The company also took a clean sweep of the Soft Drinks top brands category, with Coca‑Cola, Sprite, Fanta, Stoney Ginger Beer and Appletiser bagging the top five spots.
“We’re thrilled that consumers voted Coca‑Cola as the top brand that they continue to love and trust, especially in such a challenging year,” says Luis Avellar, General Manager for Coca‑Cola in South Africa. “The Covid-19 pandemic meant not only did we have to work hard to overcome supply chain challenges to make sure our products remained physically available to people during lockdown, but we made sure we were there for them emotionally too.”
The survey, conducted by Kantar on behalf of The Sunday Times, is considered the leading barometer of consumer sentiment towards brands in the country. Kantar conducted face-to-face interviews with consumers across South Africa.
Stephan Czypionka, Marketing Director for the Southern and East Africa Business Unit at The Coca‑Cola Company says people tend to reach for established, trusted brands during uncertain times.
“It’s especially important to remain close to consumers during a crisis and understand how they are adapting and behaving. Our brand building strategy puts the consumer at the centre of everything we do and is hyper-focused on engaging people in a timely and timeless way.”
Because Coca‑Cola is a global brand with local roots, listening to the consumer and incorporating these insights underpins the brand’s ability to stay relevant and make a difference.
The Covid-19 pandemic challenged Coca‑Cola – as it did countless other brands – to retune its marketing strategies and adapt in real time. In the initial phase of the outbreak, with the majority of South Africa sheltering at home and when feelings of uncertainty and fear were pervasive, the company paused all advertising and redeployed funds to support local community relief programs and promote public health messaging. A substantial amount of its marketing spend was redirected to educate, inform and create awareness in communities about the prevention and spreading of COVID-19 through World Health Organisation guidelines.
“We redirected media spending to where it could be most effective, driving messages through digital channels and supporting the growth of e-commerce,” says Avellar.
From billboards and truck backs, to new labels on Coca‑Cola 2L packs and the Bonaqua water brand, the company’s ‘We Care Campaign’ used innovative marketing techniques to carry educational messages.
Post-lockdown the brand is helping consumers celebrate the rediscovered joy of sharing moments of connection with their loved ones, with a unifying sentiment underpinning its branding strategy.
"If there’s one thing this year has taught us, it’s that moments of connection matter and consumers are looking for both functional as well as emotional fulfilment from brands,” says Czypionka.
Avellar explains how investment in the Coca‑Cola brand over the long term and continuous innovation helped propel it to the top of the rankings.
“We’re all about democratising both our products and our brand. This means innovating to ensure we can offer different packaging for different occasions at a variety of price points that make our brands accessible to more people.”
The company also benefited from the shift towards digital brought about by the pandemic. With the help of e-commerce, consumers are now just ‘one click away’ from purchasing Coca‑Cola’s products.
“Integrating the physical and digital worlds in a seamless way helped the Coca‑Cola brand win locally,” says Avellar.
Moving away from one-way communication with consumers to instead engaging them in conversations through digital platforms has also elevated the role of the consumer in helping to build the Coca‑Cola brand.
“Technology means we are no longer limited in terms of formats and can encourage our audiences to participate or even become the heroes of our advertising campaigns and contribute to keeping our brand relevant.” says Czypionka.
Ultimately what sets the Coca‑Cola brand apart is its ability to deliver on both the functional and emotional needs of consumers with confident authenticity.
“Winning the consumer category of the Top Brands Awards is recognition of Coca‑Cola’s brand promise of refreshing the world and making a difference,” adds Avellar. “It’s our mantra of doing business the right way, not just the easy way that makes Coca‑Cola such an enduring brand and a firm favourite amongst consumers, year after year.”