Regional Australia is the country’s testing lab: Grow from the outside in

Plastic money, driverless buses, Macca’s brekkie, and lockout laws. While you might not love all of these things or be as prone to a hash brown as I am, they all have a common thread: they were tested in regional Australia, specifically in NSW’s Newcastle and the Hunter region.

The beta / test market approach in the test bed of regional Australia has been a long-standing approach to inform business and product investment. But are marketers doing it in a meaningful way? Jack Mason, managing director of advertising for Enigma, explores this question.

Every CMO I know will lean into the idea of ‘let’s just test it’ but when you talk about brand building and delivering a connected brand experience in the real world, a little online AB test won’t give you what you need.

Introducing regional Australia, the perfect testing lab for long-term growth.

When I moved to Newcastle five years ago from Sydney to join the team at Enigma, the raised eyebrows around my move to ‘steel city’ said enough on people’s perception of my decision. But today the tables have turned.

In 2023, for the first time in 40 years, regional population growth outstripped metro, driven by the wave of people adapting to new ways of working and seeking a way to afford the great Australian dream. I am one of them. This movement is supporting the closer alignment of the values of regional and metro Australia.

This alignment of values and the significant investment in digital and distribution infrastructure to support regional Australia are taking the barriers away in relation to accessing audiences. Couple this with the significant lower media costs compared to metro and it’s the perfect balance of a dynamic and diverse cross section of a real audience targetable at a lower cost base. The perfect testing environment.

Leveraging regional Australia as the litmus test for a campaign ecosystem delivers a real-world environment for marketers to make more informed investment decisions.

By identifying misalignments with market expectations, channel performance, product flaws, and usability issues early on, brands can prevent costly post-launch modifications and ensure smoother sailing upon broader release.

We did this when Red Energy launched into NSW. The cost to compete with the big three energy providers to a metro audience as a new entrant to the market limited Red’s ability to build a brand and be present in a category where you need to be ‘always on’. Instead, the company went regional first, focusing on building scale, consumer trust and driving revenue to support its expansion into Sydney.

Jack Mason

This strategy allowed Red, and us, to learn, refine and adapt our messaging and channel mix to capitalise effectively on the increased investment with confidence. This in turn delivered an 8% increase in market share, which when the big three account for 80% of share in NSW, is some significant gains for a new entrant to market.

To wrap, regional Australia serves as a fertile ground for brands looking to supercharge their growth through brand building. It has your audience, is budget friendly and will give the actionable insights and confidence needed to invest wisely when you need to.

If you’re not sold – come grab a coffee with me in Newcastle and I’ll show you what’s happening.


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