Thursday, 30 April 2009

Aviva Who?

Being right doesn’t mean you’re clever. That’s my theory but I blogged some time ago about Aviva’s stupid wastage in rebranding Norwich Union to the Aviva brand – the cost has been revealed as being £80 million for the current campaign and some £37 million from last year.

The stupidity is coupled with shame. As Ringo Starr, Elle McPherson and Bruce Willis told us they wanted to be treated like real people, Aviva’s results meant that 1,900 real people are being made redundant and the share price collapsed.

Defending the indefensible, Lord Sharman, Chairman, said that brand awareness had gone up from 35% to 80%. Yes, we will certainly remember it alright. It was in the heart of a recession, when everyone should be watching every penny. Besides, no one knew who Aviva was but everyone knew Norwich Union – this could have waited and those jobs could have been saved.

I got into a heated argument with marketing people about this. The brand still needs to be promoted and so forth. I agree – but £80 million is just dumb and it justifies every CEOs decision to slash the marketing budget in a recession because you simply cannot trust the judgement of people like that.

But stupidity isn’t a lonely creature. As I sit on my 5:25 Eurostar to Paris, I see a gaggle of 5 executives from the same company reviewing the agenda and information pack of the company they are going to see – a Board meeting or similar. Laughing and joking about the Board’s comments, I wonder why it takes 3 people to work things like this out. Each of them arrived at the station by private car to make sure they feel important enough. Then one of them says he is off to the re-launch of Hastings Insurance tonight who will be launching a new brand, Hastings Direct with a 1066 theme. The invites arrived in a scroll and with a seal, superb marketing idea blah, blah, blah. So a bunch of financiers will be lauding it the event and back slapping one another. I dare say they may join the Aviva shareholders shortly.

Aviva’s angry shareholders were aghast at their investment’s wanton waste of money. ‘Who needs to see Ringo Starr telling us about name changes? You seem to think you can squander our money how you want’, said one very irate person. ‘These grand ideas sound alright, but if you’d saved money we might have been better off.’

Indeed. The CEO tried to justify all this by saying they actually saved money due to the fact that media prices were cheaper during a recession. Why didn’t he actually use programs between midnight and 3am if he really wanted to save money on the media? In a microcosm, this sums up UK management – executives with over inflated opinions of themselves and non-executives who just read what it says on the piece of paper.

At the sharp end, 1,900 leave the company due to this ego-mania and shareholders are out of pocket. It should not have been the minions sacked – the whole management should be cleared out.

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