Anzac and Woolworths: Why Australia protects the word

Picture of the Woolworths campaign for Anzac Day 2015 Image copyright Woolworths

A storm of criticism broke over Australia's largest retailer Woolworths, this week, when it tried to link its own marketing slogans to one of the nation's most sacred cows.

Ahead of the centenary of Australia's involvement in the disastrous World War One Gallipoli campaign, the supermarket chain asked shoppers to share a memory of someone affected by war, using the words "Lest We Forget Anzac 1915-2015. Fresh in our memories".

Anzac Day - 25 April - is arguably Australia's most important national occasion. It marks the anniversary of the first campaign that led to major casualties for Australian and New Zealand forces during World War One and commemorates all the conflicts that followed.

The problem is, for some time Woolworths has branded itself "the fresh food people".

The ensuing backlash on social media showed Australians don't want Gallipoli - which in recent years has been elevated to an almost spiritual plane - tainted by commercial considerations.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Australians and New Zealanders will be commemorating the 100th anniversary of the Gallipoli campaign this year

That reverence is backed by law.

In 1921, regulations were put in place to protect the word "Anzac" from inappropriate use.

You can't use the word "Anzac" in connection with any trade, business, private residence, boat, vehicle or charitable or other institution, or any building, without the authority of Australia's Minister for Veterans' Affairs.

Anzac isn't the only word in the Australian lexicon to get special treatment.

In 2000, the Australian government made it illegal for corporate names to suggest a link to legendary cricketer, Sir Donald Bradman, if no such link actually existed.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Sir Donald seen here in 1938 at a Test match in the UK

Bradman's life story is part of Australian folklore - a country boy whose rose to the top of world cricket.

So important is he to Australian's sense of history that the nation's ability to make it through the Great Depression is attributed in part to his ability to smack willow on leather. It didn't hurt that he thrashed the British at their own game.

The only other Australian to receive name branding protection is Australia's first and only real saint, Mary MacKillop.

Taking the nun's name in vain - she was canonised in 2010 - may perhaps bring down the wrath of God, but following a change to Australia's Corporations Law in 2010, using her name to sell biscuits or tea towels without permission could also invoke the wrath of the Australian government.

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