As countries across the world find themselves under significant stress, first managing the ebb and flow of COVID-19 and now the fall-out from the global economic crisis that the Ukraine-Russia conflict is causing, businesses are compelled to adapt through what has become a tumultuous decade.
Sri Lanka in particular is on an economic precipice which has put businesses under significant pressure. Those businesses which have built reputation and recognition through their brands are however in a better place to whether the storm. This is because customers are seeking assurances and stability in their everyday brand purchases or business relationships rather than experimenting with the unknown.
It is in this context that we are reviewing this year’s most valuable brands results.
The Brand Finance Most Valuable Brands Index is constantly changing with the times to reflect the external changes in the business environment. Several factors have taken place that impacts the brands featured on our table.
The increasing importance of the Colombo Stock Exchange (CSE) in the midst of the volatile economic conditions should be noted with investors backing financially sound stocks. This makes managing the brands that these companies own that much more important. The CSE has also attracted many new listings over the last year, which has provided us with a fresh new set of customer facing businesses on our index.
One such brand is Prime Lands Residencies. We also see the emergence of the first e-commerce brand with Kapruka. Although it is listed towards the bottom of the index it has potential to escalate up the table, due to the rapid adoption of e-commerce in Sri Lanka.
This year we have also introduced an important new sector which are investment banks. They play an important role in the economic activity which is captured in our index for the first time.
These changes on the Brand Finance Most Valuable Brands Index ensures it is constantly adapting to reflect the Sri Lankan brand landscape and keep it in-tune with changing markets and customer trends.
Despite the severe economic constraints the country is operating within, we are seeing a marginal increase in brand value of 1%. This reflects the resilience of the businesses and their performance in very difficult circumstances. However, this is a decline in brand value growth from the previous year (which was 2.6%), which is alarming. Although the country has come through the worst of the COVID-19 it is now faced with multiple macro economic issues due the foreign currency shortages even before accounting for the impact of the Ukraine-Russia conflict.
The position for the most valuable brand in the index in these tumultuous times is once again retained by Dialog with a brand value of Rs.54 billion. Despite the economic challenges the telecommunications industry was seen as one of the early winners during the pandemic. Customer reliance on data, voice and other digital services to remain connected has enabled Dialog to sustain its financial performance during the year.
Despite a technology brand being at the top, the banking brands continue to dominate the Sri Lanka 100 index accounting for 44% of the total brand value compared to other sectors.
Building materials saw phenomenal growth in brand value by 23% and emerges as the fastest growing sector in 2022. Import restrictions of non-essential items including building materials and favorable interest on housing loans combined to drive steady demand for these brands in the domestic market. Brands that responded swiftly to this increasing demand through timely investments in technology, developing infrastructure and production capacity emerged as winners in this year’s brand valuations.
Tourism related sectors, hospitality and airlines, continue to be among the weakest, with decline in brand value when compared to pre-pandemic levels. New COVID-19 variants, border and mobility restrictions to control the spread of the virus and limited international tourist arrivals continue to hinder the financial performance of these brands. However, as Sri Lanka reopens its borders for international travel along with the steady rollout of vaccines, consumer confidence is seen to recover. The sector needs to brace themselves, continuing to adopt health and safety protocols and reinforce their brand through innovative customer experiences.
Dialog retains its position as the most valuable brand in Sri Lanka for the fourth consecutive year. The brand is closely followed by BOC, with a small difference of Rs. 136 million. Commercial Bank has increased in rankings in becoming the third most valuable brand overtaking People’s Bank, with a value growth of 7%.
Dialog, as a leader in mobile telephone services in the country, continued to report robust financial performance despite the pandemic challenges.
The brand’s earlier work on digitalization has helped cushion its financial performance against the unexpected surge in network traffic and increasing capacity and coverage requirements of customers.
Keells supermarket overtakes Dialog this year in becoming the strongest brand in the top 100 with a AAA brand rating. Keells has played a pivotal part in keeping the supply chain going throughout the pandemic. Over the last year, the brand has demonstrated its strength in shifting the retail landscape, expanding its online capabilities to better serve its strong customer base.
LANKATILES emerges as the fastest growing brand in the top 100, with a growth in value by 48%. Import restrictions and the brand’s swift response to the changing operating environment through increased capacity and launch of new designs, has enabled LANKATILES to maximize on this opportunity.
