Marketing Focus – Lesson Learnt and Fresh in Our Memories

A certain sense of tension and testiness currently pervades many workplaces and markets.
Anxiety levels are up … confidence is down; so too are morale and trust.  Mutual respect is being challenged. 

Relationships are being tested.
Team and group cohesion is frayed. 
Employment and income security is being questioned.
Sadly, good, open and two-way communication appears to have been a casualty.

The very nature and characteristic of the current marketplace are manifestations of the dimensions detailed above.
These are all reflective of the reality in late 1987 and 1988, – following the memorable “Black Tuesday” sharemarket crash, and the periods following the 1997 – 1998 Asian currency crisis and the April 2000 meltdown.
All manner of things are presently under scrutiny and review. 
Errors, deficiencies and indiscretions are being magnified. 
Tolerance has become minimised.

It is time to invest in and deploy all possible resources and efforts into relationships, communications and the promotion and development of integrated, positive and supportive cultures.
The forces within need to address and redress any and all negative forces from with-out.
Politicians and the media should readily promote the labels “Team Australia”, “Team Abbott” and the like.
Underlying this call-to-action is the acronym T.E.A.M. – Together Everyone Achieves More – Go For It.


It is seldom, if ever, a good idea to withdraw your services, inconvenience your customers and provide scope and need for consumers to trial the offerings of a competitor.

In such instances, it is inevitable that a percentage of individuals, clients, customers and corporate representatives who experience the alternative products, services and applications will be satisfied, excited and delighted.  They could, and typically will, reallocate some or all of their custom to the competitor or substitute.

That seems to have been the lesson learnt from the recent actions of irate, emotional taxi drivers and taxi plate owners in metropolitan Perth.

Some 300 taxi vehicles drove in convoy from Perth Airport to the precincts of the State Parliament in West Perth.  They demanded to be addressed by the Minister of Transport and impeded, – if not stopped, – vehicular traffic in the immediate area.

They were upset about the emerging presence of the mobile taxi booking application, UBER.  Little and isolated legal actions had been initiated by the State Government and its regulatory authority against UBER, which is operating in Western Australia without approval or authority. 
It is a complex legal and administrative issue.

The protest action extended for several hours.
For some commuters and prospective taxi patrons it was an inconvenience.  Media exposure on the day was saturated, and largely sympathetic to the taxi drivers.

The local operators of UBER saw an opportunity.  They offered a free trial.  Demand for the service ballooned over 300%.
Trial, sampling, call it what you will.  A large number of people were being exposed to the experience for the first time.

On this occasion the issue was not the merits of the strike or protest action.  Rather, the lesson learnt centred on the unintended consequences of providing a competitor or substitute entry to a key marketplace and marketing opportunity.
Local taxi drivers and taxi booking services have the capacity and capabilities to address, redress and to effectively counter the rapidly growing UBER, Go Catch and similar booking applications.

The same fundamental principles apply to those businesses that choose to close when competitors remain open, even when confronted with heavy wage-loadings.
Customer loyalty is declining, while convenience and access remain foremost in the buying decision criteria of consumers.

Being customer-centric and customer-driven are no longer catch-all phrases that are simply displayed in framed, mounted signage in reception areas and premises.  They must necessarily be the driving forces which enable fulfilment of the business philosophies, missions, values and ideals.

That means each of the following boxes must be ticked:



√  Accessible


√  Responsible


√  Caring




√  Consistent 


√  Continuous


Ah, seven steps to sustainable success.


Too much is not a good thing.

Choice is appealing to many consumers. 
It can be a compelling lure. 
Moreover, it is, for some, an empowering experience.

With a wide range of choices, most decisions become discretionary. 
Therein lies the dilemma.

The findings of extensive contemporary consumer research throughout Britain, North America and Australia have concluded that the advertising and promotion of multiple choices are typically a generator of increased prospective customer traffic, on-line and in person.

More time is generally spent inspecting, considering and reflecting on a broad spectrum of alternatives. 
In similar vein, the percentage of consumers undertaking sampling and testing products, services and applications increases as the number of options is expanded.

Sadly, in such instances the conversion rates from “prospect to purchaser” are disappointingly low – often with percentages in single numerals.
Such trends cannot be explained or dismissed as the manifestations of procrastination or the presence of “carpet-crushers”, “tyre-kickers” or browsers, most of whom were never qualified or real purchasers.

Given an extensive range from which to choose, complemented with access to an abundance of information, many consumers are unable to conclude “one best” decision.
Indeed, the information-overload and seemingly endless choices stimulate a sense of inadequacy. 
Put simply, consumers are overcome by the challenge of making the right decision. 
In turn, they fear making the “wrong decision”.

In such circumstances many make the decision that is easiest to make … and that is to make no decision.
Therefore, sales, revenues and profits are not lost to competitors or substitutes. 
They are simply lost.  Expenditure is forsaken.


A perennial business issue is the determination and quantification of a balance between range, specialisation and choice.  The spread extends from too little to too much.


