ICONIC BRANDS AND ENTERPRISES
DECLINE IN CORPORATE MARKETING, ETHICS, KNOWLEDGE & CAPABILITY
DESTRUCTION OF ICONS AND BRANDS
CONTINUING WITH FAILED STRATEGIES
Mosaic Portal Network
How you can use game theory and strategy to impact companies, brands, corporate and political behaviours.
Parasites Consuming Australia?
Australia's Bad Managers
The Future of Discounting and Australian Supermarket Wars
For those who have an interest in consumer markets, corporate behaviour and strategies one of the most interesting corporate stage shows in Australia is the supermarket wars. Predominantly Coles Australia versus Woolworths Australia. When both are taken together they have 80% of the Australian grocery, liquor and petrol markets and are moving into insurance products.
They emulate the traditional branding standards and strategies, loyalty, credit cards, Rewards and in the case of Coles, Fly Buys. The latter, which used to be a joint venture with the National Australia Bank, was acquired by Coles. It sets Coles apart since Fly Buys offers far more than Woolworths Rewards. Co branded credit cards, joining Qantas Frequent Flyers and similar are rather unremarkable. When I look at the value of such in the consumer's hands I believe that they are not as valuable, or as loyal, as they appear at face value. There are some social considerations also. Offering Australian consumers another credit card which many of them cannnot afford. In this regard it might be argued that Coles and Woolworths have joined the club of moral turpitude engineered, and lead by, Australia's banks. Credit card debt in Australia exceeds all other household, and individual, debt combined.
Having said that I wish to comment on Coles, and Woolworths, marketing strategies. I am intrigued by the proposition that they can create their own brands. The Woolworths "Select", in store brand. According to Woolworths it is a cut above the mundane Homebrand. Homebrands were created by the two major retail chains as their contribution to social justice, goods priced for the less well off in the community. They are still present in 2016 but there are intermediate private labels now between these no name products and the known brands. Coles has "Coles Finest" and its packaging is much more striking than Woolworths. I don't think store brands can actually be positioned as iconic or even eye catching. Though the labelling of Coles Finest (limited products in the food ranbge) is a better artwork and more eye catching than Woolworths Select. They are more about increasing the retailers profits, diluting the power of major brands. The two chains demand that suppliers produce a percentage of the retailers own brands or supplier products will somehow miraculously disappear off the shelf or instead be unfortunately located in a very poor place in the shopping aisles.
In Australia Aldi carries approximately 1,580 items in its stores. In comparison Coles and Wollworths carry in excess of 31,000 items. The logic I assume in the latter is offering wide choice but this is perhaps counter productive and misunderstanding opf consumer behaviour.
Many stores advertise that they have the biggest range in the area, in the country. They may be actually creating a dilemma. Bunnings Warehouse is a mega hardware store in Australia. It has a huge range, probably the biggest, yet it has under 20% of the Australian market. Woolworths owners Wesfarmers invested hundreds of millions in hardware stores, eventually giving up the strategy after huge losses year after year. They have kept smaller niche brand hardware stores. Aldi, with its limited range, seems to have about 13% of the Australian market and is growing every year at the expnse of the two major food and grocery retailers.
Maybe bureaucracy, and humanity, play a role in consumer minds. Bureaucracy reigns supreme in the major chains along with ego and an exhibited feeling of arrogance in the fact they have the major share. Thuggery and threats have cost Coles and Wollworths millions, whereas Coles has issued a mea culpa Wollworths is challenging our Competition and Consumer Commission's imposed fine in the courts.
Aldi has no automated checkouts. Every checkout is manned by a person and they are fast service. Coles and Woolworths have many automated checkouts that consumers are not embracing in large numbers.
Too many choices
Understanding Digital Brand by CardoneZone
News, articles, features and directory
Are consumers inured to corporation's lying?
Can major brands, who are caught out, just run a public relations campaign? It would appear that VW and Mitsubishi, who have been caught manipulating their products and lying about
the features are examples of this question being answered. I think consumers are looking at other triggers that influence their buying.
In the case of VW they may not care about the true level of emissions however in the case of Mitsubishi they may care about the fuel consumption. There is also the proposition they will buy one of these company's products over others in the company's suite of offerings.
In Australia consumers do not appear to care that major retailers, and product manufacturers, are caught manipulating, lying and ripping the consumers off. The companies are fined millions of dollars. Yet the decision to buy, in the aisle is one of perception of price, and value. These will over ride any ethical issues regarding corporate behaviour.
The world's most valuable brands
When consumers shop for groceries, such as soup, they determine how much to buy based on how many they normally buy. For example, a customer might normally buy 2 or 3 cans of soup without giving it any thought. In effect, they "anchor" on the number 2 or 3 when they decide how many to buy. If you could increase that anchor number through marketing, purchase amounts would rise as well. But, how do you go about increasing that anchoring number? What is anchor pricing? This is but one theory, and practice, in operation in the world of consumer psychology.
Consumer Factor: Excellent French site
The Future click here: Where is it all going?
Australia's biggest retailer Woolworths has invested much capital, intelllectual property Board and Management reputation in a concept known as "The Fresh Food People". This I view largely as spin, created by the marketing division. Marketing people seem to live in a world of detached oblivion. Their belief lies in a political type of reinforcement. Say it often and it will become a self fulfilling truth. It belies the logic, and pure logistics, of supply to their myriad of stores, nation wide. Woolworths appears to be seeking to control the chain from the paddock to the plate. "Fresh" takes on a nebulous definition. Keeping the fresh food image up also requires in store tricks of display, and presentation, including coloured muted lighting, spraying with water, careful poackaging and refrigeration. Because logistic costs eat into their margins management is demanding that the supplier delivers it in crates ready for display. Suppliers are made, more and ore, to bear what was in days gone by the retailers responsibility and costs. Woolworths management may be testing the boundaries of what suppliers are willing to bear. It issuhc behaviour that attracts the attention of regulators, most notably the Australian Consumer and Competition Commission.
Given the skepticism that "fresh" invokes I would have thought that Woolworths may have abandoned this pretence however it seems that ego may play a big role in how Woolworths operates its business. Their foray into Hardware and Home Building stores via their Masters, against the market leader Bunnings, may be an example of my proposition. Woolworths persists with Masters despite losing hundreds of millions of dollars. Woolworths persists with "Fresh" despite the questionability, perhaps even stupidity, of the claim.
Coles Australia, under the stewardship of imported retailing management from the United Kingdom, has adopted a somewhat simple strategy of price. They used an iconic Australian rock band and a song " Down Down Deeper and Down" which obviously must have an end point. So after a time they have modified their marketing to staying down and have moved away from blatant pricing. Every day in Coles we see deep discounts of major brand products up to 50% in some cases. Today (April 29Th, 2015, Colgate is 50% off retail. This leads me to ponder what is the real price, and value, of product which move so dramatically in pricing? I am now inured to the 20% off. Is it just trying to garner market shar? Do we see leading brands Porsche, BMW, Mercedes, Audi or clothing suppliers Armani, Hugo Boss and so on, trashing their price point and consumer pyschological positioning in the same manner?
The rise of perfume selling discounters may pose the same questions?
