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Branding Australia

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In June, Austrade invited me to Melbourne to participate in a session on the subject of creating a brand for Australia, along with representatives from the Australian Industry Group, Australian Made Campaign, the Services Round Table and other key associations involved in export. The session turned out really well with some good researchgenerating valuable discussion. Most of my career has involved working on brands: creating and executing the positioning of products or services. I’m a great believer in positioning as the critical element in brand development as it underpins the whole marketing strategy, the advertising, and the promotion. It is not always easy to explain, but something we all regularly experience and importantly react to everyday. The right positioning will stay with a brand for years and keep the competition at bay; bad positioning can often create the downfall of even a good performing product. Why I say it’s difficult to explain, it is not because it’s highly intellectual, but because it requires a good understanding of the mental and emotional state of the buyer or user before it’s created. In the 1930s, Bendix launched what was the first fully automatic washing machine on the market. Following logic, it was positioned as a breakthrough labour-saving device for women; it failed. After deep research, it was repositioned as a breakthrough in delivering a cleaner, whiter wash for all the family; it worked. Put simply, the buyer had justification for purchase, the product occupied the core positioning, and success reigned for many years to come. This happens right across the spectrum of brands, even cars. The safety positioning satisfies the justification for spending on the looks and the ‘I’ve made it’ factor, which may be the real underlying motivation for purchase. Positioning is not always about a brand, it can well be about a category. Take the everyday wristwatch. Before Seiko and Swatch, watches were essentially positioned as a means of telling the time. People went through life with one watch. When watches started to look better and were repositioned as a fashion item the big bang came and the category exploded. Design became more important, technology brought prices down, and today, in a lifetime, we will own lots of pieces of jewellery that simply tell us the time.

Universal message

Coming up with a positioning for Australia will be challenging, particularly if it is to be universal. The message we have been sending the world has been created by tourism advertising and by movies and sporting stars. And, we have a few parochial challenges to face. But it can be done, as clearly demonstrated by New Zealand who have taken the position on ‘clean and green’ through ‘100% Pure’, which is simply outstanding. What’s more, it’s credible, meaning that the message has and will continue to get through the clutter and register in the mental and emotional state of the people they want to reach. At the brand meeting, the research essentially looked at current positive and negative impressions and perceptions people abroad have about Australia. On the positive side, there were attributes that position Australia in a somewhat unique position, and others can be only be deemed passé, generic or both. What stood out for me was the positive feeling people had about Australian people. Coming from the school that believes a strong positioning only comes from a current or underlying attitude, it seemed to me that ‘people’ based positioning is worthy of greater and deeper exploration. Why I say people is its fit with who we are as a multicultural nation, its obvious credibility and its ability to fit across all sectors of business, tourism, education and so forth. We are highly skilled people, courteous people, innovative people, from all walks of life, from every corner of the world. It doesn’t matter what you are marketing, it is people in the final event that will make it a success or a failure. Of course it’s far deeper than that, but perhaps not a bad place to start. One can never be sure where this will end up, but it’s encouraging to know that it’s happening and it’s great to be invited as a participant. If it ends up as good as what the Kiwis have done, it will certainly be a valuable adjunct to marketing our products and services to international destinations. -Ian Murray is the executive director of the Australian Institute of Export

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