KUALA LUMPUR: Consumer tech companies dominate the upper echelons of Malaysia's top brand rankings with Samsung, Sony and Apple occupying the first three spots, according to a new study.

The list of top 100 Malaysian brands, part of a wider Asian survey compiled by Campaign in association with Nielsen, is based on consumer attitudes to brands in terms of trust and reputation.

Panasonic and Canon were two more consumer tech companies appearing in the top ten, in fifth and sixth places respectively.

Food and beverage businesses also featured prominently, with Nestlé in fourth, 100 Plus, an isotonic drink, in seventh and seasonings brand Maggi in ninth. Air Asia (8th) and Nike (10th) rounded out the top ten.

Campaign Asia-Pacific highlighted the often contradictory nature of consumers in that diverse country, where a largely young, multi-ethnic population is ready to embrace meritocracy and modern commerce and ideas while an older tradition looks to religion, family and connections.

The most successful brands, according to Milan Agnihotri, chief catalyst for creative strategy and innovations at Leo Burnett, are those that can understand a 'Malaysian' way of life rather than skewing their appeal towards any particular ethnic group.

"Malaysians always relate to brands that are able to demonstrate a clear purpose beyond profits," he said.

He cited Petronas (ranked 47th) as an example of this. The company, he said, had "defined its role to support nation building by promoting social cohesion". To that end it had developed an approach centred on festive communications which showcased human stories and highlighted social issues.

This was now "the benchmark in festival advertising in Malaysia and part of people's everyday conversations," said Agnihotri.

Other strategies he highlighted included treating Malaysians as people rather than consumers – "brands are incidental in people's lives and at best can play enabler" – and encouraging participation – whether that was for a simple smartphone game to save a melting ice-cream (McDonald's, 32nd) or using sports personalities to get people to take more physical exercise (100 Plus).

Ultimately, it was about building relevance and emotional equity, he advised.

Data sourced from Campaign Asia-Pacific; additional content by Warc staff