The reason for HRV winning New Zealand’s Worst Brand of 2012 has nothing to do with their dodgy sales tactics that came to light late in 2012, but more about how they responded to the allegations. Hundreds of people complained about how bad HRV were, and when hundreds complain you can extrapolate the number of grumpy folk even further due to the lazy, can’t-be-bothered nature of people to voice their frustrations.

When Bruce Gordon, CEO of HRV joined John Campbell live on TV, he humbly claimed that since arriving at the helm he had changed the gung-ho mentality that was rife in his business, and that these reports flowing in about HRV were a thing of the past. At least he was brave enough to appear on TV and try to appease the masses.

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Problem was the fire was raging and nothing changed. After Bruce Gordon’s TV appearance, HRV set up a dedicated “No Pressure Hotline” for customers who wanted to discuss a “sales experience or customer experience”. And that was it. 

The truth of the matter is that every brand can learn more from the customers who complain then they ever can from the customers who don’t. The first step they should have taken was to take stock of the enormity of the problem and call every single customer they have (surely there must be thousands?) and say “Thank you for being an HRV customer – what are your experiences with HRV?” If the vast majority were negative then HRV knew they were boned. They didn’t do this, and perhaps this is the cynic in me talking, but I think they already knew what the answer would be before the calls were made.

Which is why I wasn’t very surprised when I received two calls from HRV in November asking me first if I could recommend a friend for  HRV, for which I would be rewarded with a cheap bottle of wine, and second, if they could help me heat my house in winter. To both of these I replied with a polite “Get Fu##ed!”

HRV’s current advertising agency is Y&R. They used to be fairly cool, especially back in the day when Vaughn Davis was in charge of their creativity, but now they’re as limp as month old celery. I have no idea what they proposed to HRV to help them put out the fire but if they think they can carry on flighting their sentimental hog wash of a sixty second ad and things will go away, then they may just be wrong.

But I doubt it. Consumers are very forgetful and we tend to forget the injustices of the past. So I can only predict that HRV will remain fairly well-off after this debacle and that Y&R will continue to be their agency for a year or so before the “new broom” sweeps them out the door and HRV appoint some other indistinguishable agency to the role.

All in all, HRV are still the winners of New Zealand’s Worst Brand 2012. Merry Christmas!