Some things in life come back to haunt you, figuratively and literally.

That, arguably, will be the case of the Woolworths on-line campaign, “Fresh In Our Memories”, which tied and associated the outstandingly successful positioning statement, “The Fresh Food People” with the acronym, images and values of ANZAC and ANZAC Day.

Many consumers will long have fresh in their memories what a host of consultants, analysts and commentators contend was an inappropriate, inept and opportunistic attempt to capitalise on the widespread emotions associated with ANZAC 2015.


The consequences will be present in the market place for three, possibly up to five years.  This will require a significant, integrated and well-funded remedial strategy.
The original campaign was primarily a social media initiative. 
It was removed within 12 hours, following contact by the Office of the relevant Federal Minister. 
Too late.
The consequences have been widespread, and highlighted in all channels of media.

What is it that senior management and marketers do not get about the nature, vagaries, power and democratisation of social media?
Initiators, in this instance Woolworths, cannot secure and exercise control over the messages. 
At best they can commence the narrative.

In social media the agenda is typically fluid, dynamic and subject to influence and direction from multiple sources.  Once the conversation begins, democracy prevails. 
Everyone has an equal opportunity to participate and contribute.
The setting and determination of goals and outcomes are progressive.

As in warfare, there are few or no rules.  Once the first shot is fired, or the first communication is transmitted, adhocracy prevails.


There is increasing use of brand, product and company ambassadors by companies, governments, professional organisations and not-for-profit entities.
It can be an effective means to enhance profiles, elicit responses, increase uses and generate financial contributions, as well as communicate with select target audiences, at discrete times.

The options available to choose and use a “face for the purpose” seem boundless. 
Such is the nature of the celebrity era in which we live and operate.
However, the practice is fraught with dangers. 
Inappropriate behaviour, conflicting values and variable presentation standards on the part of individual and group ambassadors can, and do, have immediate and lasting consequences for the sponsoring entity, product, service or sector.

Look no further than the Australian National Rugby League (NRL) which has been a serial offender or victim, dependent upon your point of view.

Multimillion dollar advertising, marketing and promotion campaigns have been significantly compromised by the behaviour of and the circumstances surrounding chosen high profile players.  Read: brand-damage.

International gold-medal swimmer, Stephanie Rice experienced the immediacy of public and sponsor responses to what many considered where inappropriate tweets about her then beau, Rugby Union Wallaby player Quade Cooper.

Her use of a three-star luxury imported German motor vehicle was withdrawn.  Hurt was inflicted on a lot more than emotions by the instance.

More recently, the Australian Federal government, through the bureaucracy and its external advertising agency, appointed media identity, scientist and academic, Professor Karl Kruszelnicki to be the face, voice and presence of an expensive, extensive and intensive multi-media campaign, “The Challenge of Change”, to promote the virtues of the the 400 plus pages Intergenerational Report.

Karl’s satirical statement was louder than his voice.  It did grab attention, if not induce the masses to seek out, read, comprehend, embrace and support of the projective text.

It then emerged that after accepting the brief, the commission and the very substantial fee, Karl had not read the full report. 
Hardly a positive reflection on an established scientist.

Dr Kruszelnicki then publicly distanced himself from the report because, in his assessment, there was insufficient emphasis given to climate change.

Brand-damage has been inflicted on the Australian Federal government, the bureaucracy, a specific adverting agency, the report itself and on Dr Karl.
The resultant publicity generated in this case study was substantial, immediate and lasting. 
Sadly, much of it was unfortunate, negative and compromising.

It should be a lesson well learnt. 
The criteria applied in the selection of ambassadors must necessarily extend well beyond past and present achievements, profile and the capacity to be an effective mass – and multimedia communicator.

Consistent, compatible and integrated values, beliefs and philosophies are fundamental. 
There should be no gaps between those of the sponsor and the ambassador.

A further consideration on this topic is the use and profiling of business owners and managers.

In the former case, the issue of succession planning is very pertinent. 
Retention of an individual’s name in the corporate identification package, whilst using next-generation family members in mass media advertising considerably lessens the impact and relevance of the communication.

That is self-evident with a national tyre retail group and several motor vehicle dealerships. 
There is confusion about who is the image-maker, the ambassador or the advocate.

The typically short tenure of senior office-bearers in corporations raises questions about the advisability of utilising such individuals as the public face of an entity, a product, a service or an application.

Mortality is a reality, particularly in marketing life cycles.

Ambassadors are usually best employed for time-specific tactical initiatives and campaigns. 
That is, for intra-generational campaigns rather than for the promotion of inter-generation projections.

Their selection warrants the investment of considerable time and contemplation.


Barry Urquhart of Marketing Focus is an internationally respected conference keynote speaker, business strategist and consumer behaviour analyst.
His customised, extensively researched addresses have high impact and make lasting impressions.

Barry Urquhart
Marketing Focus
M:      041 983 5555
T:       08 9257 1777

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