BEST OF THE BLOGS: Why the Australian economy is even harder to forecast than the weather

We get opinions on the economy from some of Australia’s top economists and experts in various related fields here at SmartCompany. As is usually the case with the “dismal science”, these opinions quite often conflict.

As a dyed-in-the-wool salesperson, our resident sales blogger Sue Barrett has a coalface perspective of how things are tracking. Barrett is a little brighter about things than some of the banking and finance based pundits:

True, it’s hard not to notice the world’s issues and the financial crisis that continues in Europe and the USA. It wouldn’t be wise if we didn’t examine the consequences and impact of these events on our own lives and businesses. That seems smart.

But the fact is Australia has remained relatively unscathed by the GFC and its after effects. A well-managed banking system, stable government and diverse economy provide solid foundations. The mining industry, estimated to contribute between 7-10% (depending on which figures you believe) of Australia’s GDP, is a major economic driver, but definitely not as dominating as some people think.

Barrett brings some historical perspective to the conversation about the state of our economy and where it might be going, as well as some positive thinking:

I recall in my recruitment consulting days (late ‘80s and early ‘90s?) the economy was much worse than it is today. Unemployment and job redundancies were really high and interest rates were 17.5%.

Whether you share her optimism or not, there’s something to be said about being a little more hopeful about the Australian economy, which has, after all, just overtaken a sickly Spain as the 12th biggest in the world.

Is there anything redeeming about Alan Jones?

Well, not too much, according to his advertisers and many Australians. But our brand blogger Michel Hogan looked at the Jones fiasco from a different angle and posed the view that – all moral judgement aside – Jones’ comments about Julia Gillard and subsequent behaviour just reinforced that, if nothing else, the Sydney radio shock jock was consistent about his branding:

As anyone who reads this blog regularly will know, I say “Brand is the result of the promises you keep” – and that is no less true of individuals than of organisations. And by any measure I apply, Alan Jones has a strong personal brand because it is aligned, it is consistent and he keeps his promises.

Hogan draws three lessons from Jones’s rancorous approach to brand consistency and value. It was an analysis that many of our readers, including Tony T, disagreed with:

He is dated and the brand is finished. He has been exposed and only the rusted on listener will persist, all other will exercise caution. Any advertisers returning to the Jones fold will be identified and paraded by social media.

It, of course, remains to be seen what sort of damage Jones has done to his brand, both in the short and long term.

Talking all that omni-channel jive

Tech blogger Paul Wallbank is no fan of business buzzwords. Wallbank’s plain-speaking style means you know what he means and he means what he says.

The same can’t always be said for the CEOs and management of our big companies. Wallbank called the bluff on the likes of Myer’s Bernie Brookes for using the term “omni-channel” in describing the venerable retailer’s scramble to join the online game while still propping up its core bricks and mortar offering:

When asked at the time what an ‘omni-channel’ strategy was, Gerry Harvey admitted he’d had no idea what it was a week before it was announced, while Myer CEO Bernie Brookes said late last year it was something about having electronic kiosks and free delivery.

As is often the case with the lemming-like adoption of trendy jargon, those using such words only manage to strip bare their imperial nakedness even more.

Wallbank points out that words like “omni-channel” can only obscure for so long the fact that retailers and business have to work on the fundamentals. In the case of retailers, selling products at a competitive price and providing quality service will always trump the empty calories of an ‘omni-channel strategy’.


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