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It was the early ’90s. Wacko Jacko was all over MTV and a busty blonde named Pammie ran in super slow-­mo along a Californian beach in THAT red one­-piece. Something else rather big was brewing that decade too. Special engineers with their thinking caps tightly screwed on came up with an idea, a little thing they called the ‘world wide web’. Sound familiar?

The first website was launched into cyberspace in all its pixelated, clunky glory. Back in the cringe-worthy era of the ’90s, flashy marketing sites, animated GIFs, scrolling text and drop shadows were the ‘it’. Dial-up modems everywhere screeched like landing UFO’s as people started to connect to something extraordinary, unknown and exciting.

Fast forward to 2015 – we’ve come a long way, hopefully.

It’s been almost a quarter of a century, yet there are still a number of websites out there lacking in any form of innovation. So, ask your mum nicely to get off the landline so you can dial-up and get familiar with some of the ways your page is offensive, and how to c = combat it of course!

#1. Your site is stuck in slow motion.

A slow website is not acceptable. People don’t like waiting – it’s simple psychology. If your website functions as though it was created for dial-up, it’s easy for a customer to think that you’re providing a dated product or service. Time is money and no-one has the time or patience to wait for a slow loading website – think of potential customers. If you want people to visit your site again make sure it gives them the quick hit they’re looking for.

#2. Your website is hard to find. – we’re not playing Where’s Wally here.

So you’ve spent time and money on a glorious new website (ahh, I love the smell of HTML in the morning) and you’re just sitting back waiting for the leads to come rolling in… waiting… waiting… Was that a tumbleweed? “Where the bloody hell are you?” A website without SEO is like a VW without diesel – there’s no point running it. Make sure you’re one of Google’s good friends (or at least a Facebook acquaintance) and people can actually reach your site through a search engine.

#4. Your site is undercover

Unless you are an agent on Homeland, there’s no conceivable reason you’d publish your contact details in the sixth paragraph of your final page in white text on a white background. Make your contact details BIG and easy to find. You never know who might be in a hurry to get in touch.

#5. You have an anti-social website

People who deny the importance of social media are like the people who believe we never landed on the moon. The social realm is real, my friends, and it’s not going away. By allowing your content and your images to be share-able you get more visibility, which means more traffic, better search engine rankings and more lead generation opportunities. A quick tip – put your social icons at the top of every. single. page. Some people will still miss them.

#6. Your site is stuck in back when double denim was cool.

Remember that website improvement you suggested back in 2010? There are children who have now mastered their parents’ iPad since your light-bulb idea. If the cycle of life moves faster than your website refresh cycle, then it’s a pretty sure sign that your website is out-dated.

#7. Your site is still using the landline

Do you have a mobile and tablet responsive website design? If the answer is no, your website is absolutely in need of some TLC – you need a new site, friend.

#8. Get your brand out

For your brand to stand out it has to tell a meaningful story that catches people’s attention and engages them with emotion and feeling. Using a templates or themes has a place,we’re  not denying that. However, if you really want to develop a unified brand and vision direction, you’re going to need to put your own distinct flavour onto your site and ensure that your online presence is a reflection of your real world existence. There’s not point copying something if it doesn’t reflect who and what you are.

#9. Your site doesn’t come with an instruction manual

Consumers might be visiting your site, but if no-one is attending events or subscribing to your e-newsletters , chances are, you’re lacking some clear calls to action. Direct your customers and make your site a ‘journey’,  direct customers to take some kind of action where you are capturing their “deets” or lead them to get in touch.

#10. Your site has a good face for radio

While what’s on the inside counts, if you don’t take pride in appearances, you’ll be counting your followers on one hand. Don’t overwhelm your virtual visitors – simplicity is often key. Allow for space, don’t’ fill every nook and cranny with complex design, animation, special effects or clutter. The best way to keep visitors focused on your message is through valuable content, simple layouts, good organisation and immaculate design.

