EDITORIAL WEDNESDAY 26.08.09.
Australia’s minister for trade, Simon Crean, has called for a new slogan, image or logo to promote Australia as both a tourist destination and a place to do business. The government is throwing $20 million into the pot to try to come up with a brand for the nation which will be as successful and memorable as New Zealand’s “100% Pure”, or South Africa’s “Rainbow Nation”. This follows the recent initiative by business leaders to create the Brand Australia Council in an effort to achieve a similar aim. It is however a challenge which many have tried and few have succeeded.
Recent tourism related efforts have met with a mixed response, especially the “Where The Bloody Hell Are You?” campaign which left many foreigners wondering what the bloody hell it was all about. Paul Hogan was more successful with his invitation to “throw another shrimp on the barbie”, but the new branding exercise is seeking to find an image which somehow encapsulates the Australian identity in a way which can be applied to a broad range of activities, beyond just tourism.
But that’s the problem. Just what is the Australian national “identity”? How is it characterized? We have such a diverse range of cultures and ethnic groups intrinsically tied up in the Australian experience that we can’t even pick out a national costume for our Miss Universe entrants to wear on the catwalk. Should our new brand image highlight our indigenous heritage, our colonial and convict history, our cultural, sporting, and scientific achievements, or somehow attempt to incorporate them all? The more you think about it, the more it appears to be mission impossible.
Then of course there is the dreaded cultural cringe where a combination of Presbyterian modesty over our genuine achievements, and embarrassment over our shortcomings, seems to leave Australians uncertain of their place in the world. Even when we do make a good movie, or produce a great band, or write a good book, it is always identified as being Australian, almost as a kind of disclaimer, or an excuse in case the audience doesn’t like it. It is almost as if we spend half our time apologizing for ourselves, and the other half bragging and boasting, unable to find a comfortable middle ground of quiet confidence.
The reality is that, like a shy schoolboy, we spend all this time fretting and worrying over something that nobody else is concerned about. The rest of the world doesn’t care if we are proud or humble, they just want to see our koalas and maybe some indigenous artifacts. Mostly, they don’t even know that we have restaurants and theatres or even running water. Mostly they can’t tell the difference on a map between Australia and Austria. Mostly, and this is the secret of success, they will believe anything we decide to tell them.
So let’s get over this awkwardness, and simply make something up that sounds good. After all that is what advertising as all about, and Australia has some of the best advertising creative minds in the world. Yes, we are “young and free” and we can sell anything, from lamb roast dinners to longer lasting sex. It should be no trouble to do the same for what is after all the best country in the world. So how’s this for an idea? “Australia: It’s Better Than The Movie”.