Added to the complexity of the Australian supermarket wars is the propensity for Coles and Woolworths to continually breach Australian Competition laws, through misleading consumers, unconscienable conduct against suppliers and questions around market manipulation on a wider scale eg in fuel. It is notable that both Coles, and Woolworths, are arguing strenuously and lobbying federal politicians to stop the change to Australia's Competition laws that would invoke testing their policies, and practices, against an effects assessment. That is did they try and damage small competitors? The fines they pay for breaches of Competition and Consumer laws are in the millions. Yet the Board, and Managers, of each company seem to go without any ethical worry. See there is no penalty on them personally. Although the CEO of the parent entity of Coles did express a mea culpa on their behaviour behaviour which Australia's federal court desribed as reprehensible and deliberate. The CEO also commented that the attitudes, and activities, of his managers were unfair. He even questioned their moral integrity and ethics.
Despite all of the efforts, and spend, by both Woolworths and Coles, on being perceived as "cheaper" by consumers they struggle against the market leader in perception as being cheap, Aldi. This chain does not try and be tricky, nor do they have a marketing department that seems to be questionable on talent. They are simply cheap. Their range is limited and one has to pack one's own groceries, and consumer items, but they carry the basics and they run campaigns very effectively. Consumers queue outside the door of my local Aldi from early on Saturday morning when they are running these campaigns, eg a HD large screen television for around $300.
Out of all of this observation I am of the firm view that both Coles and Woolworth's domination of multiple market sectors is not in the publlic interest. If they were forced to divest one or two of the sectors, competition would expand to fill the gap. Frightened legislators, and others in Australia's parliaments, who may have close links to big business, are probably hoping that the entrance of new players into the crowded Australian market might bring about such reshaping and restructuring for them. We shall see.
Australian Labor Party Brand Trashed 1 (Across Australia)
HOMEBRAND OR REAL BRAND
Is there a difference?
Follow the debates below, choose your topic and click on it
Are Australia's major retailers, Coles and Woolworths, Target and K Mart, et al, destroying brands, destroying suppliers in the milk, grocery and other industries? Do they exercise too much power in the Australian market.
Do they negotiate, and persuade, or threaten and scare? Would a supplier push back at them and risk their business? Should the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission force them to divest? What role do politicians, local government and vested interests play in where suermarkets are approved and built? Do major corporations, and industry associations, exercisse undue influence and decision making over Australia's politicians and political parties
Crunching Australian suppliers
Should Coles and Woolworths Divest?
ACCC - what is their role?
Too Much Power
The World Media Group Brands
These examples are it
Carlton Draught Biggest Ad
Transport Accident Commission
Carlton Draught Flashbeer
Jeffrey Cole on the Internet Effect
Anuncio Hugo Boss
XX Hugo Boss
Dolce and Gabbana
The trashing Australia's icons
Research brand destruction
Product placement and the destruction of brands in movies
Social media and brands Bill Hartzer
The value adders, the mediocre and the vandals.
Many believe the answer is yes
Monitoring market power over consumers and their choices, the psychology used news, events and articles. Commentary and stories.
Intellectual property, value, local and multinational market manipulation.
The politics, benefits and destructive effects, of markets, competition, ideology and ego.
Is it changing times and competitive forces or is it incompetence that has made the landscape different?
The stars and the b-graders, the gurus and the charlatans.
The crelation, building, and the trashing, of brands. The impact on the livelihood of people, communities, consumers, associated sectors, the decisions, the hidden wars, the winners, losers and the casualties.
Joseph Turow summarizes how marketers are using new technologies to make it "harder than ever for audiences to escape, and resist, their advances." One practice, "seeding," blends "publicity, product placement, and public relations." Seeding can involve hiring actors for "clandestine campaigns that 'may consist of seeding chat rooms, blogs and forums with paid-for messages,'" as one marketer explained. A Weber Shandwick executive described the goal as to "enlist, equip and harness the power of trusted, informed and credible messengers." Another tool, "behavioral targeting," allows marketers to customize online ads, depending on Web pages visited and searches performed.
Soon, "registration data, your movements on their site, and even information about you that they've purchased from a third party" will also be available to marketers. Offline examples of behavioral targeting include customizable cable TV commercials and convenience store coupons.
SOURCE: Boston Globe, August 27, 2006
For more information or to comment on this article, visit PR Watch: Go to PR Watch
Step 1 - at Coles Myer Australia
Step 2 - at Coles Myer
Step 3 - at Coles Myer
Step 4 - at Coles Myer
Step 5 - at Coles Myer
Step 6 - at Coles Myer
Step 7 - at Coles Myer
The Board of Coles Myer and they may have collectively destroyed the creation, and legacy, of a great Australian, G.J. Coles.
Big business, big bucks and changing dynamics. Do you see or know all the players?
Opinions, experiences, policies, companies, events,
articles and news within Australia and internationally
Observing the destruction of iconic brands under the management of highly paid board members and management executives
Trashing Brand Australia
In oh so many ways
OLD CASE STUDIES IN BRAND TRASHING
2007: Brand trashing the McGuire way, at Channel Nine, struggling to be "Still the one". "Still the one", is the long time slogan of Australia's Channel Nine, television network. This enterprise was the jewel in the crown of Kerry Packer's corporate media empire. Mr. K. Packer was, for decades, Australia's richest entrepreneur. He carried on the Packer family dynasty. The Nine network sat within the Publishing and Broadcasting Limited (PBL) corporate stable. Mr. Packer unfortunately passed away, and the company resided for a while within the hands of his son James Packer. Today the channel is owned by hedge fund fringe dwellers. There is no passion in their heart for media. One difference between son and father is that Kerry Packer had a great affection for television. It seemed to be in his blood. By comparison his son seems to have a greater affection for gambling enterprises. His father was a world known gambler in casinos. From the outside it appears to me that James prefers to own casinos to television networks.
Whereas Kerry exhibited a honed business sense in investments and management, by comparison his son appears to lack some of those talents. James Packer has lost hundreds of millions of dollars on investment punts in Australian telecommunications company, One Tel. He did this with Lachlan Murdoch. In 2006 he appeared to have made another dud decision in appointing game show host, and football club president, Eddy McGuire, as Chief Executive of Channel Nine. Mr. McGuire demonstrated, to my mind, why Australian managers are so poorly regarded for their people management skills. Human resources is not a forte of the gung ho take no prisoners style of the evarge corporate executive. McGuire cited in the media for wanting to "bone" Jessica Rowe, an employee of Channel Nine. "Bone" apparently means "sack". McGuire also reinforced the corporate tradition of misleading, though some would call it lying, when publicly he was asked if he wanted to get rid of another prominent Channel Nine presenter and journalist, Ms. Jana Wendt. Mr. McGuire denied any such suggestion expressing a high regard for her. Two weeks later she left.
I am of the personal view that there is a low ethical compass on display in the management of many Australian corporations. Under Mr. McGuire's hand Channel Nine is fast becoming the lower calibre network.
Kerry Packer worked assiduously to build the reputation and brand of Channel Nine. It is sad indeed to see decades of the effort of people, who pioneered Australian television, being destroyed by the blokey, and immature, "mates" who now run Mr. Kerry Packer's jewel.
Many people are defined by their work. It gives them status and in the case of the corporate, and political worlds, access to the tables of the rich and the world of powerful decision makers. For many in this heady atmosphere they are all too often found to be just a creation of their employment, facades without any real substance.
