Brand Anzac dangerous territory for marketers

Is there any Australian brand worth more in the hearts and minds of Australians than "Anzac"?

While Aussies might get parochial about Qantas and misty-eyed about Vegemite, such household names cannot compete with a brand so central to the national identity that the very act of calling it a brand is likely to spark a flood of letters to the editor.

Anzac is dangerous territory for marketers. It is a brand that, on some level, any other brand would want to be associated with.

Yet the potential for legal and community backlash is enormous - even if the motives were not commercial. Indeed, the literal commercialisation of the word Anzac is illegal without the authority of the Minister of Veterans Affairs - as it has been since 1921.

This weekend, tens of thousands of Australians will descend on Albany to commemorate a century since the ships of the Great Convoy, laden with young soldiers, left King George Sound bound for the battlefields of the First World War.

The nation's media will be there. Ordinarily, the marketing opportunities would be huge. But this is an "Anzac" event.

Perth-based advertising agency Block Branding has worked on the branding of the National Anzac Centre in Albany and the Returned and Services League of WA. Creative director Mark Braddock is used to working with the sensitivities of the Anzac brand and veterans.

He told M&M this week it did not matter how big your own brand was, "you are not a patch on the brand that is Anzac - and don't insult us all by trying to be". He said brands would be ill- advised to tie any marketing directly to Anzac itself.

"However, recognition and respect for the sacrifice and service of all those who serve their country is completely appropriate," he said. "Ignoring this sacrifice is worse than recognising it appropriately - the Vietnam War taught us that."

Mr Braddock said the mistake made by "unsophisticated" marketers was trying to equate their brand to the role played by service people.

"Don't do the 'from one proud Aussie to another . . .' type of thing," he said. "Be thankful and respectful and leave it at that. You have no idea what motivated the individuals who sacrificed themselves, so don't pretend you do - just be thankful that they did. Don't talk for them.

"And no, even if your brand existed at the time and was supplied to the soldiers, you were not 'in the trenches with our proud troops' - chances are 'you' were in some office in the city sacrificing nothing.

"This kind of message works fine for arts or sports sponsorship but makes our collective skin crawl when applied to a real, rather than metaphoric, war."

Mr Braddock said even the AFL "sails very close to the wind" in the way it uses the Anzac brand.

He said the Albany commemorations this weekend were not a marketing opportunity but there was a chance for brands to support the commemorations themselves. The event has corporate partners -including construction giant BGC, Telstra, Western Power, Rio Tinto and _The West Australian _.

"The reality is that to commemorate the sacrifice of those who have served is not an inexpensive undertaking and brands being recognised for the support they have rendered is not a bad thing," Mr Braddock said.

"You could take the completely cynical view of this and argue that corporate supporters should provide this support out of the pureness of their hearts and that any recognition creates doubts as to the purity of their motives, but we have to be more pragmatic than that.

"Businesses are answerable to investors and shareholders, and while giving anonymously may be noble, I don't think it is in the best interest of shareholders. If a company is doing good with my money, I appreciate knowing about it.

"Also, I want to know which companies and brands are good corporate citizens and the causes they choose to support go some way to inform of that.

"I think the line is crossed when a marketing message is built around that support, rather than a message of gratitude, and leaving it at that."