Thursday, November 12, 2009

Nothing like a bit of jingoism in branding

Australians have historically been criticised for having 'cultural cringe'. I don't know who coined this term, but it broadly means we bow at the altar of 'superior cultures', in our case principally American and British, at the expense of our own. We have a cultural inferiority complex. But this clearly doesn't equate to lack of national pride when it comes to branding.

Our biggest not-for-profit superannuation (pension) fund, AustralianSuper, has just launched a new brand positioning campaign with the catchline It's Australian. And it's super. I like this. It is the first time AustralianSuper, formed by the merger of two large funds a few years back, has broken away from its price-led, low-fees positioning and tried to create any sort of emotional connection with its target audience, which is essentially anyone with a job in Australia.

Down here (cultural cringe term, perhaps I should say 'up here' and put the Southern Hemisphere on top), we have seen a number of big companies tap into our inherent parochialism. Before mining company, BHP, became the world's largest miner, BHP Billiton, it ran a very long corporate citizenship campaign, BHP. The Big Australian. Ford ran a campaign for its oversize passenger car, Fairlane, under the tag line A Big Car for a Big Country. The AustralianSuper campaign does not have the big, hairy chested machismo of the other two, but taps into the same psychology - showing more of a feminine side of jingoism, if you like.

The two other campaigns to which I refer, worked their butts off. I was working for Ford when Kevin Rasheed bounced the Fairlane mercilessly through Wilpena Pound in outback South Australia and the product never enjoyed the profile it did then - before or since. Iconic, weather-beaten Aussie actor, Bill Hunter, became the face of BHP for years, making our chests fill with pride at the thought of BHP digging big holes in remote places to, we almost believed, fuel the national economy.

When Mercer research released this week shows only 44% of Australians trust their super fund, it will be interesting to see whether being simply 'Australian' will work for AustralianSuper as those campaigns did for Ford and BHP. The world is a more insular place since 911 and over the past decade, consumers have psychologically retreated into their own backyards. Home renovation and cooking shows are enjoying stellar ratings and sales of home theatre systems are through the roof. All signs that we're keen to understand how to set up and control the home fortress.

The question is, as time heals and our Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, strides the world stage helping set up the G20 etc., is this campaign coming on the cusp of us becoming more outward looking again? Often, timing is everything in consumer psychology. But perhaps jingoism never dies. Incidentally, I think the Aussie cultural cringe has died. Vale for now...

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