Back on the brand wagon

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - Front Page -

Othe fed­eral gov­ern­ment plans to spend $20 mil­lion through four years on a brand cam­paign to pro­mote Aus­tralia’s in­vest­ment po­ten­tial, ser­vices and tourism draw­cards. The new Aus­tralia brand must have an ‘‘unashamedly com­mer­cial fo­cus’’, says fed­eral Trade Min­is­ter Si­mon Crean; the aim is to pro­mote Aus­tralia as place to visit, do busi­ness and in­vest.

has that sag­ging feel­ing, and not just be­cause she hasn’t started the day with fi­bre-rich ce­real.

Tourism Aus­tralia’s $40m ‘‘Where the bloody hell are you?’’ cam­paign, con­ceived dur­ing the dy­ing years of the John Howard gov­ern­ment, was a blink­ing dis­as­ter, as any bloody fool could have seen from the start, even when it was changed to the lame ‘‘So, why don’t you come?’’ for those del­i­cate mar­kets unim­pressed by Aussie lar­rikin lan­guage.

Kevin Rudd has de­scribed it as a dis­as­ter that ‘‘failed to de­liver any ma­jor ben­e­fits’’. The only win­ner ap­pears to have been the cam­paign’s perky spokesmodel Lara Bin­gle who, once she’d washed out her mouth with soap, cat­a­pulted to A-list celeb sta­tus and scored her­self the Aus­tralian cricket team’s deputy cap­tain Michael Clarke. Well, that’s splen­did for Bing-a-ding and Pup but of not much bally use to the av­er­age hote­lier or croc­o­dile park owner.

Brands and slo­gans are odd things; the best are de­cep­tively sim­ple but strangely per­sua­sive. ‘‘Malaysia. Truly Asia’’ has a rhyth­mic qual­ity that works, and who can re­sist al­lit­er­a­tion even when the mes­sage bor­ders on the ba­nal: ‘‘Sur­pris­ing Sin­ga­pore’’ or ‘‘In­cred­i­ble In­dia’’, for in­stance. The new ‘‘Korea Sparkling’’, how­ever, is a bit of a fizzer.

Other grabs that work in­clude those for Costa Rica: ‘‘No ar­ti­fi­cial in­gre­di­ents’’; and Switzer­land: ‘‘Get nat­u­ral.’’ But let’s not think this brand­ing fan­dango is some­thing new.

The Na­tional Li­brary of Aus­tralia has in its col­lec­tion of pen-and-ink draw­ings a 1982 Ge­orge Mol­nar car­toon that sug­gests: ‘‘Syd­ney! The Crime Cap­i­tal of Aus­tralia! What a slo­gan for pro­mot­ing tourism!’’ ( pick for the be­lea­guered NSW cap­i­tal in 2009? ‘‘Syd­ney. You’re Wel­come to It.’’) And of­ten a touch of naugh­ti­ness helps, such as the mega-suc­cess­ful ‘‘What hap­pens in Ve­gas, stays in Ve­gas’’ cam­paign that re­vi­talised the Ne­vada casino city’s tourism for­tunes ear­lier this decade. The worst are so cliche-rid­den and ephemeral as to be mean­ing­less: how many Lands of Smiles are out there or per­mu­ta­tions of Pearls (and Jew­els)?

AUS­TRALIA has a par­tic­u­lar fas­ci­na­tion for cat­e­goris­ing its coast­lines. Tourists are lured by the prom­ise of Pearl, Sap­phire, Sun­shine, Coral, Dis­cov­ery or Mar­lin stretches of beaches and cliffs; bold and brave Vic­to­ria even has a Ship­wreck Coast and the Gold Coast has got into the snazzy GC groove. Bal­lina on the NSW north coast prom­ises to ‘‘take your breath away’’, which may not ap­peal to its po­ten­tial re­tiree mar­ket. Hong Kong had the same slo­gan, un­til it didn’t quite chime with the SARS epi­demic of 2003.

THE most suc­cess­ful ex­am­ple of na­tion brand­ing has to be the 100% Pure New Zealand cam­paign, which was launched in 1999 with an ap­par­ent bot­tom­less-pit global ad­ver­tis­ing and mar­ket­ing cam­paign. This sim­ple slo­gan sug­gests not just en­vi­ron­men­tal pu­rity but a core co­he­sive­ness about the peo­ple and the place. The NZ mes­sage is flex­i­ble, too, easy to ap­ply to any num­ber of ex­pe­ri­ences and ex­ports. (On a re­gional level, Kiwi tourism boffins seem less in­spired. Some­how the no­tion of Ro­torua as Sul­phur City doesn’t have that gotta-go pull.)

IN the US, where ev­ery state has a slo­gan proudly dis­played on car num­ber­plates and tourism col­lat­eral, the ac­knowl­edged all-time suc­cesses are ‘‘I Love New York’’, with its red heart short­hand, and ‘‘Vir­ginia is for Lovers’’, which turns 40 this year; in 2002, the

does like a sub­ver­sive ap­proach as in (in­sert name of place and colon) ‘‘Not as bad as it looks.’’ In 2004 Tourism Aus­tralia had the bright idea to use celebri­ties to pro­mote Down Un­der to the world. Cricket com­men­ta­tor Richie Be­naud and poet Les Mur­ray were among the iden­ti­ties used; good chaps they may be, but as tourism draw­cards? Heck, no. The denizens of the bl­o­go­sphere re­act­ing to Crean’s present call over­whelm­ingly re­ject jin­go­ism and the trot­ting out of folk he­roes: Paul Ho­gan’s day is well and truly done, but per­haps not Baz Luhrmann’s.

Tourism Aus­tralia is re­puted to be sign­ing off a new block­buster ad­ver­tis­ing cam­paign in the slip­stream of the mar­ket­ing blitz built around Luhrmann’s out­back epic can see Hugh Jack­man sans shirt, she can see more of those soft-fo­cus ads of tourists stranded in trees (won­der­ing how the bloody hell they can get down, per­haps), she can see. . . Well, hope­fully can see some­thing bet­ter than the heavy­handed ‘‘Ger­many: The Travel Des­ti­na­tion’’. In 2007, it cost the Scot­tish gov­ern­ment the equiv­a­lent of $300,000 to come up with: ‘‘Wel­come to Scot­land.’’ Even if it were spruiked by the smooth-talk­ing likes of John Han­nah or Ewan McGre­gor, you’d just want to yawn your tar­tan socks off.

Well, that’s done. The fed­eral gov­ern­ment can have Wel­come to Aus­tralia for free. Or take in­spi­ra­tion from the Greek tourism toffs: ‘‘Greece be­yond words.’’ Or pay a hand­ful of smack­ers for this great tip — just kid­nap the Kansas state motto: ‘‘As big as you think.’’ See y’all at the cul­tural cross­roads, where east meets west and it’s 100% pure bulldust.

DEALS OF THE WEEK

Early-book­ing dis­counts in Tas­ma­nia; Sal Salis eco-sa­fari camp on sale; St Peters­burg for less; Oman spe­cials. Th­ese and other money-sav­ing of­fers are fea­tured in hol­i­day deals, up­dated daily:

www.theaus­tralian.com.au/travel/dd

Il­lus­tra­tion: Tom Jel­lett

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