I just knew it when I wrote about this in February!  I’ve been waiting in trepidation for the outcome and now we have it. Australia, the land that we hold in great affection for its rough-edges – Crocodile Dundee, Home and Away and Sir Les Patterson, has decided that its a luxury destination for poser aesthetes in search of their real self – Strewth!  Pour me a Bundy and lets get real here!

There’s no doubt about it Baz Luhrmann makes great cinema, but everything about this production leaves me asking “So what the bloody hell happened to Australia” and not, by any means, in a good way.  What we are witnessing here isn’t anything to do with attracting tourism to Australia, its about a new government attempting to remove every trace of their forebears, but having nothing to replace them with.  Yes, by all means when you gain office establish your brand quickly and decisively by doing something different, but for Christ’s sake do something sensible.

This isn’t Baz’s fault, and it may not even be the agency’s (they are just being opportunistic), but it most certainly is the fault of whoever wrote the brief and approved the strategy and that, I guess, was a politician or civil servant because any half-wit marketing person would know that if you are going to make claims you firstly want to know both that anybody cares and that you can back them up.  However popular retreats may be these days, I absolutely cannot belive that anything more than a handful of tripped-out tree-huggers are going to fork-out thousands of pounds on a re-awakening walk-about.  The Australian outback is about four-wheel-drive, Bush-Tucker Man and the Crocodile Trophy (the toughest mountain bike race in the world!) not competition for yoga-punting Maharishis with Bentleys in their back yards.  And just because some asshole in Canberra decides that his future lies in distancing himself from what his predecessors stood for, it doesn’t make it right, or even wise, to present Australia, that we all know, and understand just fine already, as something that it isn’t!

It might be argued that this is aimed at Americans, most of whom don’t know where Australia is, or have a passport that will get them there.  I have to admit, when it comes to selling something “different” to Americans the extreme adventure element of traditional Australian positioning is a bit too close to home and the historical Aboriginal card starts to offer hope.  However, if this were so its, at best, a case of bad timing because the high-flying banker-type who might, a few weeks ago, have been fooled into embarking on a voyage of self-discovery in the Aussie outback is struggling to afford the bus ride home from the soup kitchen these days!

This absolutely has to be a case of a no-substance politician wallpapering over reality.  If you want to change a nation (and Aus looks just fine as it is these days to me) stick to your strengths.  Politic your way to change, don’t just tell everyone that its come about and hope they don’t notice its all bullshit.  Oh, and butt out of marketing, its definitely not your forte.

I really, really hope that everyone gets this situation for what it is and doesn’t end up hating brand Australia for trying (because, believe me it won’t succeed) to jump on what it perceives as a gravy train.  Remember, while it takes ten times as much to attract new customers to your brand than it does to repeat sell to existing ones, the cost of attracting someone you’ve already pissed off by not delivering or trying to scam (or maybe in this case by selling out) could be a hundred times that.

Michael Weaver
October 28, 2008

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