“Belgian workers are too picky and spoiled”. That’s just one of the many lines Brandhome heard during a 2007 research. Brandhome hit the streets to find out if Flemish people’s buying behaviour is influenced by business closures and reorganisations. And more importantly, what do our politicians have to do with all of this? The results are clear: the consumer doesn’t really care about big company reorganisations, as long as the product retains its price/quality balance.

Let’s look at a few numbers…

How much were Belgians aware of the company closures that year? Here’s a top 5 of brands that were mentioned the most.

Company Total Men Women
VW Vorst 6,0% 71,8% 57,9%
Sabena 31,0% 32,8% 28,6%
Renault 31,0% 3,3% 27,8%
Ford Genk 19,7% 19,5% 9,8%
Hoegaarden 1,0% 1,1% 0,8%

Do company reorganisations/closures make Flemish people reluctant to buy?What’s remarkable is that a famous beer brand like Hoegaarden ended up at the bottom of the list with very low consumer recognition. This makes it clear that a big media turmoil keeps a brand in the back of people’s heads, sometimes even in a negative way.

Answer Total Men Women
Yes 23,0% 24,1% 30,2%
No 77,0% 75,9% 9,0%

The remarkable result is that 4 out of 5 Flemish people don’t pay attention to big company closures, reformations or the mass redundancies that follow suit! Their buying behaviour is only marginally influenced by the management and strategy behind the brand.

BLA asked the following questions:

Why do you still buy items from these companies?

“The product matters to me, not the company behind it. Only the product counts. The price/quality balance is more important than the brand image or the manufacturing company. The product doesn’t change, in the end.”

“Reorganisations are normal, it’s a logical evolution.”

“The local branch normally isn’t to blame, the main issue is usually with top management. Decisions are made at a high level, regular Flemish people can’t really do much about it.”

Why wouldn’t you buy their products anymore?

“When the company is doing bad, the product will suffer as well. The quality will go down, as will the service… The image will spiral into a negative environment.”

“Whether I buy anything or not, the employee is often left out in the cold.”

“I don’t buy their products anymore. Belgian workers are too spoiled and have no reason to complain.”

Are politics to blame?

Question answers Total Men Women
Guilty yes 69,0% 68,0% 71,0%
no 31,0% 32,0% 29,0%

if yes, which party?
VLD 12,3% 1,0% 14,3%
VB 3,0% 4,6% 0,8%
CD&V 0,0% 0,0% 0,0%
Sp.a 0,7% 1,1% 0,0%
No party 50,7% 47,7% 54,8%

Two in three Belgians think our politicians are to blame for big company reorganisations and closures. VLD (the liberal party) appears to be the biggest scapegoat, because of their positive attitude towards privatisation.

What should you take away from this research?

From the very outset, the research proved consumers to be mostly preoccupied with the product and not the company. Company management behind a brand or product is too far removed from the consumers’ world. But when a product gets recalled because of manufacturing errors, the consumers feel much more involved. This also has a bigger impact on a brand’s image.

Who else is to blame for the problematic situations in Belgian companies? More than half put the blame on our politicians, more specifically the liberal party (VLD). The extreme right party (Vlaams Belang) receives a share of the blame as well. The Christian Democrats (CD&V) and VLD are deeply rooted in company culture: they are also held responsible for outlining the strategy of these big companies. And that’s where the problem lies for many Flemish people

A great number of people puts the blame on the low-wage countries and even the spoilt behaviour of Belgian employees.

It turns out Flemish people aren’t losing any sleep over company closures, as long as the price or quality of the product doesn’t change. Corporate reorganisations have little or no influence on their purchase behaviour.

The respondents did have some choice words for us:

“There’s too much red and too little blue. And the blues are too red on top of that!”

“I ride the bicycle and I don’t drink beer.”

“All we can do is boycot them.”