Freak. The word draws perverse connotations of the unusual, the obscure, the deformed and the reclusive. The only time the word might be used in a positive light is when you’re describing a freakish talent of a sports person or a musician. And even then, I think there are more eloquent ways to describe their unique abilities.
So when Woolworth’s teamed up with one of Australia’s favourite health and fitness celebrities Michelle Bridges, and used the term freaks to describe people who grow their own food I was a bit taken back.
Woolworths is very large company and they have the budget to think very strategically about all of their business decision, particularly in the field of marketing and advertising. So how could they make such a mistake we must ask?
Well, I think the answer lies in their so-called apology that they released on 6 November through their Facebook page: “We’ve listened to your feedback about the latest Michelle Bridges video and have removed it. Our intention was never to upset anyone.”
When you look at this statement closely there is no apology, just a statement about how their customers have interpreted their advertising wrongly… So essentially they are passing the blame from themselves to the public; and this is the inherent problem here. Woolworths are so out of touch with their customers one would think the marketing department have been taking lessons form former Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott.
Woolworths genuinely thought that it would be a good idea to: stereotype people who grow their own food as hippies; ridicule them as freaks; and promote frozen food as a substitute for growing your own. All of this coming from a company that calls itself the “fresh food people”. What were they thinking in the boardroom when the conceived this…
They may have actually been thinking very strategically. You see, Woolworths don’t make any money when you grow your own food, so they have a vested interest in ensuring you don’t. So stereotyping people who grow their own as freaks is actually a marketing strategy to try and increase their customer base by making people more reliant on their products.
What they might not have considered so diligently is that the public aren’t always that stupid. According to The Australia Institute over 50% of Australians grow some of their own food and I will take a guess that most of these people would not identify themselves as hippie freaks. Based on my experience, people who grow their own food cut through all stereotypes, socioeconomic groups, age groups and genders. Because of this, I think the message Woolworths were trying to send blew up in their face because it caused a form of cognitive dissidence in the general public. They grew their own food, but did not associate themselves as a hippie freak and therefore to solve the dissidence they blamed the advertisement as being inappropriate.
This is starting to remind me of April this year when Woolworths ran their “fresh in our memories” campaign. This ad was heavily criticised as a money grab at the expense of the ANZACS. There was a huge public backlash against using the emotion of the ANZACS to promote their products and Woolworths were forced to pull the ad from circulation.
The point hear is that Woolworths are a competitive animal and will try anything to make a dollar and grab some market share back from Coles. Their number one goal is make money for their shareholders. For this reason we as the public, need to come down hard on these companies when they step out of line. We as a society need to show these companies where the boundaries lie. Because if it is left up to them there will be no boundaries.
I encourage all the people who are currently growing their own food to continue doing so. I also encourage the 48% of people who are not to take a stand and start growing some food today. Even if its just one pot of your favourite herbs, you will get great satisfaction in harvesting your own crops and sticking it to Woolworths and there poor moral judgement.