BRAND AUSTRALIA Does Australia have (or need) a ‘National Brand’?


Austrade has awarded a $3 million advertising contract to Clemenger BBDO to develop Australia’s ‘nation brand’. It got me thinking: What is our ‘nation brand’? Do we actually have one? Do we need one?

Austrade said it sought an agency that could create ‘a unified brand’and a ‘more consistent brand approach’that will‘bring together Australia’s export strengths – such as tourism, agricultural products and education – under one banner’.

It put me in mind of BHP CEO Andrew McKenzie’s corporate-speak classic of two years ago: ‘Our people have stepped up to unlock low-cost latent capacity and achieve strong productivity gains across our tier one assets.’ 

And the former US chairman of Starbucks, who when asked to describe the company, said it was delivering ‘an immersive, ultra-premium, coffee-forward experience.’

Or the way Uber responded to attacks on its operations when it conceded that it had ‘underinvested in the driver experience.’

Austrade is asking ‘our best creative minds’ to come up with the next generation of our nation’s international branding. Fiona de Jong is the head of Australia’s nation brand at Austrade. (Who knew that vital position even existed?) 

She said: ‘It’s time we were recognised for more than our beautiful beaches, unique animals and friendly people. It’s our uniqueness, resilience and resourcefulness that will take Australia into the future and all these things together form our unique offering to the world.

‘The nation brand concept is aimed at firmly positioning Australia as a trusted source of premium quality goods and services; an internationally competitive investment destination; a quality provider of education; and a fabulous place to visit for business or leisure.’

I can see the commercial benefits of being able to build a marketing campaign around a “national brand” but I can also see some serious risks in ‘corporatising’ our national image 

Let’s hope the ‘brand experts’ look at our nation with wide eyes, resisting the temptation to measure our worth in economic terms. We’re far more than a giant quarry, a tourist destination or a producer of sporting champions: we’re a complex, ever-changing amalgam of people, problems, dreams and aspirations. 

We’re a remarkable social experiment, trying to blend together the ancient culture of our First Australians with a swirling melting pot of people who have settled here from almost every nation on earth.  It’s a delicate and fraught exercise and it will only succeed with goodwill from all the key participants. 

Perhaps there’s no end game, just the fleeting satisfaction of being part of something that is greater than the sum of all of us.