‘The Co-op customer report demonstrates the resilience of the brand’

The Co-operative Group says it plans to use the results of its ‘Have Your Say’ campaign, where it asked customers to share their views on the Group, to help rebuild the brand following a turbulent couple of years which saw its reputation hit by scandal at the banking group and the resignation of former CEO Euan Sutherland.

co-op-have-your-say-2014

The Group has today (1 December) released the results of the campaign, which show that 86% of respondents “feel favourable” towards The Co-operative, while 71% believe it is a business that tries to do the right thing. Richard Pennycook, group chief executive, says the findings give “a great deal of encouragement and demonstrate the resilience of the Co-operative brand”.

He says the focus of The Co-op is to rebuild, focusing around its new purpose to “champion a better way of doing business for you and your communities”. Some 82% of respondents said the Co-op should champion local issues that after people in their local communities.

“It is clear that the organisation has a special place in the hearts of the British public, who want it to thrive. They support our determination to provide a real alternative to big business, championing local issues in local communities. We are very grateful for this support,” he adds.

Brand reputation

The Co-op was rocked by a series of revelations at its banking division after a £1.5bn black hole emerged in its finances and its former chairman Paul Flowers was caught up in a drug scandal. Sutherland, the CEO at the time, admitted the scandal had led to contagion at its other brands – including food, funeral care and legal services – and “all that it stands for”.

Figures from YouGov’s BrandIndex at the time showed the bank sitting at the bottom of rankings for high street banks, with perception measures including reputation, impression, recommendation and buzz (a measure of the positive and negative things said about a brand) all falling. Its supermarket brand was also hit, falling to the bottom of a list of supermarkets in terms of buzz.

Since then, however, the brand’s buzz metric has recovered somewhat and it now sits at number 12 in the list of 26 supermarket brands with a score of 1.3. However, across other metrics including impression, quality and value its scores have fallen.

Perceptions of the quality of the Co-op’s products and services and willingness to embrace technology were also low, according to the Have Your Say results, showing the scale of the job still left to do to rebuild the Co-op brand.

The bank

Perceptions of the financial robustness of the Co-op were also called into question, with just 15% of the general public believing it is financially robust. A report in The Times claims that the Co-op Bank, which Co-op Group is still a major shareholder in, is set to fail the Bank of England’s stress test later this month.

The Bank of England is testing eight banks on their ability to withstand a theoretical 35% drop in house prices and increasing interest rates and unemployment. Co-op Bank is understood to have said that it has “insufficient buffers” to withstand a severe recession.

The Co-op Bank launched a new campaign to hammer home its ethical standards earlier this year and the group’s ethical and moral standards were recognised by 66% of those questions as being “higher than its competitors”. YouGov’s president Peter Kellner says the results show a “large amount of goodwill” towards the Group, with the “unprecedented” level of response (180,000 people filled out the survey) demonstrating the opportunity for the group.

He adds: “There are many positives that the Group can take away and areas in which it can work on developing. The Co-operative has an opportunity to forge a path back to the heart of local communities and to provide an alternative way of doing business.

“The lesson from the research is that The Co-operative needs not only to commit itself to a new, more inclusive way of doing business, but persuade its members, customers and the wider public of its determination to maintain this commitment.”

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