we asked consumers in Indonesia:
What do you think is the strongest local brand in Indonesia? By ‘strongest local brand’ we mean a brand that originates from Indonesia, has the best reputation and resonates most strongly with those living in this market?
Ride-hailing and lifestyle service app Gojek topped this category in 2019, but has slipped two spots this year into third place, allowing instant noodle brand Indomie and its parent food company Indofood to take over first and second place respectively. While we’ve addressed Gojek’s recent challenges in a separate article (see Indonesia's unicorns face growing pains), it’s also worth taking a look at what Indofood is doing right.
Why Indonesians love Indofood
“Indofood products are just always there,” says Jakarta-based independent brand consultant Bayu Asmara. “I think the majority of Indonesians have at least one Indofood product in their home.” Drawing on a deep legacy, the brand has become synonymous with being Indonesian and proudly so, using local flavours and ingredients. With its leading instant noodle brand Indomie now approaching its 50th anniversary, its 45th birthday campaign in 2017 (below) reflected how the brand has been with Indonesians every step of the way in their country’s development, sustaining their growth as a nation.
Legacy alone, however, is seldom enough. While synonymous with Indonesia, Indomie is now distributed across Asia, ANZ, Europe, the Middle East, North America and Africa, where it has been produced in Nigeria for a quarter century to particularly strong success. Such international success has not been lost on Indonesians, says Rene De Paus, strategy director at Superunion in Jakarta, who take pride in the brand's popularity and follow stories about Indomie around the world on YouTube and the internet.
In that regard, Indofood has been deliberate in tying its brands to Indonesia’s other hot cultural exports, working with 88rising music artists like Niki and Rich Brian who namedrop Indomie in their interviews, tweets and in include it in their clever Feast Nation video series like the one below.
Indomie has already made a name for itself with inventive marketing campaigns. A recent campaign out of Nigeria in 2018 played off the standoff between Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un, lampooning the leaders as ‘hotheads’ being given bowls of peppery noodles.
Just this past year during Ramadan, Indomie came up with a seasonal campaign that would spare fasting Muslim consumers the sight of tempting food during the day by removing the steaming noodles from its ads and packaging, showing empty plates in their marketing instead.
As the pandemic drags on, Indofood has real potential to enrich its brand equity with cheap, dependable comfort foods, say observers. “As people stay at home, prepare their own food, and limit the number of supermarket purchases, F&B products have become brands that we are more consciously aware of,” says Asmara. Adds De Paus: “The first thing most consumers will buy during lockdown will be Indomie, in huge cartons.”
Interestingly, there is a high correlation between the top-voted local brands and the brands voted as Indonesia’s most sustainable. Indonesian consumers ranked Indofood, Unilever and Danone in that order as the top three sustainable brands in the country. While Unilever is about as big a multinational as you can get, Indonesians nonetheless chose it as their #5 ‘local’ brand this year, while Danone-owned but solidly Indonesian bottled water brand Aqua came in at #4.
Campaign has documented what the big FMCG brands, including Danone and Unilever have been doing in Indonesia to reduce plastic waste. Among them, Unilever has helped to set up nearly 3,000 waste banks for recycling in the country, while Aqua has created a bottle recycling scheme and last year launched new packaging from 100% recycled materials. Just last week, both companies joined a new organisation of to tackle plastic waste.
Althought De Paus says the work is necessary and is good for perception, other factors like the value quality, halal certification and price end up being more important considerations for consumers, especially now during the pandemic. Perhaps this is why both Danone and Unilever failed to register anywhere close to Indonesia’s top 100 brands overall (Aqua was #423 overall; Unilever was unranked), yet ranked top 5 in the 'best local brand' category. Environmental stewardship has real, tangible impacts on local communities. Brands that commit to these practices will be recognised as being concerned about local affairs.
Other Indonesian brands on the rise
In the local category, we saw several Indonesian brands that are not well known globally move up the rankings this year. Among them, were home appliance maker Maspion (+4 to #10), fuel seller Pertamina (+4 to #13)and smartphone maker Advan (+1 to #14). Others like J. Co Donuts, FMCG-brand Wings Indonesia, and Polygon Bikes all came out of nowhere to land at #15, #16 and #17 respectively this year.
While Advan may be aggressively promoting its new flagship G5 handset with a new marketing team, little of the others’ marketing activities strongly stood out, say industry observers. But De Paus says several of these brands like Pertamina and Wings Indonesia have made some recent awareness by introducing more premium products, while others like Maspion and Polygon are expected to benefit from changing consumer behaviours during the pandemic.
The biggest drop in Indonesia’s ‘local’ category this year was leading telecom provider Telkomsel, plunging from 7th in 2019 to 54th in 2020, which puzzles some observers.
Asmara, who has worked with the company, says it has been making the right moves, ramping up collaborations with local startups, actively partnering with others on social causes to help the disadvantaged and promoting special connectivity packages for users under Covid. It should be noted Telkomsel held steady in our Top 100 rankings overall at #26 this year.
De Paus points out, however, that during Q1 when our survey was taken, Telkomsel had faced a backlash after it reiterated its unpopular policy on blocking Netflix. The telecom company and OTT provider have had a long-running dispute over compliance with media content regulation, leading Indonesia’s Communication and Information minister to urge the two businesses to resolve their dispute on their own.
In the end, Telkomsel did just that, unblocking the service in July. It has since been the first to offer Disney + Hotstar in Indonesia, popular moves which could help boost the brand’s perception a lot in next year’s ranking.