STOCK  Saudi Telecom STC
e& went in for a total avatar transformation earlier in the year from Etisalat. It has also expanded into more consumer facing spaces digitally. Image Credit: Reuters

Dubai: Saudi Telecom and e& (formerly Etisalat) have reinforced their credentials as the most valuable brands in the latest Kantar BrandZ rankings, while banking and real estate companies were the others to see major gains.

The e& brand value is pegged at $11.8 billion, while for STC it is $16 billion as top UAE and Saudi brands saw their labels gaining some serious valuations in these annual rankings. Of the Top 10 UAE brands, there were four banks – FAB ($7.7 billion), ADCB ($1.04 billion), Emirates NBD ($904 million) and DIB ($619 million) – while ADNOC came in third ($3.2 billion) and Emirates at fourth ($3.2 billion).

“The risers in our current ranking have invested in growing their equity by strengthening their meaningful difference, and then ensuring this is amplified by becoming more salient,” said Amol Ghate, regional Managing Director at the Insights Division at Kantar. “Meaningful differentiation comes from creating new categories, expanding footprint or providing greater value for customers.”

Going beyond telecom services

It’s interesting that e& - which went in for a top-to-bottom rebranding in February last - and STC made headway well beyond its core services. The former is one of the backers of Wio, the neobank, while in Saudi Arabia, the digital wallet division - STC Pay - became the first digital bank in Saudi Arabia.

“The Saudi telecom provider has benefitted from both the rollout of 5G, as well as a major diversification in its offer to include digital payments and entertainment services,” the Kantar findings say. “The company’s DARE strategy - Digitalize, Accelerate, Reinvent and Expand - is providing a strong sense of direction and rapid transformation.”

These trends keep on adding to brand value

• Ecommerce on the rise: Ecommerce in the UAE now accounts for 10 per cent of all retail sales. While both online and hybrid retailers have experienced growth, exclusively online players have grown across all three brand equity pillars of meaning, difference and salience by providing a superior experience, a wide range, and are now acknowledged as specialists by consumers.

• Desire for a healthier lifestyle: Healthier eating options and an increasing interest in exercise were on the rise before the pandemic hit and there has been a renewed focus on the importance of good health. Organic food is seeing a surge in interest, not just among consumers, but also among food producers. The number of organic farms in Saudi Arabia, for instance, is now 17 per cent higher than pre-pandemic, and organic production is up 60 per cent, with the government supporting the sector with marketing support among other initiatives.

• The global sustainability trend is starting to make headwinds. In Saudi Arabia particularly, 62 per cent say they are personally affected by environmental problems, 54 per cent pay a lot of attention to environmental and social issues in the news, while 56 per cent of consumers are willing to pay a premium for products that are better for the environment.