Research and Development

Asymmetrical warfare approach needed for wool – Olsson

By AWGA director Chick Olsson, May 25, 2020

Australian Wool Growers Association director Chick Olsson.


WOOL marketing needs an ‘asymmetrical warfare’ approach — targeted promotion on several fronts — not the failed generic fashion-based programs of Australian Wool Innovation.

For 50 years, wool levies have been thrown at the fashion catwalks of the Europe, trying to maintain textile market share.

Even recently, with the aspirational Gold Woolmark prize, millions have been poured into enticing designers to use wool in their garments. It is clear that this strategy is failing, for trying to make wool fashionable is the very reason for its demise.

Fashion comes and goes, and with world attention drawn to our welfare surgery practices, wools elegance and beauty is losing its lustre to major public animal rights campaigns. Anyone who says otherwise is clearly out of touch with the market.

For the past 10 years, industry leaders have simply hoped that these welfare issues would go away if we ignored them. This Kodak-like strategy has seen the majority of the textile world shake its head in wonder at Australian wool’s self-destructive approach, in a new age of social media and huge consumer engagement into how products are produced.

While its currently easy to blame wool’s demise on the COVID-19 pandemic, other products are booming, and this is where wool must now look for its successful future.

Red meat sales for instance, are brilliant, with lamb and beef holding up the livestock sector and injecting real long-term hope into these farming markets. And it is here the answer can be found to wool’s resurgence as the most useful and beneficial fibre on the plant for human beings.

Red meat’s success is based on one essential fact, even with their issues of unfair welfare attacks by animal rights groups. Meat & Livestock Australia to its credit, has made red meat an ‘essential’ part of consumer existence, and the science behind their marketing is world-class. Infant brain development, muscle and physical development for teenagers, to excellent protein/iron/amino acid sources for women and men, have all led to consumers’ understanding the incredible value of red meat in their lives. This is something that animal rights groups cannot touch, try as they may.

And here is the same space that wool can follow; to be an “essential” part of human existence, with an entirely honest proposition backed by some amazing science, previously conducted by the tireless and hard-working AWI research teams. It has real messages for humans that will resonate with them, seeing consumer-led wool demand occur across wealthy nations.

Wool is essential for wholesome sleep. It’s a fact.

Wool is a pure and organic 50 percent carbon sink. It’s fact.

Wool is 100pc naturally biodegradable. It’s a fact.

Wool is grown from cellulose (grass) that doesn’t compete with mankind’s needs. It’s a fact.

If a consumer choses wool, its healthy for the planet, more so, it’s absolutely essential to buy wool if you want to see less pollution and reduce emissions.

And further, there is an entire value chain set up to promote this to the world, nothing else needs to be done. From our selling systems, to our wonderful top maker customers in EU and China, to spinners and weavers set up around the world, all is in place for a dynamic explosion of wool demand. All we have to be is asymmetrical in our thoughts and actions.

Charles ( Chick ) Olsson. BEcon. ACC. MAICD

Australian Wool Growers Association director


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  1. Jan Lowing, June 2, 2020

    The public thinks we’re dopey, that we’re only stupid sheep,
    The only use some find for us is putting them to sleep,
    But this country grew and prospered, all because of wool…
    The kids these days would laugh and say, What a load of bull!

    Granny knits a baby’s vest, a Mongol felts a home…
    Both use the greatest fibre the world has ever known.
    It’s used for filmy saris or woolly coats and hats,
    A trendy fashion statement, or insulating batts.

    When will the world wake up? We’re a dream for greenie cranks…
    Totally recyclable, the meat and skin and shanks;
    Naturally replacing, a renewable resource,
    And the ultimate in flavour… lamb with fresh mint sauce!

    …..etc. I wrote this years ago, thought you’d get a giggle!!

  2. Neville Kinnane, May 28, 2020

    I had to check the meaning of “asymmetrical warfare”. The properties of wool have not changed since man left the caves. What has changed is the way we think about our food and fibre usage concerning the environment, ecology and climate change.

    Your common sense descriptions for some of the properties of wool in today’s thinking are brilliant. If those in power will not adopt this approach, then I see the list of supporters will grow such that an extraordinary meeting should ensure commonsense prevails. Marketing is primarily about communicating in the language of the product purchaser and matching their beliefs and values. Well done Chick, you have identified both.

    • Chick Olsson, May 29, 2020

      Thanks Neville. Very kind words indeed. It seems to me that wool still has a major part to play in world health. Humans have needed it ever since the first sheep was shorn and just need to be reminded of its perfection.

  3. Kerrie Richards, May 26, 2020

    Judging from the amount of Merino products we’re selling right now – we know that consumers worldwide are hungry for Australian Merino clothing and underwear.

  4. John Brown, May 26, 2020

    Very interesting.

  5. Kevin Bell, May 25, 2020

    Can’t dispute you on this Chick!

    • Chick Olsson, May 26, 2020

      Thanks Kevin. Time to get back to simple scientific marketing messages for consumers.

  6. Jim Gordon, May 25, 2020

    Chick, I couldn’t agree more. Our peak body needs to get back to it’s core business. Encouraging wool producers to produce what the trade wants. Leave the catwalks to the brands and retailers.

    • Chick Olsson, May 25, 2020

      Thanks Jim. I understand many agree with us on these issues. Hopefully the new AWI board can be flexible and get back to basics. Cheers

  7. Michael Freeman, May 25, 2020

    The other opportunity in marketing is the completely justified concern around microplastics. Synthetic fibres and the clothes made from them are part of the problem. Wool is the environmentally responsible choice to be part of the solution. I haven’t seen anywhere near enough commentary about this.

    • Chick Olsson, May 25, 2020

      Fully agree Michael. Wool has a huge role to play in environmental health

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