08/08/2006 - 22:00

Wesfarmers a survivor

08/08/2006 - 22:00

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The departure of Michael Chaney last year has done little to halt the Wesfarmers juggernaut, with the industry giant named as the top Western Australian corporate brand in this year’s WA Business News survey, ahead of Woodside and Alinta.

Wesfarmers a survivor

The departure of Michael Chaney last year has done little to halt the Wesfarmers juggernaut, with the industry giant named as the top Western Australian corporate brand in this year’s WA Business News survey, ahead of Woodside and Alinta.

The top 10 also included BGC, West Coast Eagles, BHP, Rio Tinto, Mirvac Fini, HBF and BankWest.

Wesfarmers executive general manager corporate affairs, Keith Kessell, told WA Business News it was the brand’s longevity, having been in existence for more than 90 years, and its size in a relatively small market that lifted Wesfarmers’ brand recognition above those of other Western Australian companies.

“Wesfarmers is really an investors’ brand,” he said. “We are one of a few home-grown large companies in Western Australia and therefore we are getting a bit of a following in a relatively small field.

“Before the emergence of Woodside and Alinta, Wesfarmers really was the most established corporate brand around.”

Mr Kessell said all of the Wesfarmers marketing and brand management took place in-house.

“We don’t have a public affairs department and our investor relations department is very limited compared to other companies our size,” he said.

“We hope that it is our deeds rather than our gloss that is the substance of our brand recognition.”

According to Allchurch Communications director Sarah Allchurch, Wesfarmers was recognised as more than purely an investor brand, with the company’s contributions in areas such as medical research, education and the arts playing an important part in its brand recognition.

“The company is consistently involved in sponsoring the arts, in contrast to many WA corporate brands, which choose to be involved in the sports arena,” Ms Allchurch said.

“They are putting money back into intellectual property in the state which is helping them expand their brand recognition.”

The Wesfarmers Arts program supports the visual and performing arts in WA, in partnership with key organisations including West Australian Ballet, West Australian Opera, West Australian Symphony Orchestra, Black Swan Theatre Company, UWA Perth International Arts Festival and the Awesome Children’s Festival.  

Of the big movers, the West Coast Eagles lifted 13 spots on the table to fifth position.

The NCS group’s founder, Chris Codrington, said the West Coast Eagles, for which NCS was involved in strategic planning and media relations from 1987 to 2000, had grown from its inception to become one of the most powerful brands in the state.

“The West Coast Eagles is today not only a hugely successful consumer brand, but also a highly recognised corporate brand,” he said.

“Because of its huge public following, the West Coast Eagles has become a most influential institution. This status affords the West Coast Eagles considerable recognition in commercial, political and community circles.”

Mr Codrington said this ability to influence both consumer and corporate markets had resulted in sponsorship opportunities with the club becoming increasingly valuable and much sought after.

Among the more interesting inclusions in the top 10 were big miners such as BHP and Rio Tinto, which made their debut in sixth and seventh positions respectively.

According to Clarity Communications managing director Anthony Hasluck, Rio Tinto was the big emerging corporate brand in WA.

“This is because until recently it has been better known as the individual brands like Hamersley Iron, Robe River and Dampier Salt,” he said.

“But the overall brand is now starting to come to the fore [given the resources boom] and will become even more prominent over time.”

The WA Business News branding survey featured a new component this year, with public relations firms asked what they thought were the state’s underachieving corporate brands.

BankWest headed the list, followed by Multiplex, iiNet, The West Australian and Clough Engineering rounding out the top five.  A notable omission from this year’s top 10 best corporate brand list, Multiplex Group has plummeted to equal 11th spot after being voted top corporate brand last year.

The Right Group’s managing director David Kent said the under-performance of the company’s construction arm on high-profile projects [such as Wembley Stadium] had ultimately affected its brand equity.

“The construction delays at Wembley do nothing for the credibility of the brand on the global stage,” he said.

“I speculate that there is a fairly low level of employer engagement [with the company’s brand] at present.”

Only last week, the company said the Wembley Stadium would not be ready to hold a test event before June 2007.The stadium had initially been scheduled to be open ahead of the 2006 FA Cup final last May.

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