Meanwhile among the top 10 brands, SLT-Mobitel has recorded the highest value growth at 23%. Since its unification of SLT and Mobitel just over one year ago, the brand has benefitted through the impact of greater synergy. Through its unified approach, SLT-Mobitel has leveraged integrated technologies unlocking access to multi-platform telecom applications and solutions, offering customers a new world of telecom and lifestyle-impacting experiences.
The banking sector continues to play a pivotal role in maintaining a healthy financial system in the country. This year sees a growth in value for banking brands despite the turbulent economy as they continue to make efforts in meeting the fast-growing consumer demands and efficient cost management systems. Overall brand value of the sector grew by 3%, accounting for 44% of the Sri Lanka 100 total brand value (including the addition of 3 new investment banking brands to the table).
For the third consecutive year, NDB claims the title of fastest growing banking brand with a growth of 7%. NDB’s continuous efforts in digitization and net revenue growth underpinned by sound business strategy has boosted their brand value growth.
BOC has retained the position as the most valuable brand within the sector with a marginal increase in brand value.
Commercial Bank moves up in ranking securing the second position overtaking People’s Bank. This is primarily due to being the strongest banking brand with a BSI score of 86.7 and a AAA brand rating. Stronger the brand, higher the potential value it can generate in the future. The bank’s attempt to differentiate their product offering through digitally driven banking environment such as ComBank Q+, the first GR code-based app coupled with other digital transformation strategies with its strong network of branches are a big contributor to its strength.
Supermarkets continued to thrive in the year, with a total brand value growth of 9%. Keells, Cargills Food City and Arpico Super Centre saw an increase in brand value this year, while Sathosa declined.
Keells continue to be ranked as the most valuable supermarket brand, with a brand value of Rs. 28 billion. Over the last three years, the brand has doubled its physical presence to more than 120 retail outlets. It has also ramped up its on-line capability with a fully revamped platform, enabling more diverse offerings and real-time stock availability, amongst other features, to enable a faster and better shopping experience.
Supermarket brands, that have shown the agility to adapt and utilize technology have experienced solid gains despite the pandemic in both value and strength.
COVID-19 has driven insurance brands to accelerate their investment in digitalization to improve customer experience and personalization - a change that has been long delayed in the sector.
The general insurance sector saw overall brand value increase by 1% in 2022. Slowing growth prior to COVID-19, combined with the hit of the pandemic and import restrictions on cars have stifled value for general insurance brands.
However, as the economy began a slow recovery and travel restrictions began easing, vehicles were back on the road, creating the need for people to travel safely avoiding public transport. This resulted in the rebound of the motor insurance segment in early 2021. In addition, the industry also saw an increase in other categories such as fire and marine, as businesses and manufacturing began going back to operating at full scale, thus helping the general insurance businesses to grow their premiums in early 2021.
Sri Lanka Insurance General has retained its position as the leading general insurance provider with a brand value of Rs. 4.1 billion. However, it is closely followed by Ceylinco General Insurance with a brand value of LKR 3.6 billion.
Life insurance brands grew at a faster rate, with total brand value increasing by 9% in 2022. The life insurance sector has seen notable growth in the last five years, reflected in the double-digit growth in value across most life insurance brands. The sector has shown a promising uptick in growth of premiums, with demand further increase as consumers see the need for critical life protection after the outbreak of the virus.
Ceylinco Life retains its position as the leading life insurance provider with a brand value of Rs. 3.8 billion, closely followed by Sri Lanka Insurance Life with a value of Rs. 3.2 billion.
Janashakthi Insurance is the fastest growing brand in the sector. Growth in financial performance driven by active involvement in innovative insurance solutions have enabled the brand to climb in both value and strength in the Sri Lanka 100 rankings.
During times of great uncertainty, building brands which consumers trust is what should drive marketing decision making. This requires a long-term view by adopting a brand blueprint or a well-defined strategy, strengthening the brand management process with rigorous systems to track and monitor the impacts of investments which are being made and which are more hard to come by. Greater impact with less budget is what management needs to drive towards.
In these times it is particularly important to also understand customer sentiment and to proactively help make their lives easier. This is in the light of the current situation that customer’s face with fuel, gas, fertilizer shortages directly impacting the livelihoods of many Sri Lankans.