#11. Your site is full of clean-cut men in white t-shirts

There’s nothing more frustrating than clichéd stock imagery. Some stock libraries are great and certainly serve a purpose, but the cheesy ones depicting a world of smiling white families, happy-go-lucky employees and men in cheap business suits shaking hands make me want to throw my coffee at the screen. A solution to this? On-brand, unique images (yours) and graphics are just as important as a working contact form and good grammar (perfect grammar in fact).

#12. Your site is leading me on a wild goose chase.

When a person comes to your site you want them to know what to do next. Alright, maybe they’re suspicious of your stock photo choices, or perhaps your template format really grinds their gears. But visitors may be able to look past those things if they can immediately understand your websites purpose, the value they get out of it, and what they need to do next.

If all else fails. Ask yourself this question: Can the average Jo-Blow use your website? If you’re unsure, ask the least tech-savvy person you know to take it for a test-run and give you some feedback.

If you’re currently hiding underneath your desk in silent mortification at the harsh reality of your current website conundrum, don’t reach for the bottle just yet! Simply start by adopting some of the tips above, taking baby steps towards maintaining your online presence – this goes for Social Media too. Begin by tackling the points you know to be within your budget and resources, and jot down a plan of attack (and follow through) to leave those pixelated, bulky nightmares behind you and nothing beautiful engaging browsers lie ahead. It won’t happen overnight…

Check out this article from Marketing Mag for more great hints.


Jack and the c word crew

Cinema, couture and classic casting: contagious combination


We had the pleasure of watching The Dressmaker this week – and at the risk of sounding like Margaret and David I’d have to rate it 5 stars. It’s one of those movies that everyone can take something away from. Kate Winslet plays a character who is striking, real, and a bad girl come heroine with a little bit of mystery. Her performance along with a cast of Aussie greats makes for an incredibly moving film which keeps you stuck to your seat.

Movies like this have a cast of helpers behind them. Hours of direction, writing and costume production go into making them fabulous. On the other hand, short videos that flood the internet are often just moments captured on film. Some only ever seen by a few, others go viral.

Check out this video from The Ellen Show featuring eight-year-old Britton Walker who knows everything there is to know about James Bond, and helps Ellen out by educating her. And then by interviewing Daniel Craig on the red carpet. C = cute.

There is no secret recipe for the perfect viral video, and yet there are videos that receive millions of views every year. What’s the common thread? Generally if you throw a cat, a kid and a piano in you’ve got a good c = combo.

Remember that night watching Susan Boyle’s first performance on X-Factor. No, nor do we. Because we all watched it courtesy of YouTube. So why was her video contagious… ?

Just this week, following the #parisattacks social media erupted in support of Waleed Aly’s condemnation of the Islamic State as ‘weak’. Responding to the deadly attacks in Paris, The Project co-host and GQ ‘Media Personality of the Year’ urged viewers to pull together, and not to play into the hands of the terrorists.

Elon University conducted a study into what makes a video go viral. Here is a quick summary of what their extensive research revealed:

8 Common Characteristics of Viral Videos

A few factors were determined to be the most prevalent (and therefore most important for creating a viral video):

  • Title length: 75% of the videos had short titles (3 words or less), with the average title length being 2.76 words.
  • Run-time:60% of the videos had short run-times (3 minutes or less), with an average run-time of 2 minutes and 47 seconds.
  • Element of laughter: 30% of the videos featured the element of laughter (defined as seeing or hearing someone laughing within the first 30 seconds of the video).
  • Element of surprise:50% of the videos exhibited the element of surprise (defined as seeing or hearing an expression of surprise, such as a scream or gasp).
  • Element of irony: 90% of the videos featured an element of irony (defined as an element contrary to what was expected). The majority of ironic elements in the videos displayed the breaking of social norms.
  • Musical quality: 60% of the videos displayed a musical element (defined as singing, background music, or popular song references).
  • Youth: 35% of the videos featured children seemingly under the age of 18. 20% of them displayed children seemingly under the age of 10.
  • Talent: 30% of the videos were composed of songs, dances, or performances that required practice and talent.

