In the past year, Smart Communications in the Philippines has launched new campaigns, topped the charts with its 5G services and extended itself as a digital wallet by allying with Paymaya. As consumers have sought solace with homegrown brands they can identify with, Smart’s bouquet of offerings has helped it become a crowd favourite in the market.
No surprise then that Smart has become one of the market's strongest local brands, according to a survey question asked as part of our Asia's Top 1000 Brands research. As Filipinos have sought comfort with brands they know intimately, brands such as Smart and other mobile services players such as Globe Telecom have benefited over the past year.
The strongest local brands in the Philippines
We asked: "What do you think is the strongest local brand in the Philippines? By ‘strongest local brand’ we mean a brand that originates from the Philippines, has the best reputation and resonates most strongly with those living in this market."
As brands have tried to help consumers convert their often spartan homes into comfortable cocoons to work and play, thanks to the pandemic, local brands have also risen in our ranking of the top 100 brands in the Philippines. For example, Jollibee has risen from 53rd to 35th in that list, while Smart Communications has gone up to 34th in 2021. Globe Telecom has held its place at 28th.
Beloved local favourite Jollibee predictably held sway over the "strongest local brands" list. The fast-food purveyor had a busy year, marketing wise, smartly pivoting its business away from in-person dining and shifting to promoting off-site channels and addressing new customer needs.
For example, a 3D animated ad promoted the launch of Jollibee’s new app enabling pre-ordering, tracking and scheduled deliveries. Other campaigns it launched for Christmas and Independence Day also struck chords with homebound consumers.
Many respondents to our survey question about the strongest local brands named MNC brands, which we have removed from the above list. “Local versus international is not so much an issue in the Philippines because even multinational brands that have been in the country for a while are not seen as foreign,” contends Mitzie Lim-Nacianceno, associate managing partner at McCann Worldgroup Philippines. “But where Filipino brands have an edge is they have more of a right to tap into deeply Filipino sensibilities, some of which have impacted how Filipinos responded to the pandemic.”
Even as other local brands have gained some momentum, Jollibee has set the benchmark when it comes to appealing to local tastes.
The brand has also embraced of the value of bayanihan, which says when someone in the community needs help, people gather to help in whatever way they can. “Jollibee celebrated this bayanihan spirit, praising Filipinos that still had the heart to give even if they themselves were struggling to make it through this difficult time, which was met with much appreciation by the public,” says Lim-Nacianceno.
Jollibee is not the only local brand to try to improve local sentiment. Snapping away at the brand’s heels among local entities is Magnolia San Miguel, which has risen sharply among Filipinos’ preferences, as market-watchers say local offerings appeal over global ones.
Another brand that visibly helped consumers in the past year was Globe Telecom, which launched the #OneGlobeVsCOVID campaign and activated its resources across its network, including mobile and broadband services, digital finance, telemedicine and more, to assess, understand, and respond with solutions for Filipinos and their immediate needs. The brand also pushed key campaigns to make home lives more comfortable for its consumers, including ‘Nasa loob ang Galing’, which has garnered well over 100 million impressions and aimed to to encourage folks to make the most of what they have at home.
The focus for local brands, say experts. during a year spent deep in a covid pandemic, is to patronise brands with a sense of helping and giving back to the community. “While there are those fortunate enough to still have some means of improving their quality of life at home, many who have lost their regular income are finding various ways to make the loss up and are doing this from home,” points out Juan Manuel De Borja, strategic planning director at Grey Philippines.
However, according to some, it may be too simplistic to assume these local brands will continue to hold sway over the minds and wallets of consumers. “We recently did a thought leadership piece on consumer visioning for 2030 in June this year,” says JC Catibog, CEO of Dentsu Philippines. “Some of the things we found out with regards to consumer dynamics is that loyalty is at its most volatile.”
According to Dentsu’s data, nearly half of consumers are open to trying new brands. “Data also point to 43% will only buy well-known brands, so those who have salience and pervasiveness can easily win Filipino hearts and wallets,” Catibog adds.