Woolworths Controversy: Commercialisation Gone Too Far?

Even the ANZAC digger is not immune to modern commercialism

Even the ANZAC digger is not immune to modern commercialism

For anyone living in the 21st Century, commercialisation, branding and cross-promotion are part and parcel of our capitalist driven society.

All aspects of our existence, including our very selves, have become commodified. We are branded, sponsored, marketed. With the increasing intensification of this consumer culture, the growing commercialisation of national holidays has also been witnessed. Religious holidays, especially Christmas and Easter, have become prime marketing opportunities for commercial organisations. Increasingly, non-religious days of national observance, such as Australia Day and now ANZAC Day, have become the commercial targets of organisations wishing to cash in on the occasions.

Today, national supermarket chain Woolworths, was heavily criticised for its ANZAC Day themed promotion. The most disturbing element of the promotion, which featured a photograph of a WWI digger, has been denounced for its incorporation of the Woolworths ‘fresh’ slogan in the line “Fresh in our Memories.” Woolworths’ usage and exploitation of the ANZAC legend in this campaign, while not only being considered a grave act of irreverence, has caused additional controversy for Woolworths since the term was used in an unauthorised manner.

With the ANZAC legend held close to the hearts of many Australians, it is not hard to see why the campaign left behind a sour taste. The campaign showcases the ‘nothing is sacred’ mentality of modern business and capitalism. In this case, the long-deceased, but not forgotten, ANZAC digger is not even immune to 21st Century commercialism. The legend of the ANZAC becomes a brand story used by organisations to further their organisation’s image. While the use of brand stories, such as those especially evidenced in the marketing of Coca-Cola and Rio Tinto, is nothing new in the marketing world, perhaps this time, the use of the ANZAC Legend for commercial imperatives, strikes a little too close to the bone.

Regardless of your philosophical or political stance on war and Australia’s involvement in military campaigns, in this case, it is the sheer trivialisation of war and personal history that is most troubling. With the entire foundations of war established on the efforts of the working class ‘little-man’ doing the dirty work of the bourgeois leaders (OK, I do sound a little Marxist here, but it’s hard to disagree with this notion, hey?), the seemingly harmless commercial campaign serves to uphold capitalism’s stronghold on our contemporary society. In Woolworth’s attempt to consolidate their standing as an iconic brand within our national landscape they have sought to draw upon the similarly nationalistic orientation of the ANZAC legend, and produce a commercial brand story.

Although the public reaction to the campaign is encouraging in the wider scheme of things, it seems unlikely that this will form part of a wider movement against the commercialisation of our collective histories, values and even our very selves.

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