Virgin Airlines misread Aussie culture this week.
This news article yesterday demonstrated an underlying cultural base-line that we Aussies take seriously.
It is the concept of an egalitarian society where we’d like to think that we all are equal and that any focus or acknowledgment of “differences” as defined by wealth, education, background or experience is frowned upon.
Virgin Airlines did some interesting test marketing this week. It got their brand in the news (any publicity is good publicity) but it also served to highlight the differences between our culture and those of other English speaking countries like the USA.
Virgin floated the idea of honouring our war veterans by giving special boarding calls to enable them to board flight before others passengers.
Whilst this is somewhat common in the USA, and indeed celebrated as a form of acknowledgement, the idea was met with huge resistance here. The Veterans associations were interviewed and they told us that many vets had rung them to express how Un-Australian it would be to call them out as “special” when they were just doing their jobs.
This downplaying of one’s contribution – is seen as a key attribute of being an Aussie. In Richard Lewis’ book When Cultures Collide, he highlights the underlying value of “egalitarianism” as a key theme that is intricately entwined into our DNA. And whilst we may not be an egalitarian society in reality (too many layers of wealth, education, etc to call us that!), it cannot be denied that one of the truly underpinning values we display is our ability to downplay our contribution as ‘just what we do’ and to not shine a light on anything that may bring attention to our differences.
So how does this fundamental belief play out in business?
Where have you seen it demonstrated?
How does the deep rooted belief in egalitarianism shape our thinking, decision making?
How does it play out in our entrepreneurs?