BRAND TRASHING IN THE ENERGY SECTOR
2011: Origin Energy, an Australian utility company apparently lacks the smarts to manage its public image. Customers who accidentally overpay their accounts (putting too many digits in the on line payment box) using credit cards are denied refunds. The company likes to put its polcies and procedures before customer service, before moral behaviour and common sense. Consumers have to resort to either the industry Ombudsman or the media for action and refund. Such capacity for stupidity is, we might think, a product of the board members' and senior executives' failure to anticpate the consequences and the dangers of having a policy that is rodiculous and bordering on justified theft of money to whioch they are not entitled. This policy preys on peoples' mistakes. Alternatively it might be a lack of ethical values on the part of the corporate management? The customer can choose another supplier and perhaps these events are lessons that should be learnt by the existing consumers and of concern to prospective customers. As alternative to Origin Energy consumes might consider Tru Energy. The competition system for energy utilities(managed by the National Electricity Market Company and a group of government regulators and the Australian Competitin and Consumer Commission, was previously state owned) is a clayton's system. It could only be created by people who are not cognisant of energy production and the real nature of markets. In Tasmania they literally traded their oil power station, to a privateer, for a $1 in return for gas which isn't there yet. In Victoria it was sold for e record and unrealistic sum to international comapnies. It is rented out in South Australia, and is brojen up into quasi competitive state owned entities in NSW, Queensland and Western Australia. In the Australian Capital Territory it is part state and part private and in the Northern Territory it simply is irrelevant.
This dog's breakfast, masquerading as a national energy market, is not national. It is not truly constestible for the ordinary purchaser and for many small businesses. It serves large, particularly national and multi-national, business interests but rarely, if ever, serves the residential consumer at the best of times. Politicians told people electricity and gas would be cheaper under these models and privatisation exeercises. The products, and services, are complicated and more expensive. There are an abundance of retailers but only a few transmitters and generators.
This type of stupidity , and ignorant, behaviour exhibited by Origin Energy did not exist prior to 1990 when utilities were totally under the state owned enterprise system. Corrosion surfaced when the utilities were broken up and privatised by ideological governments and vested interests. Local communities lost more than a major public utility in Victoria. They lost a good corporate citizen. It was replaced by a faceless and heartles set of enterprisesz where executives drooled to receive their exorbitant salaries for doing a lesser job then their preceessors. The Latrobe Valley power generators and miners are a prominenet example of both brand and community ignorance. How many apprentices do they train by comparison to the former State Electricity Commission? How about 15 - 30 in any year versus the hundreds of the past.
International investors wanted to buy Australia's Coles Myer. Why can't someone buy Woolworths and put me out of my misery. It is Australia's leading store for non service and limited staff. It does not matter whether one is in Canberra, Melbourne, Sydney, Perth or in the regional areas. Local Woowlorths' managers seem unable to roster on satff and to provide "customer advisers" who wander the store. Instead they lurk behind service counters studiously doing anything other than service and advice.
It is a big chain. It is one of Australia's largest buyers of merchandise and food. It has many brands. Safeway is the Victorian supermarket. On Saturday August 2, 2006 there was no mineral water in Australia. The Flemington Safeway store had six 2 litre bottles. That was it. Obviosuly one litre brabds of any type are rare as hen's teeth. It also has Dick Smith. There is a problem at Dick Smith Highpoint in Melbourne Victoria. There are two stores, a sound and other items larger store oustide and an electronics store inside the mall. I think from a number of observations that neither have customer service. This is trait of Woolworths, and its many brand chains, which impressively they can emulate across the nation.
On Friday September 1, 2006, I thought I might buy a large gigabyte external storage drive for the computer. Wishful thinking in Woolworth's Dick Smith Highpoint Victoria Australia. There was one only type(empty box, people must steal eveything) on the shelf. It was somewhat dearer than items listed in one those PC advisory magazines. Much dearer. I walked around the shoe box store looking for ten minutes and thought that I appeared to be a buyer. Apparently I do not act like a purcahser and therefore must seek guidance from someone who knows what triggers a response in Dick Smith or in Woolworths generally. No one approached me. They do not approach in Dick Smith or in any Woolworths' store anywhere.
In Australia, more and more, one is required to approach or tackle someone. Perhaps shouting or singing the national retail anthem: "there's no other store like David Jones", might attract attention. They would probably ask me to leave. I hear on the radio that this is the policy of Qantas' subsidiary, Jetstar, if you act out of the ordinary.
Australian company managers, and their employees, love to exercise control through systems and procedures. For many people, work is their only defining character and most prominent thing in their life. It is their status, power and too often, their personality. Have you experienced a company manager's personality? Probably not, because in every major Australian company, without exception, they never come out ot meet the ordinary customer. They are very busy on "brand" enhancement, systems, policies, management issues of extraordinary import and other "secret" corporate stuff. They may be characters out of "Wind in the Willows" or "Middle Earth" for all I know.
Beware of second hand goods masquerading as new
" From: "senior employer" (Dick Smith company)
Cc: (name deleted by Kevin R Beck to ensure email and identity privacy of the executive)
Sent: Monday, August 21, 2006 12:41 PM
Subject: Woolworths Web Site Feedback
Dear Mr. Beck
All correspondence, both good and bad, comes through the General Manager's Office before being forwarded to the Area Manager responsible for the Store where the problem originated. It is the Area Manager's job to resolve the customer's complaint and/or take action at Store level.
We are very concerned that this has happened to you as any items that have previously been repaired are not to be put back on the shelf for sale unless they are appropriately labeled as such and priced accordingly. They should not be sold as new items, the customer should also be made aware of the situation and only proceed with the purchase of such items knowing the full facts.
I have copied the Area Manager in on this email and you can rest assured that the matter will be taken up with the store manager. If you would like to discuss the matter with the Area Manager personally, please provide a daytime phone number.
Your feedback is very important to us, as it enables us to correct poor customer service which should not have happened in the first place.
(identity of has been deleted)
PA to the General Manager
Dick Smith Electronics
There is no doubt that a major enterprise such as this one has the policy as stated above and it is the store personnel that have disregarded, or overlooked, the directive. It is important that consumers express their views to the company and know their legal rights and the rules of representation under the Trade Practices Act and state fair trading laws. I first tried to purchase the unit at another retailer JB Hi Fi at Highpoint. The demonstration model on the shelf did not work. Why it was left there is a mystery. The woman sales staff member told me to play with what ever unit I wanted and walked off. When I pointed out it was broke and was told that they had no others I was told to come back a week later and they would have stock. I returned and found that the stock was not available as promised and then proceeded next door to Dick Smith.
I do not believe that these are isolated occurrences. They are a product of management attention, disciplibne and people skills. Attitude and professionalism starts at the top, by example, and permeates down. They are endemic in Australian retail in the large chains. The level of staff to customer ratio is falling in all major stores across Australia, with a perceived commensurate decline in training, preparation and professionalism. In the case of some enterprises such as JB Hi Fi there is an air of trendy laissez faire attitudes to retail and interaction with customers - a we are "cool and whatever". The epitomy of such changes are the Virgin airline atmosphere of "fun and frolic" over substance. It is as if the profession of retail and service is not valued in Australia except at the small business - independent end of the market. It is as difficult to be served in Myer and often in David Jones, both of whom are national retailers in Australia. David Jones has a quality, and professional air, in its stores. Although it is beginning to look like a mass market junk shop where ietms dfor sale are jumbled in some sort of order. The problem with this is that there are Australian consumers particularly males, over fifty years of age, who do not like this. There are exceptions in retail, Henry Bucks and American Tailors in Melbourne, and smaller specialists and when encountered they are a rare pleasure. In Myer store at Highpoint Melbourne there is a woman who works in the mens waer section. It is as if it her little store. She epitomises the rare sales professional who has had a career in retail. For her it is all about the customer. These people are long gone. In David Jones, Chadstone, a young trendy sales man, referred to a female paser by asa dog. A representative of Saba said quite loudly, in her flirting banter that he was talking "bullshit". A woman representative with a Table Eight name badge studiously ignored a line of customers in front of her, till they departed. She was doing something very important with the cash register and EFTPOS termial which she did not see fit to explain. Stupidity, chirlishness and ignorance is not the province of the younger generation in retail in Australia although they seem to be trying for the Olympic medal. Beyond the service is the offensive "brand China". Brand China are the name companies, of fashion and goods, who have their clothes and goods manufactured in this insulting and degrading nation. China overvalues its currency, underprices its labour treating its people as commodities in order to detsroy other countries' markets, steals intellectual property and much more. Yet the major brands, and retailers, have their goods made their and they stock their products. The charlatan (perhaps they are pretenders) brands, and companies, are the ones that go in search of cheap inputs but want to charge top dollar. The race to the bottom is the main game in Australia and probably in the USa and elsewhere in the world. True brands and quality suppliers charge and sell their goods accordingly. With that premium generally comes service and professionalism. Ethics and morality are not the primary objectives of our major stores and goods providers in Australia.