Perhaps we’ll share some old home movies and see if they go viral?

Cheers, Jack and the c word crew

#CommsCorner with Jemma O’Hanlon


Jemma O’Hanlon makes an important contribution to the communications teams at Jenny Craig and Curves Australia & New Zealand, with obesity being one of Australia’s hot topics both from a health perspective and economically. Jemma studied an arts degree majoring in Psychology and Journalism, but it was one subject, Physical Activity and Nutrition, that led her to her passion for Nutrition and Dietetics. Before taking on her current role, Jemma had several years of professional experience including dealing with patient diets in hospitals, working in business development and marketing at Nutrition Australia and being a Consultant Dietitian at Carman’s Fine Foods.

@JemmaOhanlon has had an interest for food and nutrition from a young age and can also be found on Instagram or Facebook.jemmma

Your elevator statement – who are you professionally and personally?

A Dietitian and Nutritionist, a self-confessed fitness fanatic and a coffee drinking food lover.

My friends would probably describe me as easy going, a ‘social butterfly’, happy go lucky, caring and loyal. I’m a Gemini and am left handed so I like to mix things up and can be a bit of a risk taker at times.

We once did a team exercise at work where we had to describe our colleagues in a few words, and I was described as passionate, friendly, dedicated, determined, positive, personable and open minded. I won’t confirm or deny if some of these colleagues were direct reports of mine.. hence the nice things that were said!

Tell us about your typical work day?

There is no one typical work day at Jenny Craig and Curves. I’m rarely at my desk as I’m often in meetings, and often these involve tasting food products (I know, it’s a tough life…!) I feel privileged to be able to have a say into what goes into our meals and ensure they get the nutrition tick of approval.

Who’s your communication hero/mentor?

I have always looked up to Carolyn Creswell, the Company Founder & Managing Director of Carman’s Fine Foods. One day I heard her speak at a business event so I went up to her afterwards and asked her if she needed a dietitian. Two months later I was pinching myself as Carolyn welcomed me into the company with open arms.

Which tools can’t you live without?

My mobile phone and my apple watch. I was never a big watch wearer but when the apple watch came out I wanted to see what all the fuss was about. I love being able to check my calendar, reply to messages, and track my exercise and heart rate all through the watch. Yep, I’m one of those people. #nojudgementplease

What are the biggest challenges in your role?

The biggest challenge would have to be keeping all of our wonderful clients happy with the range of foods we produce. When it comes to food, everyone has different tastes, so you’re not going to please everyone. But we listen to every piece of feedback we receive (#thickskin) and always try to see how we can better our products to not only meet our clients’ expectations but exceed them.

Tell us about the best campaign you’ve ever worked on?

In January our team will be launching 16 new products, which is super exciting. I also love the challenge of being thrown in front of a camera and representing Jenny Craig on stage. I feel humbled that such a high profile brand would choose me to be their nutrition spokesperson, although it does mean that I put a lot of extra pressure on myself. I did a live interview with Ita Buttrose and Jess Rowe for the TV show Studio 10 last year, which was crazy fun. Lots of adrenalin running through my veins that day!

Which campaign do you most admire?

I have always loved the campaign we did with Mel B. She was (and is) a smoking hot yummy mummy and was an inspiration to so many of our clients. She has this beautiful positivity about her and she just radiated with energy.

What’s been the biggest change to communication/marketing/public relations since you began your career?

We recently did a massive overhaul of the Jenny Craig artwork design, which meant a completely new look and feel for our products. We turned the packaging from being old, dated and bland into something with real personality.

If you had to cut/keep something in your communication budget, what would it be?

We’d love more air time for our ads during prime time for sure! Can anyone direct me to the money tree?

What quality do you look for in your communication team members?

