by Colin Jowell

Two icons died last week. And while I don’t think one can compare a man who changed a nation, to a brand that drove a nation, in the lives of the thousands of workers who for many have dedicated their entire lives to building Holdens, it is a sad day indeed.

Of course, it’s unlikely that the Holden brand will disappear in the short run at least - one of the parts of the story that gets overlooked is that the Holden design studio will at least be maintained in some form. You can see the advertising now. “Aussie Designed” to make up for the fact that it’s not “Aussie made”.

It’s interesting that the announced closure of Ford was not met with quite as much dismay. Maybe because Ford has, to some extent, always been an American brand, while Holden is uniquely our own.

Of course, this is not the first Aussie Icon to face a crisis of origin. When Kraft bought out Vegemite, people commented on the loss of an Australian icon. Of course nothing could be further from the truth. It’s still made in Australia, and largely unloved by anyone other than us. 80% of Australian households still have a jar in the pantry.

So if where something is made makes a difference, the Holden brand future may look a little less certain. The Holden Cruze was initially imported from Korea, and while local production began later, it never took the leadership position of the Mazda 3. 

One might note that the Mazda 3 is imported, that fact actually illustrates an interesting point- its OK for a foreign brand to be imported, but for a local brand to be globally sourced is an issue. And we can get over the fact that our brands are foreign owned, so long as they are still made here. It all comes down to authenticity- the story you sell has to reflect some core product truth, and for Holden’s sake, they had better hope that “Aussie Designed” will be enough for people to still feel it’s a real Holden. Once the understandable outcry over the loss of jobs has died down, it remains to be seen how long the brand will remain. But judging from the actions of the majority of punters who bought a Mazda, we will move on quickly. An iconic brand isn’t an iconic brand if people don’t buy it anymore.

So is “Aussie made” the ultimate credential? Have a look at Dick Smith Foods. They lead with the point of origin proof point, and all forms of attempted controversial advertising,  (if you aren’t one of the half million people who viewed this, be warned, it’s not for the politically correct). And yet, their brands have not become new icons. Why not? Possibly because if you take a close look at the packaging, they try to emulate the packaging of the market leaders. They look like fakes. That might be OK if you are Aldi. But not if you are promising a “true blue product”. In other words, being 100% Authentically Australian isn’t necessarily a recipe for success. But Being 100% Authentic is.