Virgin East Coast's brand perception takes a hit following 'traingate'

The bizarre story of Jeremy Corbyn’s attempt to find a seat on a Virgin East Coast service to Newcastle has dominated the news agenda over the past week.

Corbyn initially released a video in which he claimed he was forced to sit in the corridor due to overcrowding, while Virgin released CCTV images which they said showed Corbyn sitting down in his seat.

Although Virgin East Coast’s response to the leader of the opposition was lauded in some quarters as PR savvy, YouGov’s brand tracking data does suggest a different story.

YouGov’s Buzz score measures whether a respondent has heard something positive about a brand in the last two weeks. On this front, Virgin’s East Coast’s score among all respondents has declined quite markedly since the Virgin’s response occurred (23rdAugust) – from -2 to -10 at the time of writing.

Its Buzz score had only just begun to recover from the much publicised (but eventually cancelled) strike action that was due to be taken by some staff.

It appears the story has impacted on other areas of brand perception. Its Impression score (whether a respondent has a positive impression of a brand) has decline by 10 points over the past month, and now shows a negative score for the first time since YouGov began to track the brand (-1).

YouGov’s Value metric also assesses whether respondent believe a company provides value for money. It is a similar story here for Virgin, its score has decreased by 4 points in the past week, and now sits at -10.

So while Mr Corbyn faced opprobrium in certain parts of the press and from opponents our data does suggest that he has succeeded in putting the issue of rail travel – an specifically its price and quality – back into the wider public debate.

The good news for the operator is that its Current Customer score is as high as it has been since Easter, indicating the line is still a popular choice, and suggesting there’s no immediate desire to abandon the company.

Image PA

This article orginally appeared in City A.M.