Our marketing team are all fabulous people. They have a love for life and a passion for health and wellness. We all live the brand at Jenny Craig and Curves – you’ll often find us in our activewear drinking green smoothies and chatting about which restaurant we went to on the weekend (we like to call it “nutrition research”). Above all though the culture at Jenny Craig and Curves is fantastic, and I think it’s because we laugh a lot and make sure we put our heart and soul into everything we do. We work as a team it’s all about how we support each other to get things done. We can achieve anything if we put our minds to it.

What’s your favourite brand?

I’m not sure if it’s my favourite brand, but I have a soft spot for Lululemon. Every time I go into that store I buy something. I do love Carman’s brand because it has such a genuine personality and great story behind it. Everyone knows what Carman’s stands for, and the marketing team there have done a tremendous job of staying true to their brand. I think it’s pretty easy to do that when your brand reflects the people behind it and the values that the company has.

What book/blog do you think every communicator should read?

Without any hesitation, ‘How to win friends and influence people’ by Dale Carnegie. An oldie but a goodie.

What tips do you wish you’d known starting out in communications?

Just be the best version of yourself and don’t try to be someone you’re not. And, always listen. We were born with two ears and one mouth, so we should listen twice as much as we speak.

Finish this sentence: ‘Communication is…’  a beautiful, beautiful thing. It’s how we connect and share our lives and experiences with others.

Creativity in the city


C is for cities creating catchy content.

A recent trip to the Sunshine State, and a pre-schoolies stay on the Gold Coast, got us thinking about a place and its brand – AKA destination branding. What should a destination’s brand represent? Culture, characters, customs … the list goes on.

With city branding on the mind, we thought we’d share some of the research we found about cities and their brands (including our very own Melbourne of course).

Do costume designers make good brand makers?

We were intrigued to discover that an Oscar winner; part of the design team for the film The Grand Budapest Hotel has given Dublin a new visual identity. Meet Annie Atkins.

“This new brand (with associated logo and designs) seeks to communicate Dublin’s unique position as a vibrant capital city bursting with a variety of surprising experiences and a destination where city living thrives side by side with the natural outdoors.”


DUBLIN dublin2

Source: Failtre Ireland press release

The new identity, featuring pastel colours and clean newsprint typography is not what comes to mind when you think of Dublin (there is no St Patrick’s Day greenery or shamrocks in sight!). It comes with a new tagline: ‘A Breath of Fresh Air’, this in itself challenges ingrained perceptions about Dublin, and perhaps Ireland as a whole. The branding makes you want to visit this hip, pace-setting city and #lovedublin. Dublin is in fact a very liveable city and worthy of this new branding.

oui oui oui

On our search we also discovered that earlier this year the new branding for the Saint-Didier-au-Mon-d’Or in France was released. Another stellar effort by designers. The before and after effect I’m sure you’ll agree is outstanding.

A classic for the big apple

An oldie but a goodie. Standing the test of time and one of the most successful examples of destination branding is the now iconic ‘I heart NY’ logo, designed by Milton Glaser in 1977. IhearNYAlmost 40 years later, the logo still generates $30 million a year in merchandise sales alone. We’ve all been there, done that and bought the T-Shirt!

(Left) Milton Glaser’s iconic ‘I Heart NY’ logo

A more recent example of successful destination branding is the ‘I amsterdam’ campaign. The campaign uses clever wordplay to invite tourists to play and stay.









The ‘I amsterdam’ logo sculpture is a popular photo-op for tourists.

The big M continues to shine

Locally, an example of impressive destination branding is the City of Melbourne branding, designed by Landor in 2009. We moved away from the leaf and into the future with the modern M branding – a modern brand for a modern city.  melbouren

City of Melbourne logo by Landor


Tourism New Zealand has been using its ‘100% pure’ tagline for a while now, but is expanding it with ‘everyday is different’ while maintaining its simplistic graphic – I guess the scenery speaks for itself.

