Of course, I'd heard a lot about her. It was quite difficult not to know about her. She was beautiful, she was exotic, she was fun, and open and tolerant. I mean it was hard not to miss her. I could see that she was quite sporty, pretty successful, and someone that I would definitely like to get to know.
And, she was young. But not young in a silly, immature kind of way. She was young in a good way – fresh, fun, a little bit risky.
But starting to mature. And the thing about her was that I had heard that she was quite complex… and I guess that was something that was really appealing about her. Fun, edgy, exciting.
But on the other hand there was a complexity about her… brooding, mysterious, creative, even spiritual. She was more than a single idea, she was the perfect package.
The reality was, though, she’d always seemed just a bit distant. The idea of her was amazing. I’d heard some people refer to her as akin to paradise, and it was easy to see why they thought that about her.
But I guess the deal-breaker for me was that I always saw her as a bit too far away, a bit remote, maybe simply too hard to get to. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to be with her, it was just… complicated.
And then some bright spark, some marketing guy, said, “No, the reason people don’t want to be with her, is that they don’t understand who she is. We’ve got to distill what she is all about into a single phrase, or people just won’t want to be with her. That’s why they aren’t visiting.”
They had tried this in past, when people didn’t know much about her. Back in the 70s, Paul Hogan told the yanks that they should, “Come on down, and throw a shrimp on the barbie”. And it worked a treat – the Americans didn’t know much about her, but they could see she was more than just kangaroos and koalas, or an outpost of Britain.
But now she is a bit different. She’s grown up. People know a lot about her, and, mostly, they like what they see.
And yet, the marketing guys were resorting to their tired, old methods – yell some simple slogan to the whole world.
So they went with “So, where the bloody hell are you?” Which didn’t really work, because it was a bit arrogant, and bit rude (although the girl who said it, did get to date a cricketer, so she did okay).
So now, another bright spark is saying we need to come up with another pithy campaign, that drags out the old clichés about her. And they’re willing to pay $20 million dollars for it.
They did it across the ditch, with their “100 % Pure ” didn’t they? But what these rocket scientists were missing is that there was more to New Zealand than a simple slogan, thanks partly to a bunch of Hobbits , and partly to New Zealand’s “fourth most popular guitar-based digi-bongo acapella-rap-funk-comedy folk duo ”… and also that thing called the internet.
* * *
I don’t mean to labour it, but my point is that Australia already has a well-known brand identity.
We are a mature brand, in a mature market, and we have to realise that a simple statement, using an interruptive broadcast model of advertising, is not going to be the panacea that resurrects our brand.
The reality is that lots of people do want to visit Australia, but the two consistent reasons people say they don’t come, is that they believe it is too far away, and that it will cost too much to come here. Now for many, too far away can be as little as a five-hour flight, for others it can be 22 hours. That’s the thing about attitudes… they differ depending on who you talk to.
Another problem is that in a mature market, a “one-size fits all” approach to marketing the country doesn’t work. And this is the problem with these silly, unsophisticated approaches to marketing; we need to move beyond the simplistic notion that we just need to create the “great ad”, to a more mature understanding of how different markets will need different approaches.
As I have said previously, branding and advertising is not some magical voodoo. It does have some influence over attitudes and behaviour, but the reality is that it can only really work as a “nudging” tool.
In other words, promoting a brand through advertising may incrementally move consumers toward a decision, but there are a whole bunch of other variables that will determine your final behaviour or decision. In reality, one-way advertising is a relatively weak motivator when it comes to consumer behaviour (although the ad agencies wouldn’t tell you that when you are about to give them $20 million).
And the branding that is being touted as being the answer is old-school, and naïve. It might work if people didn’t know about or understand Australia, but in a world of information, the people who are interested, do know about Australia, and no simple slogan or tag-line or logo is going to make a huge difference.
So, what should they do? The first thing is to move on. Yes, “Throw a shrimp on the barbie” was a great campaign. So was “Life. Be in it”. So was “Anyhow, have a Winfield.”
But the medium has moved on – on its own, a slogan does not sell a product in a mature market.
What we should be doing is designing a range of campaigns for different markets – it’s an old, but useful tool marketers call segmentation. All mature markets do it. We should be looking at which markets we want to target, and develop a campaign for that market, not for the entire world.
We don’t need to tell people that we have nice beaches, or beautiful women, or sunny skies… they already know this and they want a piece of it.
But they don’t come because they perceive it is too far, and too expensive. We don’t see it this way, because we travel long distances to get anywhere. For much of the rest of the world, five hours on a plane is a lifetime. For an Australian, five hours is a visit to Mum’s house.
What we should be doing is finding out why they aren’t coming, and recognising that a branding campaign, on its own, won’t be able change that attitude. What we need is a shift in thinking to encompass a more sophisticated approach to marketing and communication.
We’ve got to somehow dispel the belief that it is hard to get here, and that it will cost them too much. And we have to keep saying it, over and over.
A slogan will go part of the way, but we need to do more in other areas of the marketing mix.
We’ve got to make it incredibly easy for people to get here. It might be through more flights. Maybe through cheaper flights. We should be making it easy for those who have visited to tell others about how amazing we are. We need to reduce every barrier to people coming to Australia, including perceptions of racism, intolerance and even violence.
All ideas should be on the table.