Rahul Sachitanand
Jul 19, 2021

Rankings rise for brands that cushioned the Covid impact

ASIA's TOP 1000 BRANDS: A range of brands have benefited from Covid-driven lockdowns, but is their rise sustainable, as the world slowly reopens?

Rankings rise for brands that cushioned the Covid impact

In May this year, the Swedish home furnishings giant Ikea launched its first app worldwide, in India. The company, which opened its first store in the market back in 2018 and has two stores in the country (with ambitious plans for 30 in the next seven years), was ramping up its omni-channel presence as India reeled from successive waves of covid, that kept people locked down and stores empty.

Even as it made this omni-channel pivot, our Asia's Top 1000 Brands ranking shows that home-bound consumers have flocked to Ikea’s offerings, especially keen to upgrade their homes during the pandemic, as schools and offices have come home. According to the firm’s own Life at Home report, 37% of respondents cooked more at home this year, 29% exercised at home and 22% socialised virtually, as the pandemic hit worldwide.

Little surprise then that brands like Ikea have been on the move in this year’s ranking—the company has risen from 31 to 21 this year in Asia-Pacific as people have focused on upgrading their homes and their work/school-from-home setups. Similarly, a raft of other brands, ranging from gaming to ecommerce, that helped stressed consumers endure a tumultuous time, have also benefitted.

Given these challenging circumstances, some unexpected names have also seen their ranking rises. For example, as consumers have steered clear of crowded supermarkets, the quick access afforded by 7-Eleven has helped it rise sharply, and Lego has seen its appeal broadening in the region.

Home comforts  

Brand  2020 ranking  2021 ranking
Ikea  31 21
7-Eleven  101 60
Lego  95 79
Oreo  91 66

The consumer shift in sentiment can be seen well beyond Ikea. “The brands we work with are pushing beyond their traditional boundaries and instead implementing lasting and effectual changes in all facets of their business,” says Jonathan Cummings, APAC president at Landor & Fitch. “Brands that succeed are ones that don’t adhere to ‘normal’ but instead carve their own creative identities in their respective fields, even when hard times fall.”

In ecommerce and online delivery, we have seen Chinese giants Wechat, Meituan and Didi shoot up the rankings. In India, Ola, which has pivoted from its ride-hailing core to a rapidly expanded food delivery and electric vehicle business, has landed at 87 this year, compared to 234 in 2020. Consider, also, the opposite ways Grab and Grab food have headed this year. While Grab has fallen from 43 to 75, Grab Food has cracked the top 100 to reach the 97th spot

Strong network

Brand 2020 ranking 2021 ranking
We Chat 117 27
Meituan NA 132
Ola 234 87
Grab Food NA 97
Foodpanda NA 108
Didi Chuxing 263 45

Tik Tok for example has shifted and shaped people’s behaviour as a more positive entertainment platform during uncertain, stressful times. It has expanded into unexpected spheres such as job recruitment by conducting pilot campaigns that allows its US users to apply for jobs with video resumes. “Being creative and utilising digital platforms offer long term positive experiences and creates strong brand engagement,” Cummings adds.

“Brands which benefit from home-bound consumers already have an advantage of being seamlessly integrated into people’s lives,” observes Prachawan Ketavan, senior strategy director at Superunion Thailand. “To maintain relevance, they have to continue to engage and reassure consumers with new possibilities.”

Gaming in high gear

Brand 2020 ranking 2021 ranking
Nintendo Switch 167 81
Sony Playstation 35 29
League of Legends NA 96
Call of Duty NA 123

Prophet’s senior engagement manager, Lily Wen explains that for categories such as home, ecommerce, and health and fitness, a fundamental question to ask is whether these categories simply provide an alternative that meets existing consumer needs when there are physical barriers, or whether they have satiated unmet needs that existed before the pandemic.

In the Asia's Top 1000 Brands listing, one of the standout categories that has gained in recent years is gaming, and this year we separated gaing titles and gaming consoles/hardware, in a nod to the importance accorded to brands in this space. For example, Nintendo Switch has made strong strides in 2021, up from 167 last year to 81 this time around, while further up the rankings, while Sony Playstation is up from 35 to 29. Bolstering the strength of this category, games such as League of Legends and Call of Duty have both made their debuts.

“If the growth has been centered around ease, convenience, efficiency, the demand will still exist as the world recovers—not in an exponential way, but sustainable,” Wen adds. “However, it could be less sustainable if the growth has been centered primarily around virtual/remote experience and social connections that are more of alternatives of in-person experience.”

But, as we consider how many of these brands have been able to profit during the pandemic, what of companies in operating in highly impacted sectors such as travel, leisure and hospitality? According to this year’s findings, some have ridden out the storm surprisingly well (Shangri-La, the luxury hotels chain gained 20 places in 2021), but on the whole brands ranging from Agoda to venerable Singapore Airlines have predictably struggled.

“While the aviation and hospitality sectors have endured significant challenges, they have also adapted in many ways—destination-less flights and Michelin-star picnic baskets just to name a couple,’ contends Cummings of Landor & Fitch. “It’s not a question of if we return to the skies, but how these brands can reconnect with their customers in a meaningful way. That is what truly represents the new challenge for brands in the world today.”

Travel and hospitality brands could recover fast, but the re-activation is crucial, and brands need to be prepared, cautions Wen of Prophet. “On one side the needs for leisure travel have actually been elevated during the pandemic—it now goes beyond functional needs of 'getaway' and 'relax', and become stronger to an aspirational level: freedom, hopes, and a spirit of life,” she says, “At the same time, consumers’ expectation on the basic would also be higher—hygiene, in-room essentials, facilities and kids-related experiences.”

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