Coles, please stop dumbing us down, down

Despite Coles’ recent Little Shop promotion offering a clear uptick in sales, Bec Brideson wonders where the brand will be in six month’s time, once the little plastic items are long disposed of.

Dear Coles,

The yes-bag, no-bag, three-bags-full bag has been a tad confusing.

Many of us are concerned about the health of the planet and the environment, and know plastic and packaging are a big contributor.

We have plastic-straw guilt, plastic-bag guilt and consuming ‘convenient-single-wrapped-serve’-guilt. So educating and focusing us to changing habits has been a powerful, positive step, even if it has caused a bit of grumbling and inconvenience as we adjust.

Coles, your effort to support charities such as Clean-Up Australia is to be applauded even if it is really confusing green-washing when you bring out more plastic shit in the form of mini-products around the same time.

We know you understand the difficulties of consumer behaviour change, your flip-flopping confirmed it. But then you threw in another, much simpler behaviour change at the same time: Little Shop.

 image of Little Shop products

We know you understand the difficulties of consumer behaviour change, your flip-flopping confirmed it. But then you threw in another, much simpler behaviour change at the same time: Little Shop.

And, just as you hoped, this one has been a real winner. Sales booming, especially for the brands who joined it.

So stop me right here if you can – because I’m hoping you can shoot down this argument immediately.

Please tell me you have a stack of research from Australia showing that people wanted more plastic around their home in the same month you banned plastic bags?

That you went out and undertook rigorous research amongst those spending their hard-earned in your 807 national stores and discovered they wanted a plethora of plastic models of Nutella jars, TimTams and Huggies?

That you offered them a choice of “things that create a better future” and the list looked like this:

Creating shelters and support networks to assist women suffering domestic violence


Finding ways to attribute higher FlyBuys bonus points to top-up superannuation accounts to address the epidemic of women retiring in financial poverty


Funding studies and research into how to sell less-plastic packaging and consumables to help your brands evolve their real-size products


Making mini-sized products that most likely young kids will keep for six months before becoming litter in our environment.

Please tell me you did this and the masses of your customers all agreed that option four – mini-products Little Shop was the best option?

In Byron Sharpesque utopia, mass-marketing seems to have become synonymous with mass mediocrity where ‘talking to everyone’ has become permission for delivering tone-deaf fatuous content.

The voice of shopper is literally depicted as high-pitched, highly-strung, pre-orgasmic women marvelling in disbelief at the price of your discounted dishwasher tablets.

Yes! Money talks and you’ve seen the increase in sales and marketing objectives achieved – this stuff works – but have you tried anything better? Isn’t great marketing and brand work about aligning your values with your customers? It appears you’ve forced your tenets onto your audience and with no better choice many have jumped at it mindlessly trading on Ebay – did they have a choice or a voice in any alternative? Or just push, push, push?

Customer-centricity in marketing is understanding the values and principles and furthering your knowledge of their needs. Not your own.

Creating deeper enduring lifetime loyalty is the true measure – not transactional bribery that will wash up around their feet quite literally as rubbish in six months from now. Marketing is an opportunity to engage and invite our audience to join in legitimate positive feelings and shared values with our brands in acts of longtermism – not short-term blips.

It might not seem like an obvious solution to those more traditional-lensed marketers nor advertising fraternities, but then as we well know – changing entrenched behaviour needs a lot more intelligence to make it stick.