Tag Archives: Ian Moir

WhaleTales Tourism, Food, and Wine news headlines: 13 February

WhaleTalesTourism, Food, and Wine news headlines

*   More than 400 African tourism products and services have signed up as exhibitors at INDABA2015, to be held in Durban from 9 – 11 May.

*   SAA is resuming daily direct non-stop flights between Johannesburg and New York from 7 March, a time reduction on the northern route of one and a half hours.

*   ‘Fifty Shades of Grey‘ is on everyone’s lips the world over, with its international release today, Continue reading →

WhaleTales Tourism, Food, and Wine news headlines: 15/16 February

WhaleTalesTourism, Food, and Wine news headlines

*   70% of the economic activity of the Western Cape is focused in Cape Town, says Wesgro.  In the period July – September last year the trade, investment, and tourism promotion agency attracted R219 million in investments to the province, which led to the creation of 2000 jobs.

*   ‘Long lazy lunches, huge servings of artisan chocolate and wine, lavish estates and emerging wealth are what this booming area is all about‘ is how journalist Rachel Olding from the Sydney Morning Herald Traveller describes the Cape.  She visited Thelema, Delaire Graff, Plaisir de Merle, Huguenot Fine Chocolates, The Tasting Room, Vergelegen, the Constantia Wine Route, Solms-Delta, and La Residence as a guest of SA Tourism.

*   Delaire Graff’s new Tretchikoff acquisition ‘The Chinese Girl will be on display at the Cape Town Art Fair 2014 at The Pavilion in the V&A Waterfront,  from 28 February – 2 March.

*   The redesign of the 50 year old Naspers Centre is a World Design Capital 2014 Continue reading →

Woolworths: Social Media case study on how to build and break customer relationships!

Woolworths is a leading retailer, that attracts a shopper profile at the LSM 7 – 9 level, and has always stood for quality.  Its CEO Ian Moir has had a bad year to date, having experienced the negative power of Social Media three times this year already, the latest furore no doubt given him the biggest headache. There is no doubt that the furore that its employment advertising has created will become an important case study in Social Media Marketing, and will guide many other corporates in how to deal with negative sentiment expressed in Tweets, on Blogs, and in Facebook comments.

My attention to the issue was first attracted when I read a Tweet by Woolworths’ Digital Editor, highly regarded Sam Wilson, who previously was the editor of Food24, Parent24, and Women24, writing as follows: ‘Guys, I am white. I am currently interviewing white people. This @WOOLWORTHS_SA white racism thing because we comply with BEE? Weird’. It came across as a Tweet expressing her displeasure at her employer’s employment policy, and it only made sense when the story broke about Woolworth’s recruitment advertisements specifying population group requirements for the positions it was advertising. The story was launched last week on Facebook and thereafter on the blog of Justin Harrison, who calls himself an ‘Internet entrepreneurial pioneer’ on his Blog, but who has not been heard of by most local social media folk, maybe because he operates from Durban.  It got so bad on Woolworths’ Facebook page that it removed the comments containing ‘hate speech’. Last Thursday Woolworths posted a note on its Facebook wall, announcing that it was closing it down due to the overwhelmingly negative and unbelievably harsh vitriol posted, a move supported by more than 2500 likes (out of 204000 ‘likers’):

Woolies fans,

Disabling our wall was not a decision we took lightly and not one we’re particularly happy about. But when your page becomes little more than a platform for a well-orchestrated campaign of hate speech, we owe it to our customers not to subject them to such vitriol in our own house.

We have, in a variety of channels, repeatedly refuted the claims being made against us. We have also allowed thousands of comments on our Facebook page, debating the pro’s and con’s of Employment Equity as a national debate… deleting only overt hate speech and comments inciting violence.

However we’ve always put our customers first… and many, many customers have asked us to stop hosting this vitriol. We will re-open our page as soon as we think we can resume reasonable discussion”.

Yesterday the wall was re-opened, and new negative comments have been posted on the Facebook page, where most of the debate appears to be concentrated, with little mention of the issue on Twitter.  Interesting is the vast number of (mainly negative) comments about the Woolworths debacle on a new Facebook page called AAA Anti-Affirmative Action, with close to 3500 likes, reported on by The South African Newspaper published in London, which referred to Woolworths’ and SAA’s employment policy problems. The newspaper also reported in the same article that the ‘National Chairman of the Australian Protectionist Party, Andrew Phillips called upon both the Federal Labor government and the Opposition to unanimously support the introduction of sanctions upon South Africa’.   The sanctions are motivated by Mr Phillips, whom most Australians who posted comments about this story say they have never heard of, on the grounds of the government not having created an ‘equal opportunity’ society in this country.

