Posts tagged ‘ANZ’


How can we help those fooled into believing what their local brands are?

06.01.2016

How interesting to see a silly Tweet of mine make the Murdoch Press and lead an opinion column—I’m told it even hit the news.com.au home page.
   It’s a very old joke that I’ve told since 2002, when I walked along Bay Road in Kilbirnie and saw a locksmith sign in Futura. Back then, Dick Smith Electronics had its logotype set in ITC Avant Garde Gothic. I really thought it was a Dick Smith sign at a first, fleeting glance, seeing CKSMITH. The joke was born.
   Most in my social media streams got it except a couple of Australians who had likely come across it via Murdochs a day late, one calling me ignorant (not sure how you can get that from one Tweet), and another ‘ahole’ (is this a misspelling of aloha?). As the funniest guy in their media is John Clarke, who was born in New Zealand, maybe humour doesn’t reach a couple of households there if it has to be imported. And the number of times John’s taken the piss about us, to my thorough enjoyment, means that some of us can take a joke. Perhaps we just have a sense of humour. We have to: it was the only way we could deal with our PM appearing on The Late Show with David Letterman. It is, to quote the man, ‘a bit of banter. No drama.’
   The false indignation “on behalf of others” is always a comical one, because it’s usually founded on a misplaced and unjustified sense of superiority. During a political campaign, they’re the ones I find the most humorous and least authoritative. Thick skin came with that territory.
   Neither deserves a response beyond what I said on Twitter, but the second one (with a fresh new account to troll from, always a good sign of someone who won’t stand by their words) highlights a point that I have made on this blog before.
   “Ruby Pond” notes, ‘The guy is pure Oz and started when you were in nappies and tried! Stick to your foreign companies, they really help Oz.’ I’m not sure what I was tried about, not having been to court while I was in nappies, but maybe she’s depending on the fact that not everyone remembers back to their infancy.
   Well done. She got this from an American-owned newspaper website (remember, Rupert’s no longer an Australian, nor is the HQ in Australia and hasn’t been for a long, long time), and, for the record, I’m not as old as the business that Dick founded. There’s also a suggestion that I must be Australian, because, after all, everyone on the planet must be. No other countries exist. I didn’t want to get into trans-Tasman rivalry in such a situation, nor was it appropriate to give a list of Australian corporate misdeeds in New Zealand. The term off-topic springs to mind.
   I told her, ‘Stick to your foreign media, they really help Oz.’
   Hers is that simplistic thinking that gets people supporting foreign-owned businesses when they believe they are supporting local ones.
   Dick’s been one of my personal heroes since his solo helicopter flight and I’ve been a customer of the chain he founded since I was old enough to buy my own tech gear. Entrepreneurs like him are the ones I’ve always encouraged, through mentoring and through my policies. However, the sad story of the company, no longer owned by Dick, is one of corporate greed—which the founder himself has been critical of. We haven’t learned the lessons of so many economic crises: Gordon Gecko’s mantra of ‘greed is good’ continues to drive the corporate world.
   The reason so many multinationals buy local brands is to fool the public into thinking they’re supporting their own. We’re guilty of it ourselves, and I recall using the examples of Just Juice and most of our local newspapers on this blog. People closed accounts at the National Bank when it became ANZ here, because of a suspicion of, dislike of, or rivalry with Australia, perceiving National to be a local bank. The problem there: ANZ had owned the National Bank for years before the rebranding of its own subsidiary, and prior to that it was part of Lloyds TSB in the UK. A lot of Australians think Ford and Holden are domestic players (though, oddly, not Toyota, which probably builds as many, if not more, cars there), just as many Britons still think they are buying British when they shop at Ford and Vauxhall.
   The situation with news.com.au differs slightly in that that business was started in Australia by Rupert Murdoch’s Dad, and it has grown from there—but the fact remains that its HQ is overseas and that’s where it pays its tax. Help to Australians: not a lot. The Murdoch Press’s globalization agenda won’t be one that the “buy Australian” crowd would support for the most part.
