Tuesday 17 Jul 2018 | 13:44 | SYDNEY
Tuesday 17 Jul 2018 | 13:44 | SYDNEY

Brand Australia: all talk, no action?


Alex Oliver


5 May 2010 08:25

This month, Austrade is due to unveil the new Brand Australia, the culmination of an eight-month process of tendering for and creating a new communications campaign for the nation. The advertising agency selected to create the $4 million a year, four year project is M&C Saatchi, creator of the 'so where the bloody hell are you?' campaign. And didn’t that go well …

According to the Minister for Trade, Simon Crean, the idea is to build a 'contemporary national brand — one which captures the essence of Australia'. He elaborates on this 'essence':

  • 'a great place to visit … , live, work, and  invest'
  • 'a trusted trading partner'
  • 'a great place to pursue an education'
  • 'a nation producing quality products and services'
  • 'an innovative nation'
  • 'a quality supplier to the world of key products such as clean energy and clean food' 
  • '… we want a brand that captures the vibrancy, energy and creative talents of Australia — a country that has won no less than 10 Nobel prizes'

Wow. That’s a long wish list for one campaign. Good luck, M&C Saatchi.  
Austrade is running the show, and its Brand Australia webpage refers to Simon Anholt’s Nation Brands Index. Anholt is somewhat of an expert on nation branding, having introduced the notion in the nineties that a nation’s reputation can be likened to the image of a company or product. While many governments have been seduced by the prospect that their nation’s reputation can be 'fixed' by a quick marketing campaign, Anholt distances himself from such simplistic notions, calling them naïve and ineffectual.

As he points out, though,

national reputation truly cannot be constructed; it can only be earned.  Imagining that such a deeply rooted phenomenon can be shifted by so weak an instrument as marketing communciations is an extravagant delusion.  As Socrates observed, ‘the way to achieve a better reputation is to endeavour to be what you desire to appear.

Actions, not words.

As a 'nation brand', Australia is most recognised overseas as a tourist destination and supplier of natural resources – the old 'beach and quarry' line – and it has few opportunities to make itself known to foreign publics.

This week highlighted one of those few opportunities; now lost. The Prime Minsiter’s backdown on an emissions trading scheme has already lost him traction in domestic politics, according to the latest Newspoll. While this backdown is unlikely to cause much of a ripple overseas, conversely, assertive action might have made a splash, in a context where few other nations have taken the lead on an issue of global prominence.

No matter how much it spends, the Australian government cannot reverse simplistic and dated views about Australia with a glossy advertising campaign. It needs to earn the admiration of foreign publics with strong policies and decisive action. 

Photo by Flickr user kaptainkobold, used under a Creative Commons licence.