He who thinks local, wins global: Lessons in branding from Down Under
The world’s long distance love affair with Australia began well before Fosters unleashed its famous (‘He who drinks Australian, thinks Australian’) tagline. To date, nearly 5 million non-natives have been lured away from home in search of the elusive Australian Dream. And Aussie brands have become a fixture in shopping malls all over the world.
But what is it that makes Aussie brands so alluring? What lessons can we learn from Down Under?
1. Don’t let the truth get in the way of a good story
Aussie’s are renowned for their infectious optimism. And it shows in their brands.
No matter that ‘Australian’ beer brand Fosters is brewed closer to Scunthorpe than Sydney. Or that they don’t even sell it in most Aussie pubs. Lager lovers across the world continue to ‘drink Australian’ with pride.
To take another example, Tourism Australia has been successfully cultivating the myth of perpetual sunshine since the dawn of time. But I’ll let you into a secret. It rains here. A lot. But no matter. Desirable brands tell great stories, and they stick to them.
2. Flaunt your assets
Quite literally, if you take a page out of Aussiebum’s scantily-clad brochure. Conceived on a Sydney beach in 2001, Aussibum is now a multi-million dollar brand flogging budgie smugglers the world over. It’s first ever order came from the UK. And today over 90% of its sales come from outside Australia.
Indecent exposure aside, what Aussibum’s success really teaches us is that brands shouldn’t be afraid to play to their strengths. Australian brands that have gone global have focused on the things they’re famous for. Think Australia and you think of sun, sea, sand and sipping beer. Now think about some of its most famous exports – Quiksilver, Ripcurl, Fosters, Seafolly.. you get the picture. When we buy these brands, we’re buying into the laid-back Australian lifestyle. And I’m testament to this. Growing up in the land-locked Midlands in the late ‘90s I certainly wasn’t sporting Billabong board-shorts for practical reasons…
3. Turn your weakness into a strength
Surrounded by sea in a far flung corner of the world, you could say Australia is at a natural disadvantage. But undeterred by this setback, Aussies’ historical need for self-sufficiency has been turned to the nation’s advantage.
Despite the dawn of the global village, the emphasis on keeping it local remains. Especially when it comes to food. Far from having a Hard Rock cafe on every corner, there are almost no chain restaurants here. Starbucks has been shunned. And quirky independents thrive. The fruit and veg in my supermarket is fresh (never frozen), locally sourced, and seasonal. Because Australians were ‘doing local’ by necessity well before it became fashionable amongst the middle classes. Australian Made is a source of national pride – and a hugely successful brand in itself.
4. Don’t take yourself too seriously
Strolling through Sydney’s beautiful botanic gardens for the first time I tutted at the prerequisite ‘keep off the grass’ sign. Until I saw it wasn’t. This one instructed me to ‘walk on the grass’, ‘hug the trees’ and ‘talk to the birds.’ This botanic brand disrupts stuffy convention by doing what Aussies do best – keeping it light.
Aussie brands communicate with a characteristically warm and casual tone of voice that makes it almost impossible not to love them. Not a bad strategy when we know brands that connect emotionally with consumers make more money. They’re also unashamedly cheeky (a furtive peek at the Aussiebum website will tell you that). They see the lighter side of life and they offer a welcome escape from the drudgery of the everyday. And as I’m sure my fellow expats will agree, that’s exactly why we came here in the first place.
By Kate Evans, Senior Consultant