   But this is how brands work, because they encourage us to make mental shortcuts for the products and services we consume. I’ve devoted a good deal of my professional life to it. Some should encourage scrutiny because of the power they have (Wally Olins noted, many years ago, how some brands need to adopt notions that were once reserved for states), and it was hoped that, post-No Logo, we would be more inquisitive about the backgrounds to the organizations we support.
   Even though it’s our money and time, the sad thing is that this level of inquiry remains the province of the few, those people who are willing to scrutinize their own behaviour and practise what they preach. Social media have helped spread news of corporate misbehaviours (Volkswagen will attest to that) and more people are aware; but to counter that we get more information than we ever used to, and unless something resonates, will we just forget it?
   Therefore, it can only be something where people who have done the proper investigation get to have a say. And like all human endeavours, it can be scammed, so safeguards have to be built in.
   One of the reasons the Medinge Group awarded its Brands with a Conscience accolades for close to a decade was to champion the organizations that were getting it right, inviting transparency and scrutiny, championing good corporate citizenship, and engaging in socially responsible programmes. Among them were companies devoted to doing things right by the communities they were present in, whether it was Dilmah Tea, Tata Steel or Hennes & Mauritz.
   By our championing them, selected by a think-tank of leading brand professionals, we would be able to highlight shining examples of branding, as well as give them the sort of boost they deserved. If positive companies could increase their custom, and if positive non-profits could increase their influence, then we can do some good in the world.
   As people rightly want shortcuts in their busy daily lives, then the work at Medinge, if seen as an endorsement, would help them make a decision about whether to deal with that organization or not.
   It’s nice to be in that bubble, which makes me ever-grateful to get reminders that we still have a lot of work to do. If you’re genuinely desirous of helping your own, then we need to help create more ways of reminding people which organizations do just that. The Brands with a Conscience programme was definitely a very good way of doing it. What shall we do, in the post-peak-Facebook world of the second part of this decade, to get word out? Is it through video, thanks to greater bandwidth, that allows us to experience and understand more? Is this the coming of age of some form of virtual reality? Or, as we did when we first started exploring bulletin boards and email, time again for us to reach out to people in communities very foreign and different to ours through video chats—something like Google Hangouts but actually with people? (Yes, I know, Google fans, I was taking the piss.) Is Skype the service on which this can be built?
   I would have said that technology is the great democratizer, and maybe more of us should be giving out awards to truly deserving organizations, voted on by more of the public. But we come across the issue of quality versus quantity again: the Reputation Institute surveyed 60,000 people in 15 countries and still wound up with Nestlé among the most reputable firms in the world. Nestlé may do very good things in some quarters, but it hasn’t been able to avoid a lawsuit by environmental and public interests groups in California over its water-bottling operation there, or accusations by activists who believe the company wants to privatize water at the expense of public health. Volkswagen was there in the 2014 survey. We decide on image, and that image is the very thing that gets us making bad choices.
   The next innovators are already on to it, and we don’t even know that we seek it. But, in order to self-actualize, maybe organizing us—individuals, not corporations—into global communities is the next stage. We have seen Kiva work so positively, so how about making it more interactive? Naturally we will tend to choose to help those in our own countries first—crowdfunding campaigns show us that—but allowing us to understand another human being’s situation could be the challenge in a time when governments pursue their austerity agenda. Somehow, we can restore, at least to some degree, the optimism we had when we in the first world accessed the World Wide Web for the first time.