Earlier this year Woolworths was embroiled in a Social Media war about its vintage soft drink range bearing a close resemblance to Frankie’s, which Woolworths was forced to remove from its shelves after the Advertising Standards Authority found that the retailer’s ‘Good Old Fashioned’ pay-off line was too similar to that of Frankies. Initially Woolworths denied copying any aspects of Frankies’ drinks.  In a third incident, Woolworths was criticised for launching Halaal hot cross buns over Easter, which caused a furore too. The sponsorship by the retailer of MasterChef SA was said to erase the damage which the two earlier Social Media disasters had caused, but Woolworths did not come out of the reality TV series unscathed, its Woolworths Pantry guest food blogger recipes causing controversy initially.

Woolworths reaction to the employment advertising furore, which has led to a call by trade union Solidarity for customers to boycott Woolworths, and which was echoed in the thousands of Facebook comments, smacks of old world corporate disaster management PR spin, rather than being Social Media driven:

*  Posted its employment policy, in accordance with the Employment Equity Act, which applies to all companies with 50+ employees, on its Facebook page on the same day:

Over the past few days, we’ve been accused of racist employment practices. We’d like to state the facts:

Like all South African companies, Woolworths has a role to play in transformation. For this reason, SOME positions (where there is under-representation) are designated for EE groups.
• The designated groups are Blacks, Coloureds, Indians, women and people with disability.
• As per the Emplo
yment Equity Act of 1998, Woolworths is expected, like all SA companies with more than 50 employees, to plan our workforce by race, gender and disability.

• Our workforce is diverse and includes people of all races (Black, White, Coloured, Indian), gender and disability.

We appreciate the value diversity brings to our business and the need to contribute to levelling the playing fields for certain groups of South Africa’s population”.

*   Sent a personalised e-mail entitled ‘The difference between Rumour and Fact’ to its cardholders, with a similar content, and an sms to those customers who are not on e-mail.
*   Placed an advertisement in the Sunday Times, Rapport and City Press on Sunday, with a similar message.
*   Wrote an expanded version of the content as a letter to the ‘Readers’ Forum’ of Business Report, an odd platform to use to address his ‘Dear Woolworths customer‘, when it was possibly the shareholders he was trying to placate, given the knock that the Woolworths share price has taken in the past week (the letter is the same as the one sent to its customers by e-mail)!
*   Received public media support from Labour Minister  Mildred Oliphant for its ‘unwavering effort to genuinely address transformation in the workplace through the implementation of employment equity’.

In our opinion, the response by Woolworths has been very corporate, very reserved, very defensive, and not in keeping with Social Media marketing principles of engagement and two-way communication, a similar reaction it delivered in the Frankies affair.  One wonders how one Facebook post and subsequent blogpost by Harrison could have unleashed such a storm, his message obviously touching a raw South African nerve amongst the shoppers that make up the bulk of Woolworths’ target market.   Surprising was the blogpost written on the 2oceansvibe blog, which lambasted Harrison for using the Woolworths issue as a means to gain more Followers on Twitter and other Social Media platforms, and writing in detail how Harrison had allegedly bought Followers some years ago. This led to a strong outburst of comments against 2oceansvibe, accusing it of being linked to Woolworths and/or Woolworths’ digital media agency Quirk, defending the Woolworths brand (denied by owner Seth Rotherham), and criticising 2Oceansvibe for pointing a finger at a Social Media player when it itself had been criticised for selling advertising for its radio station on the basis of highly inflated listenership fingers, forcing Rotherham to deny the allegations contained in the close to 200 comments received to the blogpost!

The Woolworths’ website does not explain its BEE employment policy, nor does it contain the public statements made in the media by its CEO in its Careers section or elsewhere on the website.  It clearly has been edited, as its introduction page invites one to click onto a link to see the career opportunities, but when does so, no jobs are listed. Now one is invited to call the retailer to check out its employment opportunities!   Woolworths should use its website proactively to communicate with its staff, potential staff, and customers!

Seemingly sensible advice to Woolworths comes from Harrison: ‘Woolworths is clearly in a spin over how to deal with this issue and they would do well to learn from SAA’s mistake. Issue a public apology and revert back to the hiring policies to be fully inclusive and based purely on experience and ability‘.

For Woolworths specifically, a platform such as Twitter should be used for engagement.  The retailer has become very poor at acknowledging any feedback about in-store problems, expressed by its Tweeting customers.  There is no apology if there is communication, and there is no follow up to communicate with the customer telephonically after the Tweet, as Pick ‘n Pay has become reasonably good at.  A company that once had the Social Media lead has become reactive and defensive, and has lost its standing due to the Social Media wars, rather than walking tall and engaging with its customers in a credible and warm manner. This is a surprise, as its Head of Online Nikki Cockcroft has an impressive background, including CEO of Primedia Online, 365 Digital, and Prezence Digital before she started at Woolworths just over a year ago, and given Sam Wilson’s experience in engaging with a similar target audience at Media24 previously.

Woolworths needs to go back to basics to better understand how to maintain customer relationships via Social Media.  Successfully building up a large army of Twitter Followers and Facebook Likers is no guarantee that the same seemingly loyal customer audience will not turn against the retailer if it is not in touch enough with its customers, and offends them, as the past ten days has shown!

Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter: @WhaleCottage

Woolworths loses ‘vintage soda’ battle against Frankie’s, withdraws range!

In a classic ‘David versus Goliath’ battle, KwaZulu-Natal Frankie’s Olde Soft Drink Company won against Woolworths when the luxury retailer was ordered by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) to withdraw the claim ‘Good Old Fashioned’, finding it to have been copied from Frankie’s.  The battle was originally waged on Social Media networks, with sentiment massively against Woolworths, to such an extent that the ASA ruling yesterday has led Woolworths to announce the withdrawal of its vintage soda range, an excellent victory for Frankie’s.

For the first time Woolworths, always priding itself on its quality of customer care, products and service, was on the receiving end of consumer power expressed via Social Media, with a Facebook ‘Petition to Woolies to stop faking Frankies’ page created with 911 ‘likers’, and hundreds of comments posted on the Woolworths Facebook page (with close to 150000 ‘likers’), urging Woolworths to withdraw the products and to admit that it had copied Frankie’s product concept.  A ‘Woolworse’ website was created, in reaction to the Woolworths Frankie’s battle, but the owner of the site felt that Frankie’s may itself have copied pack design, flavour names, as well as branding from international brands.  Woolworths was adamant until yesterday that it was ‘very clear that we did not copy other brands’, said its Managing Director for Foods Zyda Rylands.  Never has the retailer seen such a consumer backlash.

Yesterday Woolworths CEO Ian Moir posted on the company’s Facebook page the following statement after the ASA ruling was announced: “The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) ruled today that we remove the phrase ‘Good Old Fashioned’ from the labels of our vintage soda range. We are disappointed by this decision as we believed that no one could own this descriptor. However, we have always been clear that we would abide by the ASA decision. Whilst we maintain that we have not copied the Frankie’s range, it is clear that public sentiment is against us. Customer opinion is much more important to us than the right or wrong of this issue, and the trust of our customers is far more valuable to us than a product range. With this in mind, and despite only having been asked to remove the ‘Good Old Fashioned’ phrase from our labels, we have taken the decision to withdraw this product from our shelves. But mostly, I want to apologise for disappointing you, our customers”! The statement is far more consumer-orientated than its denials in the weeks leading up to the ASA ruling, and one would have thought that Woolworths would have a Communications department and a PR consultancy that could have guided it through this communication debacle.

The Frankie’s saga became public news in December when it was reported for the first time, and news of the Frankie’s versus Woolworths battle spread like wildfire on Social Media, mainly on Facebook and Twitter. Frankie’s is a small company started five years ago, and used the descriptor ‘Good Old Fashioned Soft Drinks’ from its inception. The company has only twelve employees and produces about 10000 litres of soda daily, reports Moneyweb.  It manufactures Homemade Ginger Beer, Olde Style Root Beer, Original Cream Soda, Cloudy Lemonade, and Cinnamon Cola.  Frankie’s owner Mike Schmidt communicated with Woolworths in May last year already, to alert the retailer that the slogan was that used by Frankie’s, yet Woolworths continued its use of the slogan.  Frankie’s therefore approached the ASA, lodging a complaint about the brand confusion which the Woolworths range was causing. Overnight Frankie’s achieved brand awareness and trial which it would never have been able to afford to buy via marketing!

The ASA stated in its ruling that it was not asked to make a finding about the copying of flavour names, labels, bottle shapes, or the ‘vintage’ flavour range, original complaints which Frankie’s expressed publicly. Despite being represented by well-known trademark attorneys Adams & Adams, who argued that claims ‘old fashioned’ and ‘good old fashioned’ do not exclusively belong to any trade mark owner, the Woolworths vintage soda range was found to contravene clause 9 of Section II of the Code of Advertising Practice relating to imitation, having ‘deliberately and intentionally copied the phrase’. Woolworths was instructed to withdraw its packaging immediately, but the Code does allow all companies facing an ASA ruling three months to complete the withdrawal of its packaging.  It may not be used again in its current format, the ASA dictated. Woolworths must also withdraw its communication of the product range across its full marketing communication range.

A meeting which has been scheduled between Frankie’s and Woolworths for 16 February now seems superfluous, given Woolworths’ announcement to withdraw its product range, which is what Frankie’s had been hoping for prior to yesterday’s ruling:“We are hoping Woolworths will do the right thing. The court of public opinion is clearly against them and I believe they now have the opportunity to recover from this by removing the product”. Before Woolworths announced its decision to withdraw its vintage soda range, Frankie’s media release welcomed the ASA ruling, adding “We have won the battle, but not the war”. Woolworths clearly listened to its opponent, and Frankie’s has emerged as the victor in a war that clearly went against Woolworths!  Frankie’s concluded that “Although this is undoubtedly a major victory for Frankie’s, it is also a victory for the small businesses who are scared to challenge the major retailers”.

Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter:@WhaleCottage