Thursday, October 14, 2010

Is Australia the 'dumb blonde' of the world?

In a Sydney conference yesterday, branding expert and author Simon Arnholt labelled Australia as the world's 'dumb blonde', attractive but shallow and unintelligent.

He pointed to the current tourism advertising campaign, Tourism Australia's move to bring Oprah to Australia and the lack of a cultural exchange programme like Germany's Goethe Institute or France's Alliance Francais.

''What you have is an image of a country that is considered to be very decorative, but not very useful,'' he said.

Mr Anholt said Australia relied too much on ''logos and slogans'' in its efforts to change people's minds about the country.

In a similar vein, Paul Hogan who starred in the 'Shrimp On The Barbie' ads of the early 80s, commented;

"If I go to your house to visit and I want to come back, it's because I enjoyed your company not the furniture," he said.

Campaigns like this address the furniture. If you took them at face value, and I'm not sure how much other value there is, the world would get the impression that we all spend our days beach-frolicking in the shallows, communing with kangaroos and watching fireworks in sequinned dresses.

And you've got to wonder what kind of hook that is.

Brand uber-guru Wally Olins, who's been working in this space for decades and amongst other things, helped Spain transition from the Franco-era poor man of Europe to the country that hosted the Olympics less than twenty years later, points out, sun, sand and sea are commodities. As soon as someone else can provide it closer and cheaper, your brand is diminished.

'You have to sell your culture, your history, your food your background,' says Olins. 'Otherwise, you are in the commodity business.'

Compare and contrast the 'Nothing Like Australia' campaign with Tourism Victoria's current campaign featuring Daylesford.

Simon Arnholt probably has a good point.

(If you are a Wally Olins fan, here's an excellent presentation on branding and nations in four parts. It's long but excellent)

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