What price reputation?
News of the ‘divorce’ between the Morgan Car Company http://www.morgan-motor.co.uk/ and its eponymous former MD and brand champion Charles Morgan, shocked and disappointed the automotive world in equal measure this week.
A bland and largely uninformative statement http://www.morgan-motor.co.uk/mmc/downloads/pressreleases/morgantechupdate2.pdf announcing the departure of Charles, the third generation Morgan to steer the legendary car company, was contrasted by comments from Morgan himself about his intention to overturn the decision, http://www.autocar.co.uk/car-news/industry/charles-morgan-fight-morgan-motor-company-ousting-mmc-responds-updated and a Twitter profile set up by Morgan employees: https://twitter.com/mogemplyees
As with any separation, the story will be complicated, messy and may never be fully told, or at least not until someone writes their book. While money talks, share ownership has the shout – just watch any episode of Dragons’ Den, and a pound to a penny the bean counters have decided that the business will be commercially better off without Mr Morgan. But in the meantime they’ve left the brand’s reputation at risk.
Accountants don’t much care for PR, reputation, brand value, call it what you will. You can count the volume of parts in the stock room, the number of manufactured units leaving the factory gate and the positive or negative effect that and a few other things have on cash flow. While possibly and begrudgingly accepting that ‘goodwill’ might have an invisible net asset value, it’s an easy one to overlook, and besides: ‘This will soon blow over and everyone will forget what all the fuss was about….’
Or will they?
There are others better placed to talk about the history of Morgan, but surely what its customers like, why they pay handsomely and wait so patiently for their cars to be built, is that everything is so different. Different from the cut and thrust of the modern disposable nature of consumerism, yet nostalgically familiar and yes, old fashioned. Values that also include knowing that members of the family whose name appears on the badge are still running things.
So if the top man is suddenly and unceremoniously removed, what does that say about those who made such a decision, and the future of that badge?
While it might be difficult for an accountant to attribute increased orders in the sales ledger to reputation, it’ll be a lot easier to pin point the moment when sales started to decline.
The Morgan Car Company is about people not spreadsheets. The people who run it, work for it and buy its cars. It needs to talk to its audience and explain what’s going on – and quickly.