When National Pride Is More Like Brand Marketing

For many Australians, our national day is one that allows them to celebrate their culture, their community, and their uniqueness as an Australian. Indeed, Australia Day is important to us simply because it functions as a national day of celebration where we can gather as family and friends, have BBQs, share stories and good times, and understand what it means to live in one of the best countries in the world.

Of course, it is common for retail chains and other shops to participate in our national day of pride as well. The Aussie flags that often hang in our shops, and the Aussie paraphernalia that is sold, allow us to focus our attention of what it means to be an Aussie and what it means to us as both individuals and as a community. But what happens when displaying our Australian flag as a part of our national day of celebrations is all wrong?

A Story of Getting It Wrong

In January of 2016, Coles overstepped the mark when they proudly hung Australian flags that were incorrect in a Brisbane store. The flags displayed the traditional Union Jack upside down, as well as the Southern Cross in reverse. Management stated that they had purchased the flags from another store and did not realise the error. So, what does this mistake really represent?

It would be very easy to see the effort that Coles made as being all about national pride leading up to Australia Day celebrations, but in them not seeing that the flag was clearly wrong, it seems as though their awareness of the flag is lacking! Indeed, if one were to be even slightly cynical, it would seem that the flag display exercise is really more about marketing than about anything approaching national or community spirit.

A Question of Respect

That the incorrectly printed flags were purchased cheaply is not in question, as they had clearly been manufactured at a facility that had very little knowledge of one of our national symbols or indeed any quality controls. The real problem here is really one of respect. If one of Australia’s foremost supermarket chains could get it so wrong, then how much do they or we respect the flag as a symbol of our nationhood?

Allan Pidgeon from Brisbane is a person who strongly believes in our national values and what our flag represents. For proud Aussies like Allan, the example above is indicative of just how many of Australia’s products are manufactured in overseas factories. Even though Coles was clearly trying to join in the celebrations, the fact that they got it so drastically wrong not only shows them up, but also disrespects one of our national symbols.

The only saving grace here is that to some extent these oversights can be forgiven on a day where national pride is a celebratory and happy event. Were it to occur on ANZAC Day – a more solemn affair – the fallout could well be much bigger and nastier for a brand like Coles.