Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Cigghazi descends into farce

Having been completely undermined by the facts on tobacco sales under plain packaging, there is no fuel left to fire the juggernaut of wingnut outrage. What was Sinclair Davidson's next salvo? Evidently to get high and write some rubbish about bank branding. Let's go through the craziness in full.
The push for plain packaging - and intellectual property expropriation - began as a consumer awareness campaign. So, for example, consumers might think that ‘Lights’ weren't as unhealthy as ‘regular’ cigarettes.
That's the first mistake. The push for plain packaging by government in Australia is a continuation of nudge policies started in 1973 with health warnings on packs. "Light" cigarettes were a branding response by the cigarette manufacturers in the 1950s to the first wave of research linking tobacco tar to cancer. One is a public policy and the other is a private commercial decision - the latter was a failed attempt to avoid the former. Conflating the two is erroneous.
Maybe they were confused. Some of my colleagues who did research into chop-chop discovered that users thought it was healthier than purchased tobacco because chop-chop was organic.
If it was the case that there was such consumer ignorance out there, the only solution is more education.
The point being that branding confuses consumers – and the government, we are reliably informed, as a role to play in ensuring that consumers don’t get confused.
If a private company is deliberately confusing the public with a term like "light" cigarettes - which still kill you over time, just slightly less quickly - then yes, government does have a role to play to stop such irresponsible fooling of the public.
So where is this leading? Well last week an article in the AFR caught my eye.
Banks’ brands misleading publicIn its submission to the Murray inquiry, COBA said the position of the major banks was “now so dominant that the majors frame competition in banking as something that occurs only between themselves and within their multiple brands”.It cited independent research from D&M Research showing 50 per cent of customers were unaware of the major banks’ ownership of smaller “competitors” and 80 per cent were unaware that the banks own certain home lenders. “This consumer research strongly ­suggests major banks are getting away with portraying their sub-brands as independent competitors,” COBA said.
There is an on-going assault on branding and advertising that threatens all business. Having succeeded in stigmatising one industry and its consumers, the progressive left are now targeting other industries.
What? Where did that conclusion come from? If consumers are being duped into thinking competition exists where there is none, then yes government has a role to play there too. Companies don't have carte blanche to say whatever they like, especially in the subcategory of commercial speech. This is not a free speech issue, anyway. Consumer protections trump commercial concerns in a democracy.

An industry which kills most of its users and seeks to hide the evidence over decades using front organisations like the IPA to argue their case absolutely deserves what it has copped over the last 40 years from the Australian government. Another industry which seeks to hide its lack of competition also deserves to have the disinfectant light of truth shone on its dirty practices.

It's funny how the right, which nominally is supposed to stand up for the individual, seems so often to stand on the side of the corporation against the individual.

1 comment:

  1. Davidson and the rest of the Catallaxy crazies have never liked competition.
    They simply love markets where little competition exists. There has never been any price differentiation they didn't love which ripped off consumers. Cigarettes, petrol. The list is enormous. and of course they thought the robber barons were wonderful.
    Never consumer sovereignty ,always producer sovereignty!