Robert Sawatzky
Jul 15, 2019

Mobile looms larger among Filipinos' favourite local brands

Comfort foods remain tops, but the prevalence of handset brands and service providers among the Philippines' strongest local brands shows mobility matters.

Mobile provider Smart Communications used its 25th anniversary to market to Filipinos this past year.
Mobile provider Smart Communications used its 25th anniversary to market to Filipinos this past year.


Jollibee once again reigned supreme, voted as the Philippines' top local brand, something few observers see changing anytime soon. “Jollibee will always be number one because they have already transcended marketing efforts—they’re already in the subconsciousness of the Filipino," says Rey Tiempo, chief creative officer at VMLY&R Philippines. “Filipino culture equals Jollibee.”

Meanwhile, Magnolia San Miguel came in closely behind Jollibee in second spot for the second year in a row as the dairy food name leveraged its heritage and marketing power as a part of the Philippines' largest food and beverage company. 

Yet there was another player in the category making huge strides in the local brand rankings this year.  Beverage and snackfood giant Universal Robina (URC) gained 20 spots to become the 13th strongest local brand overall. URC has been strengthening its in-market brand execution over the past year, notes Pauline Fermin, managing director of Acumen Strategic Consulting, following the appointment of new chief executive Irwin Lee.  A 30-year veteran of Proctor & Gamble and most recently, Dairy Farm, Lee has helped the company find gaps in the market and introduce new products to fill them, like its new flavoured instant coffees

Universal Robina snackfood and beverage products

Bench repeated as the top local brand among fashion retailers this year, followed closely by SM. Local Filipino fashion names were among the biggest beneficiaries in brand recognition this year, with clothing retailer Penshoppe rising 19 spots to enter the top 20 local brands in 17th place, while SM-owned local Filipino crafts, jewelry and accessories store Kultura moved 11 places, landing as the 11th local brand.

While Filipinos were quick to celebrate local fashion favourites, they were less keen on recognising local banks. Bank of the Philippine Islands was the 10th strongest local brand last year, but dropped to 18th this year, while Banco de Oro slipped 3 spots, just enough to drop out of the top 20 local brands. 

Upward mobility

What's most evident from the list of top 10 local brands is the growing importance of mobile phones to Filipino consumers. Half of the list involves either mobile phone or mobile provider brands, with Samsung and Oppo both being voted-in by locals despite originating abroad.

Cherry Mobile, celebrating its 10th anniversary this past year, is the top-ranked truly local hardware maker, finishing as the 6th strongest local brand overall for the second straight year. Its main local competitor, MyPhone, slipped this year in the strongest local brand rankings, dropping 12 spots from 8th to 20th.

“Definitely Cherry Mobile has become more aggressive in marketing," says Polyne Gallevo, IDC market analyst for client devices, based in Manila. Much of that, Gallevo notes, is due the recent upgrading of some 20 different models. “So that’s a lot of marketing done not just on billboards, but really aggressively on road shows and TV ads.” 

Many of these campaigns engage local celebrities and endorsers, such as John Lloyd Cruz, Sarah Geronimo, Anne Curtis and Kim Chiu, points out Athena Bughao, a senior APAC media activation director at Essence in Singapore who is originally from the Philippines. 

"Local hardware providers primarily positioned themselves as low cost and durable compared to traditional smartphones," Bughao says. "They also aim for multi-functionality, such as dual or triple SIM card adaptors", she adds.

For low cost phones, Gallevo notes that both have done a good job of regularly updating their look and feel, though Cherry now has more models available. MyPhone, on the other hand, has done a good job catering to the mass following around local television series, by providing digital televisions at a more affordable price. 

While the big global smartphone brands have been aggressively pushing into the Philippines, local brands like Cherry and MyPhone have found success marketing their budget-minded products in rural provinces by sponsoring local events and festivals, Gallevo says. But they continue to be pressured by international brands, she adds, who are now moving outward from the cities as well with new financing schemes that are putting their devices within reach of more aspiring Filipinos. 

Dueling duopoly

Much, of course, also depends on how these products function with local service providers, who have an increasingly important role. The Philippines' mobile and internet provider duopoly is formed by Globe Telecom and Smart Communications, who both jumped between eight to ten spots in the strongest local brand rankings, landing 9th and 10th respectively. 

Bughao says both platforms have made strides to improve their offerings through the years, like increasing 4G availability and LTE rollout by building out more base stations. This has helped the providers counter ongoing complaints of slower mobile internet speeds, Bughao notes. "The feedback has definitely improved and so have their subscriber bases."

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