Given today is officially Australia Day, I thought it would be appropriate to do an Ideas Marketing case study on an entire country: Australia. That’s right… Ideas Marketing can be used to design build and sell a country!
That might sound like a strange thought: to design a country. And, it’s what happens at some point for every nation whether it’s deliberate and conscious or just allowed to happen in an ad-hoc way.
And, this presents a useful frame here, the two streams of the official and the unofficial. Whilst there is always this element even with a corporate or even an individual, I’m thinking this is most pronounced with a country because of the sheer scale of things.
A manifesto is a public declaration of your intent. And, for a country, this is most obvious on the day the country is declared into existence. So, when was Australia born?
First of all let’s look at Australia Day itself. It points to some interesting things. For instance, what are we celebrating? The aim is to celebrate what it means to be an Australian and what this country means to us and the rest of the world. That’s pretty vague and leaves it wide open for people to celebrate this in different ways.
More specifically, through the selection of this particular date, we’re celebrating the arrival of the First Fleet. It’s that day way back in 1778 when the British arrived to colonise the land that was already occupied by the Aborigine.
Whilst, this is certainly a key event in Australia’s history it is a mixed blessing. It celebrates the beginning of white settlement and it closes a chapter in the history of the Aborigine. For some Australia Day is also known as Foundation Day and for others, Invasion Day.
QUESTIONS: What does Australia Day mean to you? And, what does the choice of date mean to you?
Declaration of Federation
At what point did Australia begin to exist? Many would suggest the modern Australian was birthed on the day of Federation from England, which occurred on January 1st, 1901.
Australia is very different to the US in this respect. The US fought a war of independence. As a result it’s no surprise they have a strong sense of separation forged through an anti-British campaign. And, a heightened sense of patriotism!
Australia and Britain merely merged apart. If the Americans and the British had a bloody divorce, then Australia and Britain went there separate ways but stayed in touch and remained good friends.
QUESTION: If we didn’t celebrate Australia Day on January 26, then which other date would you select? Would you vote for Federation Day?
The official manifesto of a country lives in the Constitution. This document or set of laws effectively lays out the boundaries of acceptable behavior in that country.
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What games do we play in Australia? The concept of games inside the Ideas Marketing framework refers to the projects, campaigns and pursuits that forward the goal of the manifesto. In terms of the games a country plays, here are three examples:
- Political games – Yes, literally. Or perhaps I should have said we play a democratic game. We vote for politicians and they make decisions on our behalf about collecting taxes and spending money on programs to forward the best interests of the country. (Yes, I can hear you laughing.) For example, there are campaigns to use, grow and protect our natural resources, campaigns to grow the economy and campaigns to make Australia a better place to live.
- Sporting games – Almost everything in Australia is a sport of some kind. This includes dissing on politicians, gambling on almost anything that moves or doesn’t move and winning medals at the Winter Olympics. In Australia, we tend to take our sport very seriously particularly compared to the arts or science. If political games are the official campaigns of a country, then for Australia, sport is probably close to being the dominant unofficial games we play. They define who we are and showcase us to the rest of the world.
- Tourism Campaigns – One specific set of games worth commenting on is the official tourism campaigns. Essentially, these are designed to showcase our national identity in a way that makes us attractive to people overseas. Whilst not meant to be all-inclusive, throwing another shrimp on the Barbie positions our brand overseas in a light hearted way, it can also make us locals cringe.
The two dominant modes of publishing by a country are the official documents put out by the government and everything else. And, they serve very different purposes.
The major official publications of a democratic country revolve around the laws of that nation. This includes the Constitution, which outlines the laws of a country, and the Hansard reports that document the political process and any changes to law.
There is also a flood of official publications produced by the various government agencies mostly talking about the policies, campaigns and projects they’re implementing.
The unofficial publications are almost everything else written and shared about a country from within and from people outside. The principle of free speech means that we can all have our say about our country and almost anything else.
Whilst the official documents tend to promote the hard edge of a country from an operational or legal perspective, the unofficial channels can be highly persuasive in shaping and defining the national character.
For example, consider the role of TV shows that highlight the news, historical events, modern humour, current culture and of course, all the dramas on the sporting field.
QUESTION: What are you learning about Australia? And, which media are you using: TV, books, YouTube?
The two dominant experiences of a country are those had by people in the country and those had by interacting with people from that country. This might be within Australia or when they are travelling overseas. Here are some of the key things that shape experiences for all countries:
- Weather – This is part of the background context for all countries. Typically in Australia we have hot summers and mild winters. This can have a dramatic impact on the personality and culture of the people. Compare the lively cultures that live around the equator and the more reserved cultures that live closer to the poles.
- Landscape – Australia is a big, big place filled mostly with arid landscape that most people who live in the cities never visit. Compared to Europe, Australia is spacious.
- History – compared to the history of buildings in Europe, we are a new nation. Although our landscape, animals and aboriginal culture have a longer reach into the past.
- Language – I had a friend many years ago suggest that Australia and the US were ‘separated by a common language’. Yes, whilst we speak mostly English, we have our own slang and accent. Today, more different languages are spoken here than any other country on the planet.
- Flora and Fauna – given Australia is an island it’s no surprise that our native wildlife and plants are distinct from other countries. Famously we have kangaroos, koalas, the platypus and some of the deadliest snakes and spiders on the planet. Plus, plenty of sheep, rabbits, cows and cane toads that were all imported. And, native food such as macadamias, kangaroo meat and desert quandongs
- Culture – This is what people do and don’t do. The history of Australia is very interesting here from our racist White Australia Policy through to the Multicultural landscape of today. Here we can list things like BBQs, Australian Rules football and enjoying the sun on our sandy beaches. We can also add high rates of male suicide, gambling and obesity.
