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Sign o’ the Times

By Kim Fischer - 7 December 2015 44

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Every day we are surrounded by symbols. Some symbols are nearly universally recognised, like the marriage ring, the Jewish star and the peace sign. The strongest symbols and brands also have what marketing types call “imbued meaning”: the ability for people to infer values just by seeing the brand image associated with a product or service. When you see the Nike ‘swoosh’ or the Mercedes-Benz logo, you make automatic positive and negative judgements about that product.

Cities, states, and territories now get branded as well. New South Wales is “making it happen”. Victoria has the “best of everything”. Canberra, of course, has Brand CBR and our “Confident. Bold. Ready.” slogan.

Branding and marketing have been around for a long time, right back to the busts of emperors in Roman times. Way before the concept of a trademark was conceived, monarchs controlled the rights to issue coats of arms – nothing less than a form of state-sanctioned branding. But today when government launch brands for cities, they often get a pretty rough reception from their residents. The common complaint is that they are a “waste of money”.

It is true that it can be hard to link brand activities to a direct monetary return. However, the saying “perception is reality” has a lot of truth to it. We know that confident consumers spend more, and that investors will put their money in places that are growing, attractive places for people to live.

City branding is just as much about convincing its residents that they live in a great place as attracting investment from outside. Brands provide a recognisable “hook” for people to respond to, and can be instrumental in changing behaviour in desirable ways. For example, the draft Belconnen Town Centre Master Plan wants better branding for Lathlain St and Emu Bank to encourage people to eat and congregate in Belconnen instead of going to Manuka, Braddon, or Bunda St.

Here is the interesting secret of marketing today: You can’t just make brand claims that people don’t believe and make them stick any more. The taxi industry campaign #YourTaxis backfired badly when people shared their horror stories about taxis instead of their positive experiences. Oil companies like Shell, BP and Exxon Mobil face intense criticism and scrutiny for their attempts to position themselves as environmentally responsible.

Contrary to some beliefs marketing is now increasingly about substance, not spin. The Walter Kronkite era of authority where someone would be believed simply because of the position they held is long gone. The consultancy Brand Matters suggests four key things that are necessary for a strong brand:

  • Credibility: Do your actions match your words?
  • Relevance: Does your audience care about the promises your brand makes?
  • Differentiation: How are you delivering on your promises in a way that is different from your competitors?
  • Sustainability: Is your brand going to maintain a strong position in the long term?

Whether you are a politician or a multinational corporation, overcoming scepticism in the message you want to communicate is often the very first challenge. The first step is to establish trust in your intentions, but how can you do that if people won’t even listen to what you say?

Which brands do you think are effective (either in Canberra or elsewhere)?

Kim Fischer is an ACT Labor candidate for the seat of Ginninderra in the 2016 ACT Legislative Assembly election.

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44 Responses to
Sign o’ the Times
miz 7:54 am 09 Dec 15

Doesn’t CBR stand for ‘Controlled by Rogues’??

miz 7:53 am 09 Dec 15

I liked the number plate slogan ‘Heart of the Nation,’ as I thought it was apt. However I notice the Australian newspaper inexplicably pinched it a few years ago and still uses it.

creative_canberran 12:40 am 09 Dec 15

Masquara said :

The Snows have done rather well again out of the Canberra ratepayer on this one!

This tall poppy syndrome Canberrans have that is so often directed against the Snows is really sad and ugly. What have you done for Canberra?

wildturkeycanoe 11:05 pm 08 Dec 15

“The first step is to establish trust in your intentions, but how can you do that if people won’t even listen to what you say?”
People won’t listen to what you say if you won’t listen to the people.
I can’t figure out why you are submitting this article. Is it really about promoting the CBR logo or to justify why so much money and effort has been wasted on such an ineffective product. Brand names and catch phrases mean little when there are so many being thrown about, but little being done to back them up with real outcomes that fulfill the promises made.
So much politics, so many words, so little action. Are any other Canberrans or outsiders convinced by any of it? What about the promises to balance the budget, whilst money is wasted on “Brand names” and $14,000 promotional cardboard tram cutouts? Labor and the Greens are the worst thing to happen to Canberra and that is coming from the mouth of a lifelong Labor voter. No more, just wait till next year.

rubaiyat 9:31 pm 08 Dec 15

Oh how wise and all knowing the Tuggeranongs of this world!

Of course if they don’t know which side of politics is responsible, by waving the appropriate arm or having it spelt out in huge letters on a big hat, then confusion reigns. No idea what to think.

To be instantly for it or against it. Give them a sign!

Masquara 8:09 pm 08 Dec 15

The Snows have done rather well again out of the Canberra ratepayer on this one!

farq 7:31 pm 08 Dec 15

CBR = Claustrophobic Block Releases.

CBR = Crazy Building Ratios

CBR = Casually Blowing Revenue

CBR = Can’t Buy Room

> ..the draft Belconnen Town Centre Master Plan wants better branding for Lathlain St and Emu Bank to encourage people to eat and congregate in Belconnen…

I suggest WeBeCa (pronounced “We Be Ka”) like South Park’s SoDoSoPa and CtPa-Town (pronounced: “sh#tty part of town”). That way we could latch onto the latest trend other cities are failing to implement properly.

I can’t believe what was a nice affordable city is obsessed with these failure ideas about restaurants and hipster cafes like that is all that matters. The ALP and their developer mates are ignoring those of us who live in Canberra because it is suburban (if we wanted apartments and cafes we