Robert Sawatzky
Jul 15, 2019

Philippines' top 100 brands: Big FMCG brands, airlines ride economic growth

Big electronics and FMCG still rule, but Shopee's surge and McDonald's rise make for interesting storylines.

Philippines' top 100 brands: Big FMCG brands, airlines ride economic growth


As one of Asia's fastest-growing economies, the Philippines is becoming an ever-increasingly prized market for expanding consumer brands. With rising incomes and remittances, Filipinos have more options to experiment with new brands, yet still remain staunchly loyal to their favourites.

The country's top 10 this year was again dominated by big electronics brands (Samsung, Apple, LG, Sony, Panisonic) like the rest of Asia-Paciific. But this is a market where the major FMCG brand names (Nestle, Colgate, Coca-Cola, Dove) benefit the most from rising household consumption. 

Some of this year's biggest gainers in the top 100 were FMCG names like Nestea (up 49 spots to 20th overall), Quaker (up 39 to 61st), Johnson & Johnson (up 34 to 37th) and Pedigree (up 19 to 39th), which are normally less prone to fluctuation.

The rising Filipino middle class is also helping to lift the airlines' fortunes, especially the low-cost carriers. Philippine Airlines moved up 5 spots to 38th overall, but budget carrier Cebu Pacific ascended 9 spots to 88th. The favourite flyer in the Philippines, though, remains the always-cheeky Air Asia, which rose another 6 positions into the top 20 this year at 19th overall, thanks to new routes to Japan, Taiwan and Greater China and popular partnerships with edgy sports like UFC.

McDonald's glocal appeal 

While the Philippines has been one market where local fast food leader Jollibee has enjoyed an healthy advantage over foreign rivals, this year not only saw Pizza Hut slip into the rankings at 100th position, but the golden arches gained 23 spots to put McDonald's 32nd overall, surpassing Jollibee, which slipped 6 positions to 47th. 

Rey Tiempo, CCO at VMLY&R Philippines, maintains Jollibee will always be tops with Filipinos locally, but McDonald's is arguably the bigger success story since it has had to overcome its perception as an American foreign brand. It has succeeded, Tiempo says, through concerted marketing efforts that consistently inject relevance for Filipinos.  

McDonalds' strong positioning towards family and kids through community events is another appeal factor, notes VMLY&R general manager Ags Almasan-Chuapoco. "They're more of the heavy lifters when it comes to communications," Tiempo notes, "and they're more playful. In recent years nobody even considers McDonalds as a foreign brand anymore."

Shopee spree

The biggest jump this year was made by ecommerce site Shopee, which rose a whopping 511 positions to land in Philippines top 100 in 55th place this year. Its rampant success appears to have come at the expense of leading regional player Lazada, which lost 14 postions to slip from the number 11 brand last year, back to 25th in 2019. 

This jibes with a recent VMLY&R study that shows Shopee nearly catching up to Lazada in popularity among Filipinos.  “[Shopee's] user experience feels like a fresher approach,” says Almasan-Chuapoco, who has noticed more Shopee shoppers among her office staff.  Ease of transaction and reliability are big draws, she adds.  

Tiempo notes that Shopee has been quick to match Lazada's offers and its marketing competes well using celebrity endorsements. Shopee's Instagram feed frequently promotes its Facebook Live product sessions with well-known personalities. 

However, Athena Bughao, APAC senior media activation director at Essence, argues Shopee still suffers from the impression that its delivery service and authenticity of products can be unreliable at times compared to Lazada's delivery speed and wide choice of payment options, like cash on delivery.

Phone or plastic?

Speaking of payment options, Bughao notes that cash is still king in Philippines, though the rise of e-commerce, bank adoption of zero balance schemes, and e-money providers offering the option of prepaid electronic cash cards to convert more Filipinos to cashless payments, have given electronic payments a leg-up in the Philippines.

Gcash, the e-payment arm of Globe Telecom rose 71 spots this year to land in the Philippines top 100 in 89th position. Another local option, PayMaya remains well behind but also saw modest gains, while the leader in e-payments, Paypal, slipped modestly from 42nd to 49th overall. 

Gcash and PayMaya both have credit card affiliations, but their big credit card brand partners have been suffering somewhat in recognition. MasterCard dropped 19 spots in the survey to 65th place while Visa fared even worse, falling 35 places to 95th overall. 

Bughao says there are three main issues hurting credit card brands in the Philippines now which she says may be alleviated over the next few years:

  1. Fraud. Petty theft, online scams and credit fraud have been prevalent in the Philippines, clouding  people’s impression of plastic versus cash
  2. Access. Myths around credit card applications being difficult, long and tedious, requiring a lot of documentation that's difficult to acquire have hampered the credit card brands. 
  3. Poor financial literacy. There isn't a clear enough understadning around how credit regulations really work in the Philippines, Negative news around inconsistencies and calculations of financial charges, due date arrangments adn the privacy of personal data have hurt the industry.

Bughao adds that the newly approved credit card industry regulation laws by the Philippines' central bank should help raise consumer confidence towards brands like Visa and MasterCard in future. 

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