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‘Dumb blonde’ Australia

How our image can impact export sales

Leading UK nation brand expert Simon Anholt recently caused a stir when comparing Australia’s image to that of a dumb blonde – “attractive, but shallow and unintelligent”. Anholt, who has advised the governments of more than 40 countries on national identity and reputation, said Australia has a one-dimensional image partly due to what he described as Tourism Australia’s “unbalanced view of the country”.

Anholt publishes the annual Anholt-GfK Roper Nation Brands Index, a survey conducted
among 39,000 people in 26 countries that ranks countries on a wide range of measures, which combined give each surveyed country an overall score.

In the most recent index, Australia took the top spot for natural beauty and as a place to visit if money was no object, and overall it was the ninth strongest nation brand in the world.

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

The attack on Australia’s ability to effectively promote itself as an attractive brand across tourism, manufacturing, education and politics comes just six months after the federal Minister for Trade, Simon Crean, launched a new campaign and slogan, “Australia Unlimited”.

The campaign comes complete with a new logo and is intended to give Australia greater international recognition of its achievements in areas such as technology, pharmaceuticals and medicine – and address the exact issues Anholt has highlighted.

The new brand cost $4m to develop and another $16m will be spent promoting it, but experts are divided on the merit of the campaign and the “Australia Unlimited” logo. The Australian Made, Australian Grown (AMAG) Campaign, which promotes and administers Australia’s most trusted and recognised country of origin symbol, has welcomed the launch of “Australia Unlimited” but believes the use of an established symbol like the AMAG logo, with its stylised kangaroo, would provide people overseas more a far better connection with Australia.

AMAG Chief Executive Ian Harrison says Australia Unlimited is an exciting initiative to present a much wider and deeper message about Australia to the world.

‘’This type of promotion is long overdue because Australia has always been much more
than beaches, barbeques, rocks and tourism,’’ Mr Harrison said.

‘’We congratulate then Minister Crean on this important initiative. However, the symbol is less welcome because it presents yet another image for international people to recognise and connect with Australia,’’ he said.

‘’The money to be spent in building recognition of the new symbol would be far better used on the messaging with an established symbol such as the AMAG brand, used to create a connection with Australia. The Canadians got that right with the consistent use of a maple leaf.

‘’The AMAG logo, with its 24 year market capital, readily provides that connection with Australia and as well would have created the important link between “Australia Unlimited” and the thousands of products and produce Australian exporters are seeking to sell around the world.

‘’This direct connection to the actual sales of real products, produce and services is what’s missing in the new logo developed for Australia Unlimited.”

For exporting manufacturers, this is perhaps the most important issue of all – if Australia is simply viewed as a dumb blonde and nothing more, then that’s not good news for businesses looking to leverage the great overall ranking of Australia.

Research conducted by Roy Morgan Research in August and September shows that Australian manufacturers do believe country of origin is an important selling tool – and many are successfully using it to increase sales.

Aussie manufacturers are successfully tapping into the global view that Australia is a great place to visit by giving shoppers the opportunity to get a taste of Australia – by buying goods that are made or grown in Australia.

According to the Roy Morgan Research, exporters believe the most critical three aspects of their products are quality, price and country of origin.

Being Australian makes a difference and smart businesses are promoting their products as Aussie to gain an important competitive advantage in export markets from China to Dubai.

In the domestic market, using country of origin as a competitive advantage is of course much more straight forward – local shoppers have a strong preference for buying Aussie
made because they believe local products are safer, cleaner, have lighter carbon footprints and are made by Australians to Australia’s high standards (and by purchasing these products, shoppers therefore support local jobs, training opportunities and the community generally).

“Promoting products as Australian in Australia is a no-brainer. Shoppers want to buy locally made and grown, so manufacturers should help them do so by aggressively and effectively promoting their products as Australian,” says Ian Harrison.

According to Roy Morgan Research, 43 percent of shoppers actually look for the AMAG
logo when trying to identify products that are truly Australian.

Match with the fact that 65 per cent of local shoppers prefer to buy Australian made products there is a compelling case to be smart about promoting your products as Australian.

The Australian Made, Australian Grown logo is recognised by 94 per cent of Australian
consumers and 85 per cent of these trust the logo over any other Australian country of origin identifier such as maps, animals, flags and the words “made in Australia”.

To learn more about Anholt’s Nation Brand Index, visit www.nation-branding.info.

To register to use the Australian Made, Australian Grown logo on your products, freecall 1800 350 520 or visit www.australianmade.com.au.

The logo is available to businesses of all sizes and the annual registration fee starts at $250+GST.