Borders, the American mega book and CD store, is a far superior store to my taste than JB Hi Fi and to the book chains such as Collins and Angus and Robertson. Yet Borders has a limited life in Australia. How long will it last? In Borders one can sit and read, listen to thousands of CDs via their stored access system. Though not all stores have this service installed. At JB Hi Fi you have a wide range of CD's, at good prices. There is a down side, you cannot listen to their catalogue before purchasing, it is buyer beware, they have one thing going for them, price. Want cheap prices then perhaps you cannot expect dedication and service. (Kevin R Beck, shopping in Australia, August 2006).
Trashing the Telstra brand and the value
Australia's largest, publicly owned telecommunications company, Telstra, is a public and opne example of the poor quality of management in Australian enterprise. The Chief Executive, Sol Trujillo, imported by the Board from the United States of America, has brought with him the trade mark arrogance and lack of cultural awareness of the US executive. He has managed to alienate the Australian government which is the majority shareholder and insteda of adding value to the enterprise has presided over its lowest value in its history. He has brought with him a group of loud, and similarly insensitive, over priced executives. The practice is to surround oneself with the appropriate executive types. The corporate governance, and other processes, such as how tenders are won and contracts are awarded is under the spotlight and the methodologies have been questioned. They look, on the face of it, to be contracts for mates and past business associates. Publicly Telstra looks less than inspiring. At the annual general meeting (August 2006) Mr. Trujillo, stated "we were taking tough medicine ...". I ponder who is taking that medicine? Certrainly not Mr Trujillo on his multi million dollar salary, certainly not his US compatriots known as the "amigos", who enjoy salaries without delivery and performance achievements. The top eight get in this public enterprise earn $AUD27,000,000,000. The people taking the medicine are the employees made redundant in a typical example of how executives of this calibre on the face of it seem to exhibit a common penchant for wasting human resources and undervaluing talent.
Also taking the medicine are the shareholders who have lost a large percentage of their investment value. Then comes the government and the Minister, Helen Coonan, to whom Trujillo and his buffoons are dishing out insults and humiliation. The CEO says that Telstra is about looking after shraholders. He and the executives have a "spin" on the usual methods. Trashng the value of the stock, willowing the talent through redundancies, and engaging in brinkmanship with the regulator and the federal government seems to be at odds with the more traditional methods. Telstra is majority owned by the Australian government and is a public utility. Telstra's cavalier attitude to public policy and regulation and insulting behaviour towards the Australian parliament is an immature display by people, board and executive, who are besotted with their own self esteem, image and self beliefs as to their value and abilities. As a result Australia's public policy and processes are suffering damage. The Minister should direct the board to resign but first send Mr Trujillo, and the amigos, packing. The price of paying them out is good value when compared to putting up with him and them being resident here in charge of this valuable enterprise. (Kevin R Beck)
Cardinal Pell is head of the Catholic Church in Australia. He needs to attend a brand and marketing awareness course. He is managing to diminish the church's brand by appearing weak and vacillating on paedophilia within the church. The church is hardly rocked by a scandal that is global. The church appears to initially try and cover up by moving the offenders. A prominent Melbourne radio talk back host alleged that Cardinal Pell gave support to a priest found guilty of multiple counts of sexual assault. This support was public during the priest's charge and subsequent trial. There is a cancer in the church and the Cardinal and the bishops of Rome are not addressing the decay. Moreso their actions and responses, on show through Cardinal Pell, appear biased towards their own errant and naughty priests. Remember that once they have confessed they have expunged their sins and have to say a few prayers. The church is founded on words, and rituals, without much substance and must be protected at all costs. What is the more powerful - the church or the state (legal system)? One might question why people would belong to the catholic church. It is riddled with contradictions and the most heinous sins. At school the nuns traught that sin destroyed the soul, much like smoking does the body. Perhaps the church should carry some of the warning pictures we see on cigarette packs in Australia.
The former visionaries of Australian commerce, and governments, have created many iconic brands, some of which have attained an international reputation. Many are no longer with us, the State Electricity Commission of Victoria being an example. Qantas is another. Other Australian airline brands, were Australian Airlines and Ansett, and both simply vanished. Australian Airlines was merged into Qantas and the management decided to ditch thae Australian brand in favour of Qantas. The brand was revived in 2004-2005 and abandoned in 2006. This is demonstrative of the patch work approach to enterprise development in Australia. The work of talented employees is rendered meaningleses, and ultimately, worthless by less competent people in positions of decision making. Ansett went broke after its board, and management, trashed decades of work, the dreams and talent of the people who built it. Jet Star, a subsidiary of Qantas, is trashing the reputation and quality of both Qantas and the regions it serves with its cheap flights. It was once that Qantas flew to exotice destinations in Queensland and regional Australia. Instead the low grade Jet Star, with its basic no frills service, flies there. It has a no frills management as well. The well heeled are not interested in flying with an airline such as Jet Star. Noosa in Queensland is among the many regional locations that have felt this economic impact. What was once a thriving up market holiday, and business, location is now being economically vandalised by a corporate decision and the myopia of highly paid short sighted people. The low frills Jet Star management cancelled a flight leaving a group of children and their chaperones to their own devices in an airport. The hapless children were looked after by federal police who went and bought them food. Then Jet Star tried to implement a public relations management strategy. Only fools now engage in such tactics as sophisticated on line public ridicules them in the background of the Internet. Instead of Jet Star having to manage local media they are now confronted with a world wide media. They dismiss its potential. In the case of careless disregard for the children's welfare they looked exactly what they are - cheap. Their defence was ultimately that the children's parents had bought cheap tickets that allowed the airline to cancel without redress. Qantas itself is going down market. It is no longer a value product just a means to an end. Other airlines offer better value, service and quality into the international market. If it were not for the protection of the Australian government international airlines would enter Australia and take its market at both ends. Unless the board of Qantas considers the negative effect of Jet Star, its poor management and market positioning and the consequences of its decisions, it will progressively damage the brand and reputation of the Spirit of Australia. Once Qantas was simply known for safety and quality. Now what is it known for? Declaration of interest: Despite the above commentary and views, the owner of this web site Kevin R Beck is a member of the Qantas Frequent Flyer programme, the Qantas Club (with the compliments of Qantas) flies extensively, only with Qantas in Australia and internationally, or with Qantas' One World partner airlines. Before its demise he flew Australian Airlines. He will not fly with Jet Star and dislikes Qantas Link but not as intensely, which services the outer regions of Australia. These can however be tolerated given the volume of business needed to sustain a service. It takes a long time to obliterate loyalty.
