Nadia Padayachi

Consumers who trust too much

2004-12-03 08:18

Woolworths was recently named South Africa's most trusted company of 2004 in the Business Trust Barometer.

The retailer has over time gone through a metamorphosis from a store where you could buy good food and classic to old fuddy-duddy clothes, to a trend setting brand.

The announcement of three top designers' labels (Stoned Cherrie, Craig Native and Maya Prass) who have made a special range for the store proves how it is trying to be a forerunner in its retail category.

Back to the survey, I'm not questioning the validity of the review by Ask Africa, but more the way this trust has come about.

For Woolworths, this I would think is taken from various aspects of their business: quality of goods, reliability of staff and part of that will naturally be their marketing tools, including their advertising campaign.

Woolies has taken on quite a different ad campaign for clothing this year. Those who are familiar with Maslow Hierarchy of needs will recognise what and who the campaign (although not unique) targets.

To summarise, the concept of this theory is to categorise human needs. This starts with Body or Physiological needs such as air, warmth, food and sleep. The next level deals with security, social, self-esteem and ends with Self Actualisation or Fulfilment needs.

The self-actualisation level

This campaign targets those who have reached the self-actualisation level. This person has fulfilled all lower stages and can focus on pursuing other spheres of life to further him or herself.

Taking a different route, in a previous campaign they challenged consumers to "be more" with an act of self-actualisation. For example, to be more creative.

The company then decided to feature people in individual ads with the purpose of putting a face to the brand or associating personalities to the Woolworths name. If you look at the careers of all of these personalities, most (if not all) work in this field - actors, filmmakers and an array of designers.

The celebs who have featured in the campaign are endless, including Tamara Dey (singer/songwriter), PJ Powers (singer/songwriter), Tumisho K Masha (actor), Azania (Metro FM DJ), Thandiswa Mazwai (performing artist), Marianne Fassler (fashion designer) and Hlubi Mboya (actress).

But can you trust someone you don't know? Actress Chichi Letswalo is quoted as saying, "I've made the sky my ceiling, the earth my stage, and my life a tribute to excelling in all I love".

How many Woolies customers personally know Ms Letswalo? From watching her on TV, she's definitely a fun-loving lady, but does this mean that we trust Woolworths more?

The ad allows us to identify with different personalities - people who most South Africans aspire to be more like.

Who are these people?

My parents taught me to never trust strangers, which is what many ad campaigns encourage us to do these days. Who are these people?

We allow them into our homes, but don't know their values and certainly not if they, as individuals, can be trusted. How can we associate ourselves with people we know nothing of?

Should we trust Woolworths to tell us this? How can we, as the public be dictated to as to who we can and cannot trust?

This is a trend that many advertisers have taken to, and I appreciate why.

People don't want to be sold a product. They want more than that. Cliché, I know, but they want a lifestyle and products are categorised according to which lifestyle they fit into.

Trust is an intangible and most valued attribute any organisation can attain. One can go about gaining this in many ways.

To be presented with huge posters and pages of ads in many consumer magazines and told that these people personify Woolies, by a picture and a quote of them is something I don't think is unrealistic.

Are we supposed to just accept what we are given? Or rather, since Woolies was voted most trusted, are we too easily trusting?

  • Nadia Padayachi is a publicist at a Cape Town publicity agency. She has a special interest in Media / Marketing as well as societal issues.

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