The rebrand for the city of Porto, designed by White Studio last year is simplistic yet effective. At first glance it is almost facebook-esque.



Porto branding by White Studio

We can’t go by without mentioning London’s transitions – particularly post 2012 Olympics. And another Landor design for Hong Kong – which has transformed the international city’s logo into a modern brand, while incorporating the traditional dragon.


At the c word we are always interested in design.

How would you portray your home town through a logo?

Our CEO’s challenge for the weekend: get the sketch book out and come up with a  concept for his hometown of Woombye (yes, that’s a real town) :)

Cheers, Jack & the c word crew

Michael Rowland’s #CommsCorner: cassette recorders and constant communication


michaelCOMMSfinalThis week we catch up with ABC News Breakfast’s Michael Rowland. From Australia to America to Anzac Cove, Michael has anchored some of the most high profile events of the past decade including Obama’s historic campaign. After years reporting from Washington to Boston, he now spends his mornings on ABC1 and ABC News 24. You can follow Michael on Twitter at @mjrowland68.

What’s your elevator statement – who are you professionally and personally?
I’m the co-presenter of ABC News Breakfast. I’m also the husband of Nicki, proud dad of Tom and Eleanor and a Western Bulldogs tragic!

Tell us about a typical day (or should we say dawn start) at the ABC?
You mean pre-dawn right? Alarm goes off at 3am. I shower and have the first of several strong coffees while reading all the papers online. Then into the ABC for pre-show planning with the Breakfast team, more coffee, lots of makeup then into the studios to rehearse the opening headlines etc. Then, all of a sudden it’s 6am and the red on-air light is on and off we go!

What’s involved in being President of the Melbourne Press Club?
Working on a durable and long-lasting peace deal between the Herald Sun and the Age! Seriously, I lead a very committed board and we all work towards promoting excellence in Victorian journalism through speaking events and, of course, our night of nights, the annual Quill awards.

What would ‘new recruit’ Michael think about your presidency of the MPC?
What a leader! What a journalist! He should be President for life!  More likely it’s: How long do we have to stick with him in the top job!

When did you first know you wanted to be a journalist?
When I got an unexpectedly high HSC result (that’s the NSW version of the VCE). Like a lot of year 12 students, I had no real idea what I wanted to do with my life but that result would get me into one of the good journalism courses of the time. So I figured as I had always liked writing and following the news I would give it a go! 28 years later….

Which journalist from around the world do you most admire?
Lots to choose from but it’s hard to go past Phil Williams, who has just finished up as the ABC’s long serving Europe Correspondent. He is a fantastic story teller who has covered some of the world’s most brutal events (most recently the downing of MH17) but always brings genuine compassion to his reporting. You can’t manufacture stuff like that. Having worked with him over the years, including earlier this year at Gallipoli for the 100th anniversary commemorations, I can attest that he’s a really nice guy too!

What communication tools can’t you live without?
My smartphone as well as my twitter and FB accounts.

What are the biggest challenges you face? And what are the biggest opportunities?
The biggest challenge is ensuring our stories/interviews etc. reach the widest possible audience and that means being available on numerous platforms, not just the living room TV. At the ABC, we are constantly listening to our audience to find out ways of better delievering the news to them when they want it. At the same time, this provides all of us with tremendous journalistic opportunities to tell our stories in a variety of forms.

Tell us about the news coverage that you’re most proud of?
A career highlight was covering the 2008 US Presidential election and standing in a massive Chicago crowd about 50 metres or so from Barack Obama on the night he became President-elect. What do they say about journos writing the first draft of history?

Co-hosting News Breakfast from Anzac Cove for several mornings this year is also up there.

What’s been the biggest change to the newsroom since you began your career?
Just how much smaller and faster things have become. When I started out as a journalist back in the (gulp) late 1980s, ABC newsrooms still had typewriters, fax machines, cassette recorders and mobile phones were the size of a small briefcase! Everything is much more streamlined now and the news is much more immediate. Did I mention journalists actually went out to lunch in the old days…?