Virgin Blue has moved into Ansett's space. It is a low grade, cheap operator, whose management seem unable to comprehend many things. Among them the law of discrimination in employment. Virgin has been found by a legal tribunal to have discriminated against people, based on age and plain appearance. One could have a perception that skills and experience have little to do with the value ethos of this company's senior people. The Board likes the all dancing, all singing, air headed approach to partying on the plane as it wings its way to where ever it is one is going. Now, having discovered that this does not generate hard cash, in big volumes, Virgin is moving up-market, introducing private airport lounges, that one can but a ticket to. At five bucks to get in, its a good deal. Anyone can afford that. There are also business class offerings in the wings. Its all too late I think for Virgin. They would have to buy the status credits held by the existing Qantas members to get a real competition going with Qantas.
However back to Qantas. This brand it seems is for all intents, and purposes, going down market in a not so subtle way. The value for money in full economy, business and first class seats, is not there whilst the prices are not cheap. The fancy packaging of the Qantas in flight food, and the spin descriptions about what is inside, is no substitute for imagination, quality and value. Free booze is not the panache to the overall product positioning. Internationally it is a better value buy to fly Emirates, British Airways and Cathay pacific. Qantas manages, I think, to hold its customer base through points and status credits. It appears that there are now less people in the airport general lounges than in the Qantas club. The food outside in the cafes and bars is better too.
I have to declare an interest here. I have received free membership of the Qantas club, for almost a decade, based on the fact that I always flown Qantas, domestically and where possible internationally. That is except on two occasions. A client bought me an Ansett ticket and a Virgin ticket. The last time a client bought me a Virgin ticket I asked them to change it. They declined so I did not turn up. There is a principle here,ad ths example demonstrates a point. People wanting to fly Qantas is one of the great problems that corporate managers, and governments, grapple with. Australia's governments want to get the best deal for their money and also want to promote competition. They say that public servants, must fly, the other airlines, that are here in one destination or another, and then disappear. Canberra is an example of a destination where airlines come and go, even Virgin and Darwin is another. Even Qantas itself comes and goes, as the examples below indicate. The new start up competitors whine that the public servants are still flying Qantas. Of course they are. Who wants to fly dodgy air because some fool with a few million decides to create a new airline? Qantas has more flights, a lounge club, a history of membership and, for all intents, a loyal, captive market. Yet talk to executives who fly Qantas regularly and the loyalty is getting a bit jaded. They will tell you that Qantas does not offer value and that they are being neglected. This is not true in all respects. The value is patchy and not consistent. Size is not a justification because McDonald's is consistent worldwide. The second reason that it is not totally true is that the attitude is probably variable according to their last trip or a series of experiences. Perception differs to reality. Everyone has an ego, particularly executives and most want to feel special, to be seated in the first twenty rows at least and become narky when put in row 55. They want that special unexpected upgrade. Many people in positions of influence in their work place seem unable to comprehend that outside they are just "joe blow" without power, who may come across as pompous.
In the modern day pursuit of profit, at the cheapest cost, the Qantas board, like many major corporations in retail, have created a number of alternatives. They revived the iconic Australian Airlines brand, that I cut my teeth on. They then abandoned that brand again. It is a pity that modern day gurus do not value history and memories. They have the cheap, and I think somewhat nasty, Jetstar. A down market, "be there and be ready thirty minutes before, or lose your ticket" airline service. These signs I find offensive and so I will not fly Jetstar. So it looks like one might not go to Noosa, or Port Douglas or Cairns or the Barrier Reef anymore. Did the Qantas realise, or care, that when they moved the main brand, and merged everything in a number of cases, into the Jetstar (discount) brand that they would be ruining other commercial enterprises and even whole communities? Qantas management decided to replace the Qantas flights to a lot of destinations across Australia with Jetstar and Qantaslink. This has a roll on effect. In Noosa, the decision by Qantas management is trashing the Noose brand. Once up-market, high discretionary spending tourists, went to Noosa and the palatial resorts of Hamilton Island and other locations. They shopped in expensive restaurants and stores and stayed in expensive hotels. Now the travellers, who can but cheap flights, but have no discretionary spending dollars are arriving in droves.
Australia's airports have been privatised. The major ones are in the hands of what some might call, racketeers. In Sydney the airport owners charge a 15% airport service tax on a hire car. What service is delivered for this money? Taxis are levied an airport tax which the consumer pays. Parking fees for 30 minutes and beyond are extortionate. The owners of Sydney Airport want to open a 24 hour shopping mall and compete against the retail industry generally. In Canberra the airport is euphemistically, and optimistically, called " international." This is a second ate regional airport where organising a taxi queue is tantamount to trying to enter a football grand final. The consumer lines up and is allocated a taxi. Multiple hiring is common. Canberra is a closed shop to new taxi entrants. There are plans to extend the runway to take larger jets. Why? Canberra is a five day week, government town. It has great institutions but lacks a tourism vision and capability. Its government, planners, decison makers and entrepreneurs have not demonstrated the vision and capacity to make Canberra an international city. It lies in a beautiful regional landscape with little man made ingenuity outside of the institutions. The restaurants and hotels (beyond the Hyatt) are not world class by any means. The gateway to the city are far from being international. The commercial airports of the nation are being used as money printing factories for the owners and the users, airlines, retailers and customers are held to ransom. The Australian government has legitimised a privileged class of economic monsters who engage in a legalised form of what many see as commercial thuggery. Let's move off the airline industry to retail.
There was once a brand called Myer, created by a dynastic family in Melbourne, Victoria. It existed under the names of Myer Western Stores and Grace Bros., also. It rose to preeminence. Then the founders grew old and the empire was passed on to a different generation. A discount retailer known as G.J. Coles, purveyor of all things supermarket, was growing at the same time period. So someone or other decided in the latter part of the millenium to merge the two, creating Coles Myer. This turned out to be a very public, and prolonged, exercise in estruction of a brand. Myer store went haywire, seemingly unable to define itself. It went tumbling down market, under the guidance of executives from the United States of America. A store of tradition became a store of no service, no positioning and no quality. It was losing millions. The Grace Bros. brand disappeared into the abyss. Myer managede to trash itelf and the Australian retail market in a cascading effect. This was a stirling effort, similar to the Qantas decision making progressively trashing Noosa. In 2006 the Myer stores have been hived off from the supermarket business. The board has made a $600,000,000 profit but no one has measured the destruction and made a balance sheet. It is a one off number in isolation. A typical sharemarket evaluation for a limited group of interests.
A measure of the performance of the Board, and executives of a company, is the propensity and opportunity for takeover. Coles Myer has made itself a takeover target. Whilst this may be a fabulous opportunity for the predators and the opportunist share traders, it does not play well for employees and communities. The raider invariably seeks to make a relatively quick buck. This means they are likely to strip Coles Myer and sell its assets leaving a lean core which they will sell. Less jobs means less income, les taxes and often ruined regional communities where organisations like Coles Myer are among, or are the largest, or only, employer. The market analysts will crow and laud the people who rape and pillage enterprises to extract cash. The predator will brag abou how they turn "x" dollars into "more X" dollars. They never create anything of lasting value for society. They transfer wealth from a large sector to a handful of greedy people. The rich get richer and the "unseen" victims of the retail sector, other businesses and customers, must suffer in silence.
The Australian icon, Myer Bourke Street, has been sold to interests from Texas, USA, to be managed through what appears to be some sort of multicapital entity, Newbridge Capital. A cople of high profile executives are coming in from Woolworths, another supermarket chain, which is more a discount empire than a brand.
