How Pick n Pay is destroying a winning brand

We’ve all become much more aware of the importance of brands, and not just the swing-ticket sort of awareness that speak out for “cool” and desirable brands.  Today, most people understand that “brands” speak about the very heart and soul of countries, cities and companies.

Internationally, Apple — the world’s most valuable company — understands that it cannot divorce the labour practices of its supplier companies in China from the Apple brand.  In South Africa, we’ve seen Cape Town become the most desirable SA city with the strongest brand — because locals have taken ownership and live their brand.

If any SA company stands out for doing the right thing when it comes to branding, surely FNB must top that list.  Until we get the CapeInfo interview with CEO Michael Jordaan, follow him on Twitter (!/MichaelJordaan).  He lives and champions his company’s brand better than almost any other CEO I can think of.

So… what’s Pick n Pay doing so badly wrong to justify this headline?

Before going on, you might wonder if I have it in for PnP.  No I don’t, although I have written a scathing attack in this blog once before (The worst Pick n Pay in SA).  I’ve known the Ackerman family for almost 30 years and have deep respect, admiration and fondness for Raymond Ackerman.  He always epitomised the CEO who lives his brand.

My experiences may be peculiar to just one branch so other consumers should judge for themselves.

Pick n Pay promises
Does Pick n Pay live up to its promises?

Firstly, let’s look at the Pick n Pay pledge which you should find on the wall of every branch.  Based on my experience it’s the biggest joke I’ve ever come across.

Secondly, PnP has shot itself in the foot with its house brands.  When the new ranges first appeared in their new packaging almost two years ago, they promised the start of a better shopping experience.  That fizzled out quickly.  No sooner had one become used to selecting the PnP margarine, or whatever, they disappeared from the shelves.

So, from that point of view, it’s not a brand you can trust.  Imagine buying a car where parts are not available?

The milk saga which formed the basis of the previous attack has never been resolved.  Buying PnP brand milk was like playing Russian Roulette — when was the next bottle or bag going to be sour?  In the end, the local supplier, Moordrift Dairy, invited me to visit the diary.  Lovely people but I left with the feeling that they’re using technology (for long-life milk which still needs refrigeration) to hide a problem they’ve always had.  And I changed from PnP milk to Clover.

After a year of avoiding PnP brand milk, I bought a bag again last week… and yes, it was sour.  I took it back and asked the customer service lady to confirm that, which she did.  Am I unlucky in the extreme or am I surrounded by poor consumers who don’t demand their rights, I asked.  She didn’t answer.

I’ve complained many times about empty shelves and basic products  absent from the shelves.  The worst was in the middle of March when I couldn’t find a single thing I needed.  “We’re busy with stock-taking,” I was told.  So the customer is not really that important it seems…

One can forgive almost anything if one is aware that people are trying hard and they address issues head-on when they go wrong.  All I get — when I complain — is lip service and the same excuses over and over again.  I get a manager who rarely greets customers, let alone acknowledges their presence.

Now that’s not what I expect from Pick n Pay.  Anyone who has walked around PnP’s head office or any of its stores with Raymond Ackerman will know how he stops to greet people (often by name) all the time; asking genuine questions and taking an interest in the answers.  If managers can’t do this, they shouldn’t be managers.

Now imagine if store managers took a lesson from FNB’s Michael Jordaan, and used Twitter to get closer to their customers and develop the brand…

One response to “How Pick n Pay is destroying a winning brand”

  1. I agree – PnP is definitely lacking the Raymond Ackerman inspirational touch. It almost seems like they have lost interest in leading and have decided to try following for a while. I have no doubt that they will weather their doldrums and come back fighting. There is still a lot of brand value in their reserve tank.

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