The Super Brands Awards were pioneered in 2010 to honour brands operating with excellence. The awards are meant to celebrate local brands that are exceptional and most loved by customers. The awards are held annually and brands with impeccable reputations always stand a chance to clinch an award. This year’s edition was held on the 29th of November at the Rainbow Towers. I am not going to dwell on the awards themselves but I shall discuss some interesting reactions from social media regarding these awards. My talking points are meant to spark discussions on wide-ranging issues pertaining to local brands.

Some People Not Agreeable To Econet Getting A Super Brand Award

Someone on Twitter tweeted the following: “The brand with the most customer complaints won an award at the 2019 edition of Super Brand Awards. Really made me try to forget everything I thought I knew about a “superbrand” and learn the new Zim standard. Anyone with local literature on brands?

The brand in question here was Econet and interesting responses to that tweet were tweeted. This tweet brings to the fore an interesting discussion on more than just Econet but also local brands in general. The consensus amongst most people who responded is that Econet did not deserve the award they got. It was also highlighted by some that local awards tend to be premised on bootlicking and are not usually objectively done. One of the tweets indicated that maybe Econet was recognized just by virtue of its huge customer base.

Objectivity Of The Awards Somewhat Questionable

Anyways, the burning question is on what exactly now defines a super brand locally if brands like Econet are scooping awards. I shall touch on that a bit later on in this article. Another question is; are the awards being objectively done? I noticed something interesting on the Marketers Association of Zimbabwe (MAZ) website on which the Super Brands Awards are explained. Actually, the Super Brands Awards are a brainchild of MAZ. Anyways, back to what I noticed; there are several platinum partners that make the Super Brands Awards possible. Guess who is at the top of that list – Econet Wireless. So one wonders if Econet getting an award under an initiative to which they are a platinum partner is really objective.

What Really Defines A Super Brand?

That is a very broad area to discuss and is open to various interpretations. However, there are fundamental and universal aspects that a brand must adhere to if they are to be considered as a super brand. For starters, let me point out defining points from the MAZ site. One, Super Brands Awards are said to celebrate brand excellence. Two, they celebrate brands which go beyond excellence in service delivery. Three, they celebrate brands that are top in the minds of the customer. Remember I said that describing attributes of a super brand is open to varying interpretations but there are fundamental and universal aspects. At least I can say the 3 areas highlighted in Super Brands Awards description are satisfactory. That now takes us back to the aforementioned issue of Econet.

Is Econet Wireless Operating Like A Super Brand?

First off, Econet Wireless is no doubt a big local brand. Econet Wireless is the largest mobile network operator (MNO) in the country. At least 90 of the population have Econet network coverage. In total Econet have over 11 million subscribers in a nation with roughly 15 million. Its market capitalisation is over ZWL$4 billion. So, all that goes to show you it is a big local brand. Question is, is it really a super brand? Particularly in reference to what the Super Brands Awards say they stand for and celebrate.

Is Econet Wireless still serving its customers with excellence? Are they going beyond excellence in service delivery? Can we safely say Econet has a special place in the minds of customers? These are pertinent questions because the incidence of people lodging complaints against Econet is through the roof. The effective addressing of those complaints is proving to be a tall order for Econet. It is not easy now to attribute it to incapacity or just pure ignorance of addressing customer complaints. Network issues are now the order of the day in various places all over the country. These are some of the contentious issues and there are even more.

There is so much more to talk about because this subject opens up a can of worms. It is no secret that customer service delivery in Zimbabwe has fallen into the abyss. It seems the ethos of genuine customer service is no longer a primary concern to big brands in particular. The irony is that it is as if no one can call out underperforming brands so that they put their act together. Unethical business practices are just being left unpunished. Why must it be normal for a big brand to have incessant complaints lodged against it and no penalization or warning whatsoever from authorities is issued against it? The same brand goes on to be awarded for being a super brand. Surely that is an issue and it is why people have expressed displeasure. Lest you think Econet is the only one found wanting, it is not. Several local big brands and even small ones are founding wanting in many aspects. Sadly some of the most exceptional local brands are being side-lined and not getting the recognition they deserve.