Modern Marketing Brand

P&O Ferries has one of the lowest brand perception scores YouGov has ever seen

By Julian Newby | Global Sector Head of Agencies & Media

April 4, 2022 | 4 min read

Public sentiment towards P&O Ferries has fallen to historic depths following its redundancy scandal. Julian Newby, global sector head of agencies and media at YouGov, explains the data.

P&O Ferries’ sacking of 800 seafarers made an immediate impact on public perceptions of the brand. Our latest data shows that, in the 12 days since the mass redundancies were announced, general opinion of the company dramatically fell across several metrics.

According to YouGov BrandIndex, Buzz scores for P&O Ferries (a net measure of whether consumers have heard anything positive or negative about a brand) were at 1.2 on March 17 (the day the mass redundancies were announced). They have since fallen to -61.4 as of March 29.

P&O Ferries

P&O Ferries / P&O Ferries website

YouGov P&O Ferries perception data

Developments in the story such as chief exec Peter Hebblethwaite’s admission to MPs that he broke the law over the sackings – and the prime minister’s open calls for his resignation – have likely contributed to these worsening scores. Data from YouGov Direct shows that nearly nine in 10 members of the public (87%) agree that Hebblethwaite should step down.

At 18.6, P&O Ferries’ Impression scores (a measure of overall positive and negative sentiment) were solidly positive on March 17, but as of March 29 they had fallen by 81.2 points to -62.6.

The brand has recently come under fire for offering ’poverty pay’ to replacement seafarers, with transport secretary Grant Shapps threatening to ban the company from operating on UK routes unless workers are paid the national minimum wage.

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To put the impact of this story into wider perspective, as of March 29, P&O Ferries’ Index score of -37.8 was worse than that of any other UK brand in our database. It’s the same story with Buzz scores (-61.4), Impression scores (-62.6) and Recommend scores (-47.2).

In terms of Quality, the brand was the second-worst performing in our database – with a score of -33.3, it was behind only Ryanair (-42.4).

Finally, in another example of how wide-reaching the redundancy scandal’s effects have been so far, P&O Cruises’ repeated efforts to clarify that it is not P&O Ferries have been for naught.

The company may have had nothing to do with the redundancy scandal (it is a wholly different company), but it is still suffering for it in the eyes of the public: the latest data shows that Index scores sunk from -0.1 to -15.0 between the March 20 and 27.

P&O Cruises has taken out ads as an attempt to correct the unfortunate misunderstanding, but only time will tell if they have had the desired effect.

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