- The Vibe – Fans of that great Australian movie The Castle, will know exactly what I mean by the vibe. It’s the feeling a place gives you. And, Australia has it’s own unique feel. Many suggest it is still friendly, casual and relaxed.
QUESTION: What will be your experience of Australia on Australia Day?
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The artifacts of a country include the physical qualities of a country plus the tools and devices that define the identity of the nation. Here are some examples:
- The land – all countries require a landmass to occupy. Australia is one of the few countries that is a complete island or set of islands, which makes our border easy to identify.
- Symbols – there are various symbolic devices that identify a country. These typically include official things like: a flag, a map, a coat of arms and a national anthem or song. Plus unofficial symbols such as the uniform worn by national sporting teams, unofficial flags like the Boxing Kangaroo, plus the many t-shirts one can buy that showcase Australia and it’s culture.
- Iconic things – These might be buildings like the Sydney Opera House or the Parliament building in Canberra or natural icons like Ayers Rock or Bondi Beach. Alternatively, they might be things like pavlova and lamingtons that may or may not have originated here.
- Unique tools – The Australian Aborigine have a unique set of tools they used in their traditional lifestyles such as the boomerang, the woomera, dillybags, didgeridoos, emu callers and clapsticks. Plus, modern Australia has its own list of things it invented such as the black box flight recorder, the Victa lawn mower and the Hills hoist rotary clothes line. Plus there are all the other mod-cons that we’ve built or imported such as cars, TVs and our buildings.
- Australian Aboriginal Artifacts on Wikipedia
- List of Australian Inventions on Wikipeda
QUESTION: What artifacts do you own that are symbols of Australia? For instance, do you own an Australian flag? And, how will you display this on Australia Day?
What are the groups or communities that define a country? There are a number of official and unofficial groups that co-exist in any country. Here is a sample:
- Citizens – Many people living in Australia are permanent citizens and others are temporary residents or tourists. The refugee debate around the world brings into question who has the right to live in any country.
- Community groups – Australia has a strong tradition of community groups such as the CWA (Country Women’s Association), the SES (State Emergency Services) and the CFA (Country Fire Authority) that are comprised of volunteers who come together for the good of the community. Whilst not unique, this gives this country a special flavor particularly in times of disaster.
- Sporting Clubs – It surprised me when I studied in the US to notice that they have very few sporting clubs relative to Australia. This is primarily because their major sports have a pathway through the university or college system. In contrast, in Australia we have the local footy club, which again is run by volunteers. Similarly, the US has a stronger focus on being an Alumni of a college or university than Australia.
- Neighbours – One of the most successful Australian TV shows of all time is Neighbours. It has been running consistently since 1986 making it Australia’s longest running show. It has also been incredibly popular in the UK. And, one of the cultural reasons behind this is the UK fascination with the close ties we have with our neighbours. In Australia we often have a chat over the back fence, whereas from my experience, many people in the UK have very few interactions with the people living next door. This points to the nature of our communities. Neighbours on Wikipedia
QUESTION: Which communities are you a member of? Do you know your neighbours?
The rituals of a countries are the things that presence the spirit of the nation. Again, some of these might be official and others not. Here are some examples:
- Singing the national anthem – In the past 20 years this has become more of a badge of honour. Whereas, 20 years ago I suggest we tended not to do this. Perhaps, it’s simply that we’ve now learnt the words to Advance Australia Fair!
- Saluting the flag – In contrast to the Americans who happily put their hand over their heart as a form of salute to their country at the playing of their national anthem, we tend not to do this.
- Football – some might argue this is our religion and not a mere ritual. And, the experience of going to an AFL game from a crowd perspective is slightly different to the behavior of attending other football games and sporting events. Compare the singing at an English football game to the barracking at an AFL match.
- BBQs – as a reflection of our meat eating culture and outdoors lifestyle the BBQ is a big part of our how we live. And, I’ll bet many of you are celebrating in this way on Australia Day.
- The Melbourne Cup – Melbourne is the only major city in the world that has a public holiday for a horse race. The great irony is that most of don’t even follow horse racing except for that first Tuesday in November. Not only does the nation stop to watch, many have their once-a-year flutter (gamble) on a randomly picked horse.
- Long Weekends – As the old joke goes New Zealand is the land of the long white cloud and Australia is the land of the long weekend. This reflects that we enjoy one of the richest economies on the planet and also one of the most generous paid holiday allowances.
- Strange Behaviours – We also have our share of strange behaviours from swatting flies to slopping on sunscreen. And, our dry sense of humour that means we can easily joke about the latest drought, flood or bushfire.
A country is one of the classic examples of the Ideas Marketing aspect of a Gestalt. A gestalt means that you can’t separate the parts from the whole.
And, because a ‘country’ is a concept that is made up of so many different things spread across a very large area we tend to point to elements of it without ever being able to accurately describe the whole.
Further, we tend to relate to things and even people as if they are the country. For example, when I was studying in the US I realized that I was the one and only Australian the locals had ever met. Therefore, I wasn’t just AN Australian I represented all of Australia to them. Similarly, when we say that kangaroos are Australia, or the Sydney Opera House is Australia and so on we are pointing to the gestalt of a country.
QUESTION: What are the things ARE Australia to you?
COMMENT: What would you add to this page to represent Australia?