The staff, of Myer, when you can find one or two, tend to now reflect a trashed morale, a lack of that old spirit of professionalism. The pride of their trade that comes with years of experience, of being valued, respected and ultimately, growing old with the enterprise. On June 3, 2006, my partner found a jacket in a Myer store in Frankston. It was the wrong size. The staff member kindly rang around and found one in Myer Bourke Street store, now sold to the new interests. Off we set some many kilometres away. Arrived to collect it. The jacket, with three unique buttons, had one missing and no spare. The staff member, of some indetenminate youth, sucked her teeth. The jacket had not been checked for quality or damage before we were told to come and get it. She proffered no solution to this unfortunate dilemma. Her superior was asked whether they could find one in another store? Well yes, but they (two) were not allowed to leave the floor to go to the room where the stock computer sits. They would have to go later that day or during a break. This is consistent with the modern enterprise and consistent with what many enterprises have become. The inflexible maze of systems, and rules, created by the "behind the scenes dictators", which come before customer service. The faceless people that one never gets to meet. Later that day the supervisor did ring and a jacket had been found in Queensland. It would be sent for. Then the next issue arose. The jacket in the Myer Bourke street store was $70.00 dearer than in the Frankston Myer store. They would have to check that and get back to my partner.
Doing business with Myer, Qantas and other companies can, on too many occasions, be like navigating a hurdle race. In 2006 the Board, and management, of Qantas and the new owners of Myer might like to to ponder where, and why, the brands are going or have gone? Profits rise, shareholders get results at the expense of people and society. Qabtas has squeezed every dollar and needs more. The Board created Jet Star, a low cost model and now want to turn the major brand Qantas into a cheap labour operation. The airlines no longer pay commissions to the travel agents. Instead they keep that money for themselves without replacing the service levels delivered by this group of professionals. The agents now charge customers a fee for booking. Qantas, et al, want customers to book on line. When we do so Qantas charges a service fee for using a credit card. Thus they have kept the commission previously paid and also added a surcharge for using a credit card. How lucrative. They pass fuel costs on as surcharges.
In many ways it seems that the modern day, highly paid experts, lack someting that those who came before had. Vision, creativity and a social conscience, a desire to contribute to community, to build jobs and to be good corporate citizens. These qualities are scoffede at now, as unrealistic in the world of rapacious competition. Woolworths, another major retailer, will be stalked by the raiders.
The modern day gurus of management and markets, have presided, or are presiding over, the trashing of many brands, like so many other boards and expert managers, and they have not seen fit to beat their breats, with a "mea culpa". Instead they move on, in the closeted and protected realms of their private clubby world, to trash something else. Walking around Myer I hum the catching refrain of another brand, where doing business seems to be smooth and delivered with pride of service. The customer is nearly always right. "There's no other store like David Jones." I cannot hum an alternative song to the Qantas, one because it has the best brand jingle (song), in the world, "I still call Australia home."
Australia has probably the best product labelling legislation in the world. However it is still short of demanding truth on the fron of the packet, can or packaging. A brand name juice says on the front of its bottle, "cranberry" or "raspberry", and when one looks at the ingredients on the back, its has 2% or less of the described fruit. Others claim a 85% fruit juice content and this is not true.
A tin of tomatoes states a weight of 400 grams. On the ingredients we see that the content of actual tomatoes is around 50% and the rest is water. A pasta product states it is 350 gramms and another is 500 grams. It weighs in light by ten to fifteen grams. Every tin of vegetables has only a medium content. All around us in the supermarkets manufacturers mislead, misrepresent and perhaps even lie. They get away with it because the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission is under resourced (deliberately) by the Australian government and there is no consumer ministry in the federal government. The Commission monitors, but that is not a proven persuasive tool for it is ignored by oil companies and utilities. Big companies cannot care less until they are prosecuted. Then they bleat like stick pigs. Driving along one can note the commonality of petrol prices. My how quickly they all align when there are price movements at the oil terminal. Apparently the practice of agents ringing to tell the sellers to align the prices is legal. The Commission is galvanised into action on high profile political cases, such as telecommunications where it is continually engaged in bickering wit the Telstra Corporation. The Australian government owns just over 50% of this company and wants to sell it. The company is a political hot spot for the government. Its CEO, Mr. Sol Trujillo, came from the US with a history of pushing the regulator. He is wasting a lot of his effort, and that of Telstra's senior executives on arguing the politics. Pity that he, and they, do not spend more time on the basics.
The Telstra corporation has products, customer service, competitive pricing and delivery low on its agenda of priorities. The executives prefer to play gladiator. Their egos, and pay packets, are large, their performance as a public sector enterprise is low. Telstra's executives, and board, of the nineties have trashed the value of this enterprise which was built by visionary people of the past century. The people who the Australian government appointed in the mid nineties, were far from visionary. The current lot seem no better. What of Treasurer peter Costello's stated premise that the "private sector" does it better? It is ideological, populist, clap trap.
Telstra, and other telecommunication companies, advertise broadband. It is not broadband in the real sense, it is a speed of 64 - 250 kilobytes perhaps nudging a higher rate in metropolitan centres. It is a con advertisement and should be withdrawn. Optus, owned by Singtel, uses the term also for its not so real broadband internet services advertisements. They are as ignorant of customer service as their counterparts. Write to Optus and there is a likelihood that you will receive no answer. Tell their call centres not to ring, ask them to mark the file not to ring, and they quite simply ignore you.
"Capacity: Real Broadband networks are designed to deliver cost-effective, multi-megabit capacity
for uploading and downloading information at equal rates.
Other technologies, such as ADSL or cable, generally do not offer equal upload-download capacity." Source: Axia.com
Yet the Commission allows the misleading "broadband" advertisements to go on. The Commission selects cases and incidences that are high profile, operating on the theory that a published big hit is a deterrent. The government is engaged in a balancing act between the power of industry and the perception of electors. The consumers come off second best. The Australian Consumer Association is also selective in its representation. It does not represent the consumers of Australia but it is often said by people who deal with it that it is partisan. Some public sector employees it too misrepresents and misleads.
Many of Australia's marketers, advertisers, and services and goods sellers, do not seem to be all that bright.
Thick as two planks maybe. They are joined in this regard by the owners, operators of, and performers, on commercial television and radio and the advertising agencies that advise companies on what demographic to target in what media and medium.
There are 21,000,000 people in Australia and about 40% of them are in the fifty to sixty year old bracket. They have a large discretionary spending. Yet hardly any commercial entities, in Australia, focus on them. They are often categorised as "retirees", "pensioners" and such. One company advertises pensioner's insurance for the over 55 years of age. Many travel companies target the "retired" as if they are a clearly definable market.
Australian advertisers, and media, corporations and their executives, have an infatuation with the younger generation. One only has to listen to the radio, and television, advertisements, and the content of drivel that fountains from the celebrity announcers on commercial media to get a sense why companies do not run advertisements on these stations, targeting this demographic. Some radio stations remix their idiotic weekday morning breakfast announcers shows, and replay the inane drivel, on the weekend. Someone has a very poor mental faculty if they think the stuff is funny, entertaining or informative.
The fools of many of Australian media are unlikely to influence this demographic, given the paucity of their intellectual capacity and literacy. It is no wonder that most Australian commercial radio, particularly FM, and the low grade commercial free to air channels, largely stick to targeting children, young people, and others, as illiterate, and lack lustre in deeper thinking, as they are.
