Brand Toxicity

In a week when the Evening Boris sported the headline “Toxic London” it’s appropriate to explore Brand Toxicity.

When does a brand become toxic? What turns a brand from successful to shithouse?

Here are a few thoughts:

  • When it treats its customers with disdain
  • When it takes customers for granted
  • When it mocks customers
  • When it treats customers as lower forms of life
  • When it is dishonest towards customers
  • When it fails to adhere to standards expected of them such as openness and honesty
  • When results and performances show continuing or declining levels of acceptability

Previous, current or ongoing good works rarely matter when a brand starts to turn toxic, as any headline writer will tell you.

Ask Gerald Ratner just how destructive to your brand becoming toxic can be. One supposed joke about his products wiped a high profile brand worth £500 million off the high streets. Why? Because Ratner mocked his customers.

Ask any commuter using Southeastern trains for their opinion on that brand. SouthWest Trains commuters will also have pointed opinions about that company. Both are regularly lambasted for poor performance and customer service that even Basil Fawlty wouldn’t have fallen to. But both continue to operate purely because they are a monopoly provider and government lacks the balls to properly hold them to punitive account.

With this in mind, it is good that some within the ECB have recognised that their brand is becoming toxic (as Yates has already written).

The continuing criticism of the ECB’s handling of the KP issue is entirely deserved and Colin Graves’ recent comments are a huge kick in the knackers for Paul Downton and James Whitaker’s performances over the last year as well as a blast in the faces of all involved in the briefing against KP, whether inside or outside the ECB.

Graves is known for his straight talking (although what Yorkshireman isn’t?) so his comments about selectors selecting on merit is a pointed reference to Downton’s attitude and Whitaker’s assertion that KP will never again don an England shirt. As Yates as written previously, Downton needs to be chokeslammed back into his box and kept well away from selection matters. For Whitaker this serves as a clear instruction to select impartially.

Colin Graves’ declaration that the ECB will now be doing things openly and transparently must have caused some serious self-soiling in the ECB corridors. Just think about what that means:

  • That means openly and honestly explaining the reasons behind actions and decisions to the public. No spin, no bulldust
  • That means no more briefing against players, leaking stuff out to “journalists”
  • That means talking to those of us deemed “outside cricket” and listening to what we have to say without prejudice
  • That means showing that the ECB respect not only the game but all those who play and/or invest their time and money in it
  • That means holding broadcasters to account for failing to show the game and its real stakeholders the respect they deserve

So whatever spin Peter Moores may try to put on the KP issue doesn’t really matter. His stats driven business bullshit has no place in dealing with stakeholders or in an environment of openness, honesty and respect. There’s a few folk suggesting that a certain highly thought of Australian coach known to Graves is the England coach in waiting; Moores is merely keeping the seat warm for his arrival.  Whatever “clarification” the ECB machine may put out looks like covering up and trying to say “business as normal” in the face of an inevitable oncoming storm of change.

In the previous missive there was mention of getting shot of Colin Gibson from the press and PR team. The ECB’s announcement of Chris Haynes as the new Director of Communications may look to be a step in the right direction. However Yates notices that Haynes was previously PR director at Sky Sports. Given Graves’ comments about openness and honesty this appointment brings to mind one important question:

Was Haynes responsible for Sky Sports blanking all questions about Andrew “Extremely Unprofessional” Strauss calling KP a cunt live on air?

If so then that’s the kind of attitude which cannot be tolerated in any era of openness and honesty.

Graves’ comments about 3 day championship games with only one division hark back to 1985, the era of Ian Botham’s blonde mullet, Richard Ellison making Allan Border his little bitch and Les Taylor taking a catch off his own bowling to win the Ashes. Fun days as 1985 may have been, they were sandwiched between two 5-0 hammerings by the West Indies pace machine including several bruises, broken bones and an impromptu rearrangement of Mike Gatting’s face. Less than fun times.

Perhaps Graves just wants to show that he is approaching things with an open mind and is quite prepared to consider all ideas put to him; whether they fit in with where he wants to take the ECB is another thing entirely.

David Hopps reminds us that the ECB does a hell of a lot of very good work at grass roots level and behind the scenes. But as George Dobell memorably said, nobody recalls the excellent catering on The Titanic. Putting in a wheelchair ramp at a small club won’t be what the ECB is remembered for by the general public. Being shithouse to a top player is.

Interestingly, George Dobell mentions an uncertainty as to whether Paul Rupert Downton’s job is necessary. If it isn’t (and Yates would love to see what claims Downton makes as to his contributions to progress) does this question whether Downton’s predecessor Hugh Morris was also in a post that wasn’t necessary?

If England lose to Bangladesh and/or Afghanistan the ECB brand may become just too toxic for Graves and Tom Harrison to endure. Yorkshire players know what it is to have the sound of Colin Graves’ disapproving voice ringing in their ears.  It may well be ringing in Team England’s ears soon as a prelude to change. That’s unfortunate on many of the players including Eoin Morgan, given the captaincy at almost the last possible minute and making moulding a team to how he wants to do things near impossible.

Colin and Tom will know that just as a rose by any other name smells as sweet, a turd by any other name still smells of shit. A corporate paint job does not remove the toxicity and doesn’t remove the smell. Removing the sources of the toxicity does.



After their defeat to Pakistan, South Africa’s captain AB de Villiers said he “didn’t feel an electric vibe”.

Yates is delighted to introduce AB to the Hitachi Magic Wand (pic, SFW), a device he uses on his crocked lower back.  It’s quite good for sciatica too, working in the glutes.  Yates’ lady friends say that it’s also rather good used erm, elsewhere (get the hint?).