Coles show a little respect

As farmers we all know its not smart to criticise our customer. In this instance the customer is Coles but I think you will all agree when you see this presentation by Coles’ general manager of corporate affairs, Robert Hadler,which he titled Coles-the Consumer Champion! A Reputation Management Case Study that Coles is not your typical customer nor fits my definition of a champion.

I mean just what sort of ‘person’ buys a product and devalues the people they bought it from and skites about how they manipulated the people they sold it too.

“every PR tactic possible to neutralise the noise” around its move to drop the price of milk in supermarkets to $1 a litre.’

The Coles Down Down Down $1 milk campaign made me livid for two reasons

Firstly it devalued our wonderful amazing cows showcased on YouTube below by dairy Young Farming Champion Tom Pearce

Tom Pearce Farmers Tasty Cheese

Tom Pearce  the dairy farmer who puts the cheese on your cracker

Secondly no matter how much spin Coles put on it – the Coles $1 milk campaign almost bought the NSW dairy industry to its knees

Another of the Art4Agriculuture  Young Farming Champion’s Cassie MacDonald was so incensed by Coles $1 milk campaign  she penned this now iconic infographic which has had over 20 thousand YouTube hits that blew Coles original  infographic out of the water ( I note Coles have now taken it down )

The Guardian makes some strong comment about Mr Hadler’s presentation here

I give you a few take outs from the article Coles boasts about media campaign to silence ‘milk war’ critics

After two years of a PR effort to persuade Australians that the major supermarkets’ “milk war” is not harming small dairy farmers, Coles has been caught out boasting about its successful media campaign to silence its critics and “win the day”.

His (Robert Hadler) presentation, entitled Coles – the consumer champion! A Reputation Management Case Study, was delivered to the Centre for Corporate Public Affairs (CCPA) in June but was no longer available to download on the CCPA website on Sunday.

It identifies significant negative “noise”, or unfavourable coverage, for the supermarket’s “Down Down” milk campaign, which peaked in the third quarter of 2011, the same year the price drop was brought in, and shows the regional press as reporting the most negative coverage in that time period.

The presentation goes on to identify the importance of guarding “against a political and regulatory response” to the supermarket’s drive to push down the price of milk. It also says that the “agri-political fallout continued after the ‘Down Down milk anniversary’”.

The presentation then details how Coles implemented new media strategies, including a social media campaign, the use of “fact sheets to debunk myths” and fresh advertising.

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It describes a “game changer” moment in the so-called “milk wars” as the implementation of multi billion-dollar ten-year deals to source milk directly with two farmer cooperatives,announced in April this year, which brought about an “immediate shift to positive coverage”.

Game Changer

See the full presentation here 

Now you will notice this slide features some of our twitter agvocates TWT Dairy writer Simone Smith, NSW dairy farmer David Williams and the dairy industry champion of champions school teacher Lisa Claessen who is so incensed by Mr Hadlers presentation she has relaunched her petition in which calls Coles to task

Lisa Claessen David Vacy and Simone Smith

Lisa says

I am not a dairy farmer, I’m a consumer in a rural area who has seen the fallout in my community. My inspiration came from two young men whom I taught, from a dairying family, and an insight into the struggles they were ensuing as a result. I am not anti – supermarket. I live in a region that relies on them. All I would like to see is a fair go, a compromise from Coles, that reflects the consumer’s desire for value, and allows the dairy farmer to operate sustainably. We need to support these guys so they can continue to deliver a beautiful product which we often take for granted.

I read something this morning that left me gutted for our Aussie dairy farmers, and as I read through, I couldn’t help but feel angered…
I leave you the link to peruse –
This document has been doing the rounds through the media and on tv.
A tweet regarding this petition appears on one of the pages, along with a triumphant tone from Coles, congratulating themselves on the outcome of their patience with the objection over discount milk pricing.
Along with a wish for a desperately needed Code of Conduct for Supermarkets, I have a strong desire to carry on with this petition.

Please pass this petition on to someone else to read and sign. If we can pump up the petition numbers further, we are sending a message to Coles, especially whilst there is media attention, that our farmers have been treated shabbily and without consideration. The above document is most telling.
Lisa Claessen

Coles I don’t know what your definition of champion is but as far as integrity, authenticity,  commitment, aspiring to excellence in my mind our Aussie farmers will win the red, blue and white sash everyday

Author: Lynne Strong

I am a 6th generation farmer who loves surrounding myself with optimistic, courageous people who believe in inclusion, diversity and equality and embrace the power of collaboration. I am the founder of Picture You in Agriculture. Our team design and deliver programs that inspire pride in Australian agriculture and support young people to thrive in business and life

2 thoughts on “Coles show a little respect”

  1. What I found interesting about the Coles presentations was the issues management cycle slide. Coles had a ‘process’ and they stuck to it. Farmer objections where just an ‘event’ in the cycle to be dealt with. Which makes me think about what is the farmer ‘process’ to deal with these and other consumer issues. I suspect that there may not be a ‘process’ to deal with these issues by farmers and the food system, but rather the response is simply a number of events..

    I am watching the Giles Abattoir/LandLine and Animals Australia situation with interest. AA is sticking to its game plan and following its process which has be successful to date. It will be interesting to see if the farmer outrage is simply an event in AA’s process, or is this issue combined with the shopping bags and live export issue starting to build a more robust process of dealing with this situation.

    While I may not agree with Cole’s tactics I have learnt from this presentation and their FOCUS – Follow One Course Until Successful. I thinks it a good thing that this presentations is out there and being talked about. I hope that it gets some discussion going about how to deal with issues in the longer term.

    1. Hi Greg
      You are right as always and my post is coming from the heart not my strong marketing background.
      We as farmers just need to get a lot smarter about the way we do business. Cant wait to share Gaye Steel’s session with the YFC’s this weekend with you
      I can assure you the next generation wont be doing it like their fathers

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