Australia’s states need a serious rebrand

New York has it, cool Britannia has it, so why doesn't Australia have it? PwC Australia's chief creative officer Russel Howcroft considers why our states need some serious branding work.

My recent trip to Perth highlighted the importance of destination brands – brands which help a state, a region, or a city engage with local and international audiences to attract trade, investment, tourism and assist with growth. I have heard this type of marketing called “place branding”.

And, when you put it like that, why wouldn’t governments and their various trade and tourism authorities invest to position the place in order to drive growth.

Indeed, as I write this article I am getting cross.

Where is the great place branding for Australia? It certainly isn’t Baz Luhrmann and his film “Australia”.

Where are the once-great campaigns for my home state Victoria, and its city Melbourne?

If you are in a position of authority to drive the development of the place where you live, how could you possibly consider it appropriate to not develop a place brand.

Governments need to attract development and investment, and just like we all understand the concept of soft diplomacy, we need to invest in the soft power that brilliant branding can generate.

Throughout the world, governments understand this and invest accordingly. When New York was going through its darkest days in the 1970s, it was a design idea that helped them get out of the doldrums and energise the city (I Love NY).

Melbourne did a brilliant job with its marketing as part of the state’s turnaround in the 1990s. The Melbourne campaign and the Love Every Piece of Victoria work both contributed to the state’s change in fortune.

Cool Britannia resonated around the world. So, back to Perth.

The overriding theme of every meeting I attended – from a lunch with the vice chancellors of the education sector to breakfast with the Premier – was the burning need for Perth place branding.

But the overriding issue was the seemingly complex set of questions that needed to be answered and the inevitable debate about what place to invest in and what the message needed to be.

Understandable questions such as: which authority is responsible, how much does it cost, what value will be derived, on-going funding, is it brand WA or brand Perth, what about Margaret River?

All difficult, but not when you consider the VCs’ belief that a brand is needed to assist their drive for more students, the corporate world to drive investment, the tourism authority to grow the tourism pie and the government to contribute to the health of the state. Answers need to be found.

So, what should be done? Set up a new place brand authority with state funds.

This authority creates the brand for Perth and invests in developing its meaning. It is not enough to generate a design for Perth – an “every media” communications campaign is required to generate value in the place brand.

But most importantly, this new authority should only be created if there is a long-term commitment to invest in communications for the brand. It’s only through ongoing and continuous investment that an increase in tourism, business investment and trade will occur.

Russel Howcroft is PwC Australia’s chief creative officer. This piece first appeared on PwC’s The Press. You can read the original here.


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