It’s not often that you get to celebrate 20 years of marriage. So in true celebratory mode, my husband David and I, chose to spend a long weekend at the 6 star lodge in Wolgan Valley called One&Only.
To say that we were blown away is an understatement! As a brand strategist I couldn’t help but marvel at the brand experience they created for us and felt that it was my duty to relay such attention to detail – as I do believe that each and everyone of us can learn from this 6 star business.
I must confess that my initial experience with the One&Only brand wasn’t earth shattering. The website, which was my initial point of contact, had me rather confused as I fumbled my way through trying to find out what was on the spa menu and what activities where on offer. This part left me a little frustrated and to be honest I gave up in the end.
However, I’m really nit-picking here as there really wasn’t much else to fault this brand on.
Prior to our getaway, I received an email reminding me of our visit. They redeemed themselves as attached to the email were about 8 pdf files that went through all their additional activities and how to book them.
The day before departure I received a phone call from One&Only to check if I had received everything and ask if I had any questions. I was able to immediately book in our day spa session, so I was happy. I was at this point informed that we would receive a complimentary lunch which we could enjoy on the day of our arrival or departure. We chose to do this on the day that we arrived.
The drive over the Blue Mountains from Sydney is beautiful and as we descended into the Wolgan Valley we could literally feel the stress fading away.
We were met at the gate where our bags were unpacked and tagged and popped into the 4 wheel drive that took us up to the lodge. We were greeted with hot towels and taken straight to enjoy a sumptuous lunch with delicious local Mudgee wines. Lunch overlooked the grounds dotted with kangaroos and wombats! I can only imagine how overseas guests would have felt being so close to Australian wildlife.
Everyone that we came in contact with was incredibly well trained and knew all about the company, activities, history, wines and food. I just love that the brand supports local industry with food and wine sourced from the area. The products in the day spa are all from an Australian company called Sodashi and these products are also found in your villa. Another Australian brand that they support is R.M Williams. Staff (other than management) wore deep blue R.M Williams jeans with an R.M Williams belt. It all added to the distinctly Australian bush experience that they were creating. Now all I want is one of their belts!
When we checked in, we were personally escorted to our villa and given a tour to show us where everything was and how to work it. Our bags had already been delivered and were neatly stowed in the massive walk-in robe/dressing room. Apart from our own personal pool, fluffy white robes, a shower with a glass ceiling and a double sided fireplace, they focused on the small things too…
Every villa was provided with a sketch pad and pencils for those, like me, who love to dabble in drawing. There were books and magazines, the newspaper delivered daily, mountain bikes on our porch for exploring the property, a backpack to pop our complimentary sunscreen and drinks in when going on an outing and of course Australian organic tea and coffee.
For example, on our second night, they ran out of the red wine that we had enjoyed the night before. As an apology for this (really not their fault, right?) I was offered a glass of French champagne instead of the Prosecco that I was quite happy to enjoy. The manager then ducked into the cellar and was able to find the very last bottle of that vintage that we loved. This bottle was kept on our table all night so that no-one else in the restaurant could drink it.
The sound of the wooden chimes (rather than metal) that we heard as we walked up to the day spa. The fact that staff remembered us and greeted us by name when we arrived for our meals. It doesn’t cost a cent to be polite, to smile and to make people feel welcome, yet so many businesses overlook this very simply offering.
The Australian bush fires have certainly made an impact on Australians and the world stage. People have lost loved ones, homes, businesses and pets. Our once buzzing tourist trade is dwindling to nothing as overseas visitors are choosing less charred soils to explore and fresh air destinations to enjoy.
In the meantime, millions of dollars have poured in from around the world to help our scorched nation get back on its feet. People and organisations have trusted that their well-meaning donations will end up in the right hands to help those who need it most.
But it appears that while we have plenty of good Samaritans out there, one of our most trusted charity brands, the Red Cross has admitted that they are withholding up to two-thirds of their $115million donations, and that 10% of this will be used for administration purposes. As a result, our faith in donating to large organisations is dwindling.
In a recent report by 7News, the Red Cross admits that they may withhold funds to go towards future disasters such as cyclones or floods. The problem with this is logic is that people have donated now, for those who need help, now. They don’t want their money quarantined for another disaster.
Unfortunately, the Red Cross has burnt their brand with this behaviour, partly because, in the past donors have trusted that the Red Cross will ‘do right’ by Australian people in need. This latest bombshell breaks this trust.
When it comes to building a reputable and trustworthy brand, consumers look to the brand promise, it’s consistency and its actions for a moral compass on how they behave. When mixed messages start coming through, confusion and suspicion start to creep in.
As recently as November 2019 Judy Slatyer, Red Cross CEO in reference to the ‘Help Aussie Farmers’ campaign was quoted in saying “It’s going to be a long hard road ahead for farmers and their communities. People can still donate and 100% of all donations are going to severely drought-affected farmers.” It comes then as no surprise, that donors may expect the same treatment of their bushfire donations as they would the Aussie Farmer donations. What is not common knowledge is that Red Cross on most occasions uses 10% of donations to fund administration costs. Poor communication is one of the key driving factors
What we have here is a case of donors expecting one thing and the charity doing another.
Now I don’t want to make the Red Cross out to be all bad, as on the whole, they do a tremendous amount of good. However, when huge donations of funds are involved and emotions are running high, this is no time to behave in a way that will make people distrust that the donations that they have made will be used for anything other than what they are intended.
The effect of the Red Cross’s behaviour is far reaching and doesn’t just reflect on them. As an industry, all major charities will come under fire and scrutiny. Without trust in a brand or an industry for that matter (we saw this with the banking sector), people may choose to donate to more local causes, where they can actually see a difference being made. This will be great for grass-root organisations and has in fact made organisations such as B1G1 a popular alternative particularly for businesses.
B1G1 has an easy to access online service where you can choose amongst hundreds of initiatives that you would like to support. Some support requires as little as 50c to help a project. All B1G1 projects are in line with the Sustainable Development Goals set by global leaders. They also promise that 100% of your giving goes to the projects you choose. B1G1 lets you track every single impact you create in real time through impact counters and interactive maps. This brand is truly looking at how to solve a problem while offering transparency.
Trust, communication and transparency are integral parts of any brand. Once any of these elements falls flat it is extremely difficult to gain back the trust and reliable reputation. The raw reality is that your consumer or supporter is not interested in what you say, they are interested in what you do. Actions always speak louder than words.
So what should the Red Cross do to help mitigate this brand damage? For one, they need to communicate better. Secondly, they should ensure that there is complete transparency when it comes to where they are spending the donated money and how people can get access to it. By demonstrating how they are helping and who they are helping, they will over time be able to build back trust. But this is a challenging emotion to overcome and some may not be as forgiving.
It would be a shame for people to lose faith in the very charities that are supposed to help, support and care for those in need.