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10 December 2010

Vets wade into poppy pickle


The Returned Services Association has forgotten one of the fundamental rules of marketing – knowing how you and your products are perceived by the marketplace.

When the New Zealand veterans organisation decided to cut costs by out-sourcing poppy manufacture to China and assembly to Australia, they not only outraged many of their own members – they struck at the values that the poppy represents.

Each year on Poppy Day the public is particularly generous -- stumping up with about $2 million for the RSA’s charitable works. It’s one of the country’s most successful annual street appeals.


Well, WHAM suspects it’s not because the public makes a rational decision that old soldiers are a worthier cause than say the blind or AIDs orphans. It’s because the RSA and the poppy – like Anzac Day – represent values that are part of our Kiwi identity.

Saving $150,000 by getting the poppies made overseas, may prove to be chicken feed if the public now perceives the RSA is no longer upholding those Kiwi values.

It’s a lesson the RSA learnt to its cost in the 1970s when, under old warhorses like Sir Hamilton Mitchell, it was a jingoistic supporter of every war going. The flower power generation was happy to support the care and welfare of World War veterans, but not if it meant being seen as an ardent militarist. Donations fell as a result.

- Trevor Walton

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Sam Tayler
I'm a descendant of Sir Hamilton. He's my great-grandfather.

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