How to kill a brand

IT is always disappointing when a reputable brand begins to show signs of complacency.

Nonto Masuku

For the last couple of years, I have been a raving fan of Intercape’s “Sleepliner” coach service between Bulawayo and Johannesburg.

That was until two Sundays ago when my husband and I booked seats on an overnight “Sleepliner” coach to Johannesburg. While the anomalies we noted were not life-threatening, they did serve to sour a routinely pleasant trip to “Jozi”.

It all began at the point where we were making reservations at the front desk. The bland, almost indifferent expressions from the staff almost fooled us into thinking we were begging for a free ride.

Once on the bus, the steward announced that his public address system was not functioning, hence he had to repeat his routine instructions at three different spots in order to ensure that all passengers got the message.

From where we were sitting, we heard him go through his monologue twice. He also broke the bad news that only one of the bus’s three entertainment screens on the top deck were functional.


By the time we got to Gwanda there was commotion from two women in the seats behind us.

They had discovered that when they reclined their seats they went all the way down knocking the knees of the passengers behind them.

I was to discover later, after passing Musina, that my very own seat had the same unpleasant qualities. The steward was notified and indicated that there was nothing he could do as the seats needed “shocks” which were only available in South Africa.

The irate passengers proceeded to ask why Intercape assigned passengers to those faulty seats when it was clear they were not functional.

More gripes experienced on the same trip included:

  • A faulty air conditioning system in the top deck that was not fully functional. It became uncomfortably hot and sticky inside the bus.
  • Water leaking onto some seats in the top deck. (A little innovation with a plastic bag averted disaster).

So what can we take away from all this? In the words of Elaine Fogel here are some easy steps to kill a brand:

  •   Wait until customers ask for service instead of developing checklists and routines to ensure that everything they expect is in place.
  •   Provide the amenities, services, or products you promise, but at sub-par standards.
  • Never empower your employees to make things right with customers.
  • Treat your employees poorly so they could care less about the brand.

Follow these steps and you’ll be sure to be out of business soon enough.

  • Nonto Masuku is partner of a corporate image management firm.


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