2024 SUPERBRANDS SURVEY: HIGH COST OF LIVING DIMS CONSUMER OPTIMISM

Jawad Jaffer, Superbrands EA project director.
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M-Pesa,   has for the third year been voted Kenya’s leading   ‘superbrand’  , ahead of parent company Safaricom, which was  placed second, once again. This further solidifies the platform’s positioning as being integral and essential to the functioning of small and medium  enterprises (SMEs).  It  comes at a time when the global economic downturn is filtering through to the Kenyan economy.

Notably, the highest gainer was M-Kopa; climbing up from thirty sixth  to sixth   position from 2022 to 2024, respectively. This can be attributed to the rising cost of living experienced over the past two years which has seen consumers gravitate more towards flexible lending policies without steep penalties. It  has   also seen households move away from electricity to solar energy due to high and rising electricity prices.

New entrants into the top  ten  list are :  Citizen TV, Supa Loaf, M-Kopa, Radio Citizen FM, and The Daily Nation. The results are derived entirely from a comprehensive survey administered to urban Kenyan consumers (selected at random) and undertaken by Kantar in Nairobi, Mombasa  and Kisumu.   According  to  David Ogara, associate account director, Kantar  :  “With challenging economic times, it has   been interesting to understand how consumer perception and brand value offerings have evolved. Inflation has divided brands and products between ‘must haves’ and ‘nice to have,’ creating a clear distinction when purchase decisions are being made. The survey brings to light great insight for brands navigating value offering.

Key takeaways

To  start  with  ,the level of consumer optimism has dropped to a new low of 50% (down from 70% in 2019), according to the Kantar Africa Life Report 2023. Consumers are being more cautious of their expenditures and are making calculated moves to:   buy fewer items, reduce purchase frequency, only buy critical items ,opt for cheaper alternatives, look for cheaper purchase channel, change how they interact with financial institutions and services – including relying more on micro-lending solutions and turning to informal banking for easier access to money.

   Kenya Red Cross maintained popularity in top  three   due to immediate action taken in response to the El Niño floods in 2023. Consumers are seeing and appreciating their efforts in high-risk zones to help people in need.

Supa Loaf jumped to  rank  five    from  thirteen    in 2022. It is the only food brand within the listing this year. Its popularity can be inferred from its strong heritage, having been around for over  fifty  years; and also, as bread remains a staple for low-income Kenyan households.

   M-Kopa   rose from rank  thirty six   in 2022 to six . It was   greatest gainer   in this year’s survey. The products and flexible services M-Kopa   offers are fitting into the prudent low-income consumer mindset: cautiously spending to manage expenses and allowing more flexible payment options.

Media

Three   media channels appeared in the  top  ten   listing for the first time ever: Citizen TV, Radio Citizen, and The Daily Nation. In February 2024, Forbes reported that subscriptions to streaming services halved in 2023, pointing to the growing worldwide trend where consumers are engaging less with brands they have to pay for. This can be seen locally as well, where consumers are moving from spending on ‘nice to have’ products and services, and generally engaging more with free content-based services and platforms like media (internet, radio, TV, newspapers).

  Kenpoly remained in the top  ten. Kenpoly makes disposable cups, which were common at informal social meetings    for quick consumption of alcohol and other beverages.   Bamburi Cement also stayed put in the top  ten   due to Kenya’s growing population and urbanization.

  With the increased adoption of e-commerce, consumers are now increasingly researching about products before they make their purchase decisions. Some consumers are starting to place emphasis on differentiation, and punishing brands that are more premium or value, but not differentiated from the low-priced mainstream brands.

Given  the   difficult economic times, some brands cease to be as relevant as they were. Consumers no longer have the luxury of spending disposable incomes on betting for instance. This year no betting companies feature in the top ten  ranking.

Most notably for 2024, consumers were asked about the impact the ‘ Superbrands’  seal had on their decision-making process.  Eight  out of ten  respondents were more likely to go with a brand that featured the seal. Consumers believed Superbrands affiliation to help build a company’s reputation and help them stand out from the competition. This remained consistent from the previous study conducted in 2022.

Jawad Jaffer, project manager, Superbrands East Africa said :  “Once again, the study has emerged as a barometer for changing consumer needs and preferences. Brands must strive to provide value to climb the ranks as consumers prioritize needs over wants.”

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