Do the brands, and the sellers, know they are missing out on a major demographic? Perhaps someone should tell them. Perhaps more likely the concept of brand has multiple dimensions. One does not observe quality brands being offered in these forums. It seems it is just the "trash" and "cheap" and "discount" brands that are featured on commercial FM radio and television. Surely no respectable company, aspiring to a quality image, would want to be associated with the presnetsr and the with the content that passes for entertainment on free to air television and most radio stations across the nation. The discerning brands advertise on SBS television and in quality publications. They probably would give their eye eteth to get on the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, for they know that is where they will hit this elusive demographic.
What will happen when digital two way interaction comes into Australian media? When advertisers can seek their own data direct. The advertisers will find out that the ratings agencies have either been misguided, using por statistical sampling techiques that are flawed, or have been lying to them, about audience statistics. That will be fun to watch.
The war behind the shelves.
There is a war behind the scenes in Australia's retail industry, currently within the food and supermarket sectors.. It is a war about market power and large corporations versus farmers, manufacturers and small business. It is a war for market power, for control of consumer dollars, of government policy influence, and of thought and behaviour. It is a war, which has the potential to damage the economic, social fabric, health and well being of the on many spectrums. It is a war about intellectual property and value investment. It is a war about to get much wider and more bitter, fuelled from many sources and by many desires, and not all the players are identifiable. It is so sophisticated and complex that Australia's governments and the politicians, particularly in the major parties, are not equipped to, or do not want to, come to grips with. It is a war where billions are at stake and at play on any given day. Generics have no intellectual property. Generic products are bought without allegiance.
The supermarkets know this and therefore they are now creating an in house "brand" trying to create an allegiance and loyalty. This is a difficult sell for them because the brands exist within a larger entity that is the supermarket. One can have a brand and it is not necessarily synonymous with prestige, reputation or quality. It can be quite the opposite, take Wal Mart as one example.
In Australia the two largest retailers are, Coles Myer and Woolworths. Their market power now confronts the public interest on a broad scale and must be challenged. They are not quality brand. They are just large cash rich enterprises. They are not Australian, or world, icons of best practice management, and product, quality.
I wrote to the elected members of Australia's parliaments, federal, state and territory in 2004 predicting the coming war that would cause farmers and producers a lot of angst. A war that would devalue the intellectual property of Australian producers and manufacturers. My communication received no response. This is no surprise since government in Australia knows best and they know the future better than anyone. They are about marginalising critics and those who would challenge the status quo. They ignore soothsayers like me. However in 2005 the war hit the federal Minister for Agriculture, Mr. Peter McGauran. He was galvanised into action. Farmers came to the parliaments of the nation on tractors. The representatives of the Australian and New Zealand bureaucracies met and were chattering animatedly across the Tasman. The bureaucrats of the different Australian government agencies met and were chattering also. They were raging that the new Minister seemed to have litle grasp of anything and was off wandering around the countryside and must be collared. Mr. McGauran was talking of labelling everything with content even loose produce and deli stuff! Heracy and humbug, madness and chicanery. He wanted Australians to buy Australian.
Colin Fulton, a Melbourne based issues specialist (Corporate Words), helping the rampaging tractor activists, was causing havoc in the quiet corridors of the ideological empire of federal Minister Tony Abbott and his junior, Christopher Pyne. Mr. Pyne, a federal liberal Parliamentary Secretary, was keeping late night sessions planning on how one might neuter this mad National Party Minister McGauran who was daring to demand Australian content statements and regular label changes, truth in labels and at what cost? Chris' troops were agog at McGauran's media releases. They burnt them whilst dancing around the forest on a full moon.
The enemies of people who try and make a difference (like Mr. McGauran,) are everywhere. They live and breath in the Food and Grocery Council, in the Australian Consumers Association, in the very parliament itself and within the conservative ranks of his Ministry colleagues, in the World Trade Agreement, in the US - Australia Free Trade Agreement, in the fabric of Australian society and enterprise.
Whoomfff, they hit him in the guts and the efforts of lobbyists and the representatives of the farmers learnt a lesson. Or did they? They may still cavort naked across the land smelling their tomatoes and rubbing the dirt from new potatoes all over themselves in delirium. Whoomff, then it all was quiet and no one actually rushed to buy Australian. Where are the labels? Well... till next time, this me KEVINRBECK signing off.
A leading Australian supermarket chain is advertising that items in its supermarket shelves (on average) have not gone up over the past two years. This may be true under a very specific rationale. The manfacturers have sought to avoid price rises by altering the ingredients, and the quantity. This occurs in major brands and has been noted in generic products also. What has also occurred is the rise in misrepresentation in labelling. Major brand manufacturers advertise a product with a significant front label claim. For example fruit juice and fruit drink. Exotic descriptions of the flavour and the benefits. However when you examine the small ingredients label on the back of the pack the most prominently claimed ingredient used to attract attention may be 1% or less.
Australia's federal government Health Department has achieved major advances in labelling and ingredients over the past years however politics is not free of persuasion and diminution of public interest. The government allows a product definition free reign on description on the smallest of percentages. Similarly so as regards the place of manufacture. In some cases a product labelled Australian does not relate to the ingredients but to the packaging. The Australian Food and Grocery Council is a strong advocate for its members, but not necessarily for Australian consumers. This is probably the case in most nations. Big and powerful interests manipulate and control public policy and in some cases elected representatives. The influence of a number of associations, over the Prime Minister, bear investigating in the public interest. Among them are the Food and Grocery Council, the Australian Hotels Association and the Chambers of Indusrty and Commerce. In July 2006, Prime Minister John Howard, intervened in the Australian Health Ministers Council meeting, to declare that the topic of regulating advertising to children (as a counter to growing obesity) was not relevant to their jurisdictions. He effectively was saying that they should cease to act against the interests of the food brands and their influencing of children to the detriment of their health. The Prime Minister's justification was that media regulation is a Commonwealth matter. This is quite simply a spurious justiofication and the Prime Minister neds to consider how his descision impacts the lives of children in the nation. Mr. Howard adds yet another barrier, to the many hurdles put in place by self interested parties, to dealing with obesity in the young of Australia.
There is a mechanism to examine such influence but it is the Australian Senate. The Senate is not permitted to function in the interests of the nation since it is under the control of the Australian governmenta nd thus the Prime Minister and Cabinet members. The Senators of the government coalition might reflect as to how this reflects upon them in terms of ethics, integrity and what the Australian Constitution states is the role of the Senate and that of its members. The Constitution is studiously ignored by those in politics who have too much power. In the case of the nation's federal government absolute power is a corruption.
Corporations do not vote but among other activities they do donate to political parties, individual politicians and they do spend their shareholders funds on blatant political influencing, spin media and anti-social interest campaigns that degrade the democratic process and public policy.
The public (now government/political service) service can only go so far in acting in the public interest before the commercial imperative kicks in and the real politics of governments, and Ministers, takes over. Big corporations do not vote and do not elect governments. Yet they seem able to over ride the public interest and the place of individual voters in the system. Corporations law makes a company a legal person.
The power of big business, and its associations, is evident everywhere. Australia's governments do not dance for the benefit of citizes but the corporations that call the tune and influence (decide) public policy.
So it is with smoking. Most Australian state and territory governments want to ban smoking in all public places. Most particularly in clubs, hotels casinos, restaurants and other hospitality and public entertainment venues. The brand name manufacturers, and the venues as well as the Australian Hotels and Clubs Associations, Restaurant and Caterers and any other organisation with an interest sees the end of the world as we know it. In the Australian Capital Territory the clubs want approval for ticket in - ticket out machines that will allow a poker machine player to retain their gambling whilst taking a cigarette break. Clubs and venues have tried every conceivable argument from large volume air recycling to smoking rooms. ON ABC television news on Sunday 21st, November, 2005, a representative of one of the associations claimed a "commercial right" as against the public interest of good health and taxpayers' costs arising from direct, or third party, smoking. Such is the regard for ethics on the part of this particular industry advocate.
