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February04

Eskom: putting SA at risk

LAST week we took a look at two different personal brands, brand Tiger blackberryWoods and brand Pallo Jordan, and discussed how each responded to crises. One managed to make a full recovery and the other remains, to this day, hidden and seemingly unsure of how to revive his brand.

READ: Fixing broken brands

While news reports indicate that Tiger Woods’ performance on the greens is the poorest in several years, it’s safe to argue that when he decides to retire one day, he won’t leave the public arena with his tail between his legs. He managed to return, in order to stage a better exit one day.

Sadly, if he remains in hiding for too long, the same could never be said of the once formidable Pallo Jordan.

BlackBerry: the goner

When I lived and worked in the US in the early 2000sBlackBerry was the piece of cellular technology in everyone’s handbags and palms, and the novelty that everyone seemed to be talking about. People who considered themselves socially connected were always eager to show off their devices, displaying them in front of friends and business associates at every available opportunity.

Instead of talking about their pets or children, BlackBerry users could go on for hours talking about the benefits they derived from the technology.

At the time, the competitive environment did not seem crowded and none of the other players appeared to pose a threat to Research in Motion (RIM), the makers of BlackBerry. There was no need for them to be looking over their shoulders for potential commercial ambushes and the term ‘adaptability’ seemed to belong in another world and another era, like a Darwinist scarecrow.

But RIM was caught off-guard when Apple, Google and Samsung products made their entrance. Things got worse following the much-publicised outage of BlackBerry messenger, probably one of the most popular features of the technology. Too comfortable in the market, RIM failed to invest in new ideas to develop its technology further to entrench itself in the market.

Subsequent computer crashes, stock market dives and a plethora of technical failures saw scores of customers beginning to seek cellular homes elsewhere. Techical failures at RIM’s data centre, which had been positioned as the central data processor and dispatch point for the millions of emails and text messages, resulted in communication paralysis throughout the BlackBerry firmament.

“If Blackberry stood for anything”, said the BBC at one point, “it was reliability. Its complex multinational server system was more or less impossible for the layman to understand. But the upshot was, it always worked. Blackberry was Volvo. Chunky, a little uncool, but you could drop a piano on one and it would keep on trucking. Now that image is looking tarnished and there is one less reason for fickle customers to stick around. Android, iPhone and Windows Phone are all lurking, seductively.”

Eskom: all systems fail

Our once-robust national electricity utility is no longer what it used to be. There was a time when Eskom generated enough electricity to export to some of the countries in the region, but in recent years we’ve seen demand levels in South Africa alone exceed supply.

Given that electricity is a strategic resource, it’s safe to argue that the changed scenario deprives the country of additional income from countries in the region or from leveraging this resource in its negotiations on other issues with recipient regional states.

The return of regular power cuts in South Africa, euphemistically termed ‘load shedding’, has resulted in increased conversations about flights; flights from the national electricity grid for those who can afford to invest in alternative sources, and the flight of investors whose businesses rely on a constant power supply.

It’s also safe to assume that investors who might have been eyeing South Africa as a potential location for job-creating manufacturing businesses would be having second thoughts. So, whichever way one looks at it, Eskom is a strategic asset for the marketing of BrandSA, as how it is managed will impact heavily on how we’re viewed as a destination for much-needed foreign direct investment; our reputation relies on it.

So, is Eskom going the BlackBerry way, making room for a plethora of independent, competitive power producers – or will it stage a surprise comeback?

NOW READ:
Lessons for Eskom’s new spokesperson

*Written for Fin24.com*

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