What book/blog/news source do you think every communicator should read (or watch)?
ABC News Breakfast. On air from 6am to 9am each weekday morning on ABCTV and ABCNews24. You’ll get everything you need to know for the day ahead!

Finish this sentence: ‘Communication is…’


Cabin crews: cross check, closeup time for corporate content


The Qantas Barbie collection – image sourced from Qantas media centre

If you enjoy being a fly on the wall, and get a thrill out of jumbo jets and drink trolleys, then you’ll love Channel Nine’s new observational-documentary about Qantas, Ready for Takeoff.

We caught the first episode this week with the Wallabies heading to the UK, a man with a broken back finding it difficult to catch a flight to Melbourne from Perth, a pilot returning from six months leave, and all the excitement of life at the airports in Sydney, Melbourne and Perth.

Following in the footsteps of a similar documentary about British Airways, this new program produced in partnership with Qantas takes viewers behind the scenes of the national carrier. It gives the audience unprecedented access from departure to arrival, first class to travel for pooches, and introduces us to all the characters who get us from airport to airport and back again.

The series will follow a range of passengers and crew including one of Qantas’s most valued frequent flyers – 84–year-old John Martin – as he embarks on his 1000th Qantas flight (he has been to New York 153 times, London 148 times and, in a hot tip about taming jet lag, John recommends you sleep and time meals for the time zone you’re travelling to).

In recent years we’ve seen a growing number of organisations embrace the observational-documentary to take us behind the scenes with Vogue going cover to cover with The September Issue and Oprah’s production company giving us an insight into building a television network. And of course, we’ve had years of going behind the scenes of hospitals, customs and RBTs.

Let us know what you think of Channel Nine’s new doco? And also what do you think of companies giving viewers an all access pass?

Cheers, Jack & the c word crew

Carbon, cars and crisis management


We saw a VW Beetle on the way into work this morning and thought, given the VW crisis continues around the world and Volkswagen’s new boss joined Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, on her visit to China, we’d share this great piece from The Conversation.

The article below was originally published in The Conversation.

The VW scandal is a prime example of crisis management and the importance of clear, concise communication. Other car companies have come out of their crisis mode stronger than before. GM and Toyota for example. Watching Volkswagen climb back from its fallout will be interesting times.



Volkswagen fallout shows how not to manage a crisis

Tom Osegowitsch, University of Melbourne and Susan Trenholm, King’s College London

Two and a half weeks after the Volkswagen emissions scandal made world news, Volkswagen Australia has finally broken its silence. The company says more than 91,000 vehicles in Australia are affected, including Volkswagen, Skoda and Audi models.

Volkswagen Group’s reputation is in tatters after it was caught using “defeat devices” to deceive environmental regulators and the general public regarding its vehicles’ pollution emissions. At this stage the individuals responsible for the deployment of the devices remain unknown, or at least unnamed.

The company initially blamed the “moral and political disaster“ on “the unlawful behaviour of engineers and technicians involved in engine development”. But blaming a band of rogue engineers was an implausible explanation, especially since German newspapers reported the company had been warned by both employees and key supplier Bosch.

When CEO Martin Winterkorn was terminated, the supervisory board issued a press release explicitly stating that “Dr. Winterkorn had no knowledge of the manipulation of emissions data”. And then the company suspended two R&D heads without further explanation.

The damage will grow

Regulator fines, various class action lawsuits by customers and investors, and the cost of a global product recall could top €100 billion. The effect on future sales may be even greater.

When corporations proclaiming social and ethical leadership violate their own stated standards, they are liable to charges of hypocrisy and will suffer disproportionately.

Increasingly, companies market their products and services on the basis of an overarching set of values. They no longer emphasise the narrow benefits of their offerings, but the broader set of values, or purpose, underpinning them. One of the key benefits of such value-driven brands is the ease of expansion. This approach allows companies to enter multiple, loosely related markets. Take Nike, for instance. Its expansion beyond running shoes into numerous categories of sports and fashion apparel as well as equipment was achieved by appealing to the lifestyle values of an “athletic subculture”.

