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Choice: start-ups can learn from Shonky Award recipients

Wednesday, 27 October 2010 | By Michelle Hammond

Consumer group Choice has dished out some advice to start-ups based on the mistakes made by the 2010 Shonky Awards recipients.



Choice has named and shamed eight Australian brands for the “shonkiest, meanest and silliest rip-offs and scams.”


The winners include Coles, the Commonwealth Bank, Nurofen, LG, sporting wristband Power Balance, rope manufacturer Medalist, website babynamemeans.com, and a selection of olive oil brands.


Coles was named for its under-$10 meal promotion, heavily publicised by celebrity chef Curtis Stone and MasterChef.


Coles claims you can feed four people for under $10, but fails to include all of the ingredients in the price.


Choice spokesperson Ingrid Just said the Coles example highlights the perils of inaccurate marketing.


“The take-home message is to really accurately describe what you’re selling. A lot of companies have been pulled up for their Shonky because their disclaimers, or some of the details in the sales or dollar figure attached to their products, are in small print,” Just says.


“The other mistakes are [made] online, and I guess a lot of small businesses are starting up online, with payment details only available to the consumer after a number of click-throughs.”


Just identified Shonky Award ‘winner’ babynamemeans.com, which tricks users into signing up for a costly subscription-based service when they register.


“There needs to be information right up front for the consumer when they’re putting down their credit card details,” she says.


“Be upfront with the terms and conditions, in particular when you’re online.”


Just says a Shonky Award can seriously damage a start-up, as the negative publicity can be hard to shake off.


“There’s an adage that all publicity is good publicity but when you’re being hauled over the coals for not describing your product accurately or for an unsafe product, then a very negative headline can put people off your product for life,” she says.


“Have a product that does what it claims to do at a price that is marketed accurately, and then you’ll get return customers, which is ultimately going to grow your business.”