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Civility is a good thing

23.12.2010

Baidu Talk, which launched in September, has netted 1 million users already, according to PC World. Michael Kan reports that thanks to the service’s insistence that no aliases are used (registered users’ identities are verified with the People’s Republic’s government) ‘this has led to more “civil” discussions between users on Baidu Talk.’
   It shows it can be possible. In the past I’ve lamented the decline of each medium as it’s spoiled by spam or splogs. YouTube has been ruined by extremist commenters. In most cases, these people hide behind the veil of anonymity.
   The city blog I proposed during my campaign would have required registration as well. The logistics were another matter but Baidu shows it can be done—and a more civilized discussion is just what we need to make some real progress in society. If dialogue and engagement solve problems, then the medium for both must be where someone wants to go—and not see a whole bunch of swearing going on.
   As I wrote some years back, what I miss about the internet, and this may be rose-coloured glasses, was the collegial feeling that was there in the early days. In the 1990s, we naïvely put our details into online email directories before we figured out that spammers could harvest them. But, importantly, we got quite a few things done. Some of my closest allies in business can be traced back to those early days, before we had to cut through more clutter to find good, trustworthy people.
   Providing a safe forum where the veil of anonymity is gone—where John Gabriel’s Greater Internet F***wad Theory does not apply—is perhaps one of the best things that can be done for so many services. A Small World is one where there’s some degree of safety and security; LinkedIn, by its nature, continues to feel collegial. Since we aren’t talking about sensitive information here, where aliases and anonymity might be key, an online John Hancock can be a good thing.
   The bigger picture is that if China is encouraging this sort of dialogue, I will have to say: watch out. And I did say four years ago that, with Google’s willingness to engage in self-censorship when it entered the Middle Kingdom in 2006, the Chinese people would only be more loyal to Baidu et al in the long term. That influence might yet grow beyond China’s borders.

Speaking of the decline of society, a few weeks ago, Dad and I had to go to the ANZ in Kilbirnie to re-sign some authorities we had on each other’s accounts. (We had to do this with American Express as well: what was it with these big institutions losing the original authorities that we did years ago, all in the same week?) Outside the sliding doors, I heard a very loud female voice. My initial thought was, ‘This is a very loud promotion someone is having on Bay Road.’
   When the doors slid open again, I heard a whole bunch of profanities. ‘You f***ing bitch, you whore …’—you get the idea. I got up, passed an elderly lady on her way in (this was Tuesday, 3.30 p.m., when a lot of elderly are walking along Bay Road), and said, ‘You don’t need to hear that sort of language, do you, dear?’ She said, ‘No.’
   A crowd, mostly of schoolchildren had gathered round to watch these two young women at it outside the local Pricebusters. Or, should I say, there was one abuser and one standing there and taking it. Seeing as neither was armed (I may be stupid, but not that stupid), I stood between them and asked them to stop: that the OAPs walking along minding their own business don’t have to listen to their sort of language.
   ‘I don’t care. You don’t know this f***ing whore …’
   ‘I don’t know you, either. I’m asking you to stop.’
   Although this had gone on for some time, it was only then that someone from the Pricebusters store came out. I asked, ‘Would you like to do anything? It’s your shop, but there hasn’t been an assault.’
   Seeing as the abuse continued, I said, calmly: ‘Walk away. Turn around, walk in opposite directions, and walk away.’
   I have a feeling that ‘Walk away’ in these ladies’ mother tongue meant ‘Let’s start beating the crap out of each other and this dude in the middle can get caught in the crossfire.’
   Fists flew, hair was pulled, and I got a little scrape where my watch was and my glasses were knocked off. It was then that various adults—I assume the female staff of the Pricebusters store—restrained the two. I advised the store that they could call the police now. Dad had come out by then and I suggested we finish the transaction inside the bank. And he didn’t need to see his son lose a fight to two women.
   These Streets of San Kilbirnie are tough and even Karl Malden would be surprised.
   Maybe I was the only adult around over several minutes, but I’m surprised that no one else helped out. It reminds me of two other incidents in the last few years where I played “first responder” (with a much larger friend assisting!) to a homeless man getting bullied and to a teen who had fallen off her bike.
   This isn’t about being intolerant of bad language. Most of this junk is on telly now after a certain hour. It’s the idea, which we’ve chatted about at the Vista Group luncheons with Jim and Natalie, that once we tolerate one thing, a worse thing will emerge. Usually this comes up when we discuss public drunkenness, and how, over the last generation, less and less acceptable behaviour becomes the norm.
   The fear that getting involved would drag one into a court case as a witness—that is baseless, too. When the police came (and quite quickly, too), I had finished at the bank. I asked one constable if he needed me to be a witness, and he said that he already had a statement from someone else. So: I tried to do a good deed, and I didn’t get dragged into a prolonged assault case. It’s easier than we think.
   And maybe I did something for the little guy, to draw the line at something that shouldn’t be acceptable in what is usually a very pleasant neighbourhood.

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Posted in business, China, culture, internet, New Zealand, technology, Wellington | 1 Comment »