by Mongezi Mtati (@Mongezi) It’s awards season in South Africa, with agencies across the country vying for a piece of the Top Brands, Loeries, Most, AMASA, Pendorings, Assegais and The Annual AdFocus pies, to name a few. My interest is focused on the Sunday Times Top Brands 2014, because of its customer focus and its somewhat old-school survey methods.

It is always interesting to see which brands take the top rankings in the eyes of consumers, and this year’s results gave me food for thought: Samsung was favoured over Apple, as was Standard Bank over First National Bank (FNB).

@AskSBSA vs @RBJacobsBehind the social-media scenes

It would be easy to assume that FNB is the most-loved consumer bank brand. The @RBJacobs Twitter handle boasts an enormous following, and it is definitely the most-active and -responsive bank. At the time of screen capture, @RBJacobs had than 44 000 followers and 223 000 tweets.

Conversely, Standard Bank’s @askSBSA had just 8 611 followers and had only tweeted just over 13 000 times [but @StandardBankZA has over 41 000 followers and 39.7 000 tweets at time of editing — ed-at-large].

On Facebook, too, FNB dominates with over 660 000 likes versus Standard Bank’s just over 122 000 likes.

But how important is online conversation? Is it the all-powerful platform that converts possible clients and retains the focused loyalty of existing ones?

It was FNB which outperformed its competitors with its approach to banking, which earned itself a spot amongst the Innovation Masters in Accenture’s first South African Innovation Index in October 2013. Today, most of the social-media conversations taking place across the banking industry are as a result of FNB’s initial forward-thinking and embracing of digital.

At that point, FNB was said to have more than 8 160 innovations, fully implemented, since 2004, and it had been named the Most Innovative Bank in South Africa for the previous seven years — in the Banking Innovation Study conducted by the Innovation Agency.

With a history of engaging its customers, it would be expected that FNB would take top honours as the leading consumer bank, but it did not. It was, however, named the most favourite business-banking brand, an accolade that one might possibly have thought would have gone to Standard Bank instead, as it has a long history of focusing on business.

The people have spoken

Following the Sunday Times Top Brands survey, whose sample size comprises 3 500 South African adults and is broken down into 2 500 interviews in metro South Africa and 1 000 in non-metro areas, it turns out that Standard Bank is the leading consumer-bank of choice according to South Africans.

Taking the two brands’ social-media interactions with consumers, it shows that consumers are looking at more than just online interactions. But it also reveals that FNB customers are also potentially more social-media savvy than its Standard Bank counterparts.

At the end of the day, performance, in-bank customer service and product offerings are still critical aspects of the customer experience, and they generate customer loyalty. These are more likely to be critical factors in the interviewees’ response of nominating Standard Bank as their bank of choice over FNB.

Samsung vs iPhone: The battle for top corporate phone brand

Also of interest at Top Brands is the result of the ongoing battle for market-share between the iPhone and Samsung.

When the Android operating system first emerged in 2008, the recurring debate amongst early adopters was whether it would be better than iOS and whether it would become a worthy adversary for Apple. At the time, Samsung was relying on the archaic Symbian operating system.

The adoption of the Android operating system, that was first tested and sold on the HTC Dream Smartphone, allowed the brand to claw its way back from relative obscurity and take its place in the mobile phone giants’ arena.

Fast-forward to 2014, and Samsung has emerged ahead of the iPhone in the business category for mobile phones, and as the second against 10 brands in the consumer mobile phone category.

In the consumer space, Nokia retained its position as the leading consumer mobile phone brand — a position it has held since 2010 —followed by Samsung and Blackberry.


When you look at the way various brands are engaging their audiences, it’s easy to look to the digital space and say “we’re streaks ahead of our competitors”. At the end of the day — should brands be putting all their eggs in one social-media-styled basket, or is there still a place for offline conversations and building brand loyalty through consumer evangelists?

The key seems to be in getting to know your audiences better, and paying attention to the online and offline conversations to understand what your customer really wants from you, in terms of products, communication and the overall consumer experience.

There is a place where digital and old school intersects, a sweet spot where the customer can experience the best of both worlds, and that is where brands should be focusing their efforts.

For Apple and FNB, perhaps, the time has come to ask what their biggest competitors are doing differently and which is proving to so effectively engage their customers and ensure brand loyalty and the creation of the all-important brand ambassador.

Mongezi Mtati


Mongezi Mtati (@Mongezi) is the founding MD of WordStart ( Apart from being a kiteboarding and sandboarding adventurer, Mongezi connects companies and brands with measurable word-of-mouth. He contributes the monthly “The Word” column on word-of-mouth marketing and social media strategy to MarkLives.


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