Volkswagen Group holds a varied collection of automotive brands, including Volkswagen, Audi, Porsche, Lamborghini, Bugatti, Bentley, Skoda and Seat. The common values underpinning this diverse portfolio of brands are the group’s technical prowess and environmental sustainability. Individual brands have their own, distinct brand identities but also benefit from the parent’s reputation, thereby realising powerful corporate synergies Further synergies are achieved by sharing key components, such as engines, across the group, allowing significant cost savings. But in times of crisis, these corporate benefits can quickly turn into liabilities. The company’s carefully honed image of technical excellence and environmental responsibility, and the extensive sharing of components, has become a double-edged sword.

Sustainability is at the centre of Volkswagen Group’s avowed purpose – “to offer attractive, safe and environmentally sound vehicles”. The company heavily promoted the green credentials of its diesel engine, even during the US Super Bowl. In another, now cringe-worthy commercial, Volkswagen highlighted its virtuousness by portraying its engineers as angels. Unsurprisingly, these messages are now seen as cynical marketing exercises.

Following the scandal, research showed 64% of US vehicle owners no longer trusted Volkswagen, and only 25% held a positive view of the company. Empowered consumers will vote with their feet.

Regulators and politicians will feel similarly deceived, and likely foolish for allowing Volkswagen and other car manufacturers to largely self-regulate. Volkswagen can expect their reaction to be commensurately harsh. The same is true for the investment community. As of October 6, Volkswagen Group has been removed from Dow Jones’s Sustainability indices for social and ethical failings.

All parts of the Volkswagen Group will feel the wrath of those whose trust has been betrayed. Brands that used the defeat device in their diesel engines, such as Audi, will suffer the most. A recent survey revealed that only 29% of US vehicle owners had a positive opinion of Audi, compared to 69% prior to the scandal. But even units that do not use the diesel engines in their models will sustain some reputational damage, simply for being part of the Volkswagen portfolio.

The company’s other practices will be scrutinised, possibly on account of a negative halo effect. Volkswagen’s tax payments in Australia, for example, are now in the spotlight.

Australian response also found wanting

Australia’s Volkswagen subsidiary has come in for criticism for its handling of the crisis. Mirroring a product recall debacle in 2013, where the Australian subsidiary was widely perceived as slow and ineffective, Volkswagen Australia has once again proved unresponsive to local concerns.

Because of Volkswagen Group’s centralised management structure, national subsidiaries are hamstrung in their communication with local customers, regulators and other stakeholders.

A week ago Volkswagen Group announced it would set up national websites to update customers, but Australians were left waiting until yesterday.

Australian regulators were equally frustrated with the local unit’s lack of cooperation. The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) vented its frustrations over Volkswagen Australia’s failure to notify the Australian market about the use of defeat devices. The company did eventually meet with Australian officials on October 2, but the extent to which the local market has been affected remained unclear until yesterday.

Even in the era of globalisation, country differences remain important and multinational firms need to be attuned to the different contexts in which they find themselves in. Reducing national subsidiaries to the role of neutered sales platforms is likely to deprive the multinational firm of valuable information and resources, as well as sales. In times of crisis, subsidiaries unable to meaningfully and promptly respond to local stakeholders reflect poorly on the group as a whole.

Overall, the direct and collateral damage arising from this scandal will be staggering: decimated shareholder value, damage to the environment and human health, and plundered public trust. For a while, Volkswagen’s oh-so-clever devices helped the company to defeat emissions tests around the world; in the end, however, their use proved self-defeating.

The Conversation

Tom Osegowitsch, Senior Lecturer, International Business and Strategic Management, University of Melbourne and Susan Trenholm, Senior Lecturer in Business, King’s College London

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.