Australia has only two really large retail enterprises with chains of stores across the nation. They are Woolworths and Coles Myer. Smaller groups cluster such as Independent Grocers of Australia and there is a European company, Aldi, taking niche share of the market.
Woolworths and Coles Myer exercise a largely unchallengeable market power and though they are closely monitored by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) and state and territory fair trading departments they can operate beyond the horizon of the regulator. Myer has ben hived off (see article above in this page) allowing the supermarket arm, Coles, to get capital, to go on a spree of acquisitions. State fair trading regulators may focus on the consumer but the ACCC focus is implied in its name "Competition". A corporation, and all of its subsidiaries, should be limited to owning only 20% of the outlets in the nation, in a defined category, promoting diversity and competition broadening the nation's economic and social benefit. Australian brand producers, of every type, and the smaller retailers, are a vital part of the heritage and the fabric of the nation and many of them manufacture their products in regional Australia where employment opportunities are scarce. On the other side of the coin Coels Myer is Australia's largest employer of disadvantaged and handicapped people. Other large and small companies do nopt bother for they beleive that it is uneconomical. The supermarkets also have manufacturers produce home brands which are the retailers contribution to social justice. The products are cheap for the less well off. One problem is that the manufacturer is not as socially minded. The products can be high in sodium and in sugar and are not the best deitary choices. Perhaps we cannot have it all. Another socially minded company is McDonald's and the Ronald McDonald houses. The fast food chain is supporting a good cause and is also trying to add healthy choices to its menu. Pity thyat Hungry Jacks, Kentucky, Red Rooster and Subway are not as strong on human values and intergrity. They simply take the money, or do they? Who can tell what value they add to society beyond mere business?
Politicians have one eye firmly on their own electoral interests. If consumer protection, health and well being, are priorities then why is there no federal Ministry focused on consumer protection? Why is there no real action, other than an advertising campaign by government, on the health of children? Obesity is a major health problem and it is in many ways brought about, and maintained, by unscrupulous advertising and psychological manipulation. Why are consumers blamed by the federal government for their own behaviour and industry allowed to continue their destructive pursuit of profit at the expense of the public good? It is because Australians do not hold their governments, and representatives, accountable. It is beyond our horizon, we are too busy, it is all too hard and it is irrelevant to most of us.
Business puts their interests, and the shareholders interests', before public welfare and good. Legislators are myopic, stupid or corrupt. Some are a mix of all three. Corporate boards, and managers, have no moral compass to guide their ethics and we see that some have no conscience. They give little consideration of the wider economic, and social, consequences and issues. They hide behind the corporation as a legal entity.
Our legislators have been derelict. Members of Australia's parliaments should have had an abiding interest in the market power of these enterprises but they do not. They fear reprisals from ruthless and immoral executives who use their corporate power to get what they want regardless of the effect on society, people and individuals. These people are lauded for their ruthlessness by a media obsessed with shallow themes and besotted by money and naked greed. Such executives are not to be lauded. They are the corroders of the nation not the builders. The builders (Snowy, Telecom, State Electricity Commission of Victoria, Qantas, Ansett, the Australian Wheat Board, irrigation systems are long gone. Replaced by mediocrity and short term ideologs without a nation building vision and capacity.
Coles Myer and Woolworths dominate production of goods even to the point of making small suppliers and producers, follow policies and processes that are more onerous than government specified regulation. The executives of Coles Myer and Woolworths are described by insiders as thugs. We do not see their behind the scenes threats and market manipulation. Subtle and insidious they operate below the radar of the Australian Consumer and Competition Commission in what is predatory behaviour and a form of legal blackmail. These companies pay tens of millions of dollars in fines to the regulator but this is cheaper than giving up their illegal practices of price fixing, market manipulation and distortion. In my opinion Coles Myer and Woolworths are not high value brands. The large enterprises are about exercising control at every level of society.
They dominate industry associations such as the Australian Food and Grocery Council, the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the Australian Industry Group. These associations in turn wield enormous influence over politicians even to the point of gagging, and shackling, those who might speak out. The former federal Minister for Children, Larry Anthony, may have felt just how powerful these interests are when he crusaded on obesity and advertising unhealthy products to children, a practice migrated from the Unite States to Australia by the manufacturers, and the retailers, and defended by them and their industry associations. Larry Anthony spoke out.
"The topic of advertising's role in making children fat is back in the spotlight with Federal Children and Youth Affairs Minister Larry Anthony today calling on the advertising industry to take responsibility for promoting healthy lifestyles for children. Attending the Kid Power 2003 forum in Sydney which focused on marketing to children Anthony said advertisers had a social responsibility to bear given their influence over children, particularly in regard to promoting healthy lifestyles." (29 July, 2003) "As the first-ever Minister at the national level responsible for children's issues, I have to say I'm another passionate believer in promoting health and wellbeing, particular when it comes to the early years of a child's life....While a child's health and wellbeing depends to a large degree on healthy eating and regular exercise".(National Health and Wellbeing Seminar, 18/08/2004.)
Then he was silenced and his portfolio of children was abolished. It simply disappeared.
Such is the integrity of the Australian government under John Howard. The Minister for Health Tony Abbott has, consistent with his Ministerial history, faield to deliver service to the national interest and the children. He refuses to ban product advertising to children. He prefers education and putting the onus on parents. The argument that Abbott runs sounds reasonable. However There it does not take account fo some fundamentals. The first is that there are parents who are incapable of parenting in such ways as he demands. Therefore he and the government consigns those children to the thrall and manipulation of the corporations. The television and radio and pres are not going to upset their advertisers. Finally the corporations spend millions employing experts who use psychology, guilt, envy and human nature to subvert free choice and to put pressure on parents and carers. Schools are forced to take in unhealthy products to fund their shrinking budgets and pay for the extras. Tony Abbott is a pawn of the powerful corporations. He has abrogated his responsibility lacking the will, and fortitude, to do what Doug Anthony tried to do. Anthony is by far the better public servant.
"Is it parents who cave in to "pester power" by allowing their kids too much junk food and not making them run and jump? Is it the makers and the marketers of top selling foods loaded with sugar and fat? Or is the Government failing by refusing to crack down on junk food advertising to vulnerable children? No one is owning up. Four Corners follows the "food chain" to see who should take responsibility for what is consumed by those at the very bottom the children and asks what can be done to make them healthier." Source: ABC Television, 4 Corners The federal Minister for Health and Aging knows how far he is allowed to go before he is reined in by the industry interests. This is an extract from an interview with him, published 13 October, 2005. It shows the caveat emptor mentality of the Howard government, and its senior Ministers, who it could be said do only as much as is necessary without offending those who can affect their political future.
"Q. How much do you think parents should take responsibility for the issue of overweight and obesity in children?
A. I think in the end it is up to parents more than anyone to take this matter in hand.
Q. But are you making these choices easy for them?
A. Well the Federal Government doesn't say to someone in the supermarket please take that bottle of Coca Cola. It is a shopper's choice to take a bottle of Coca Cola rather than a carton of low sugar fruit juice or milk.
Q. But you go to the supermarket presumably, you know that the confectionary is stashed there in almost every aisle at child height?
A. Mm, mm. But but again there is nothing that makes the parent who is doing the shopping go for the Coke as opposed to the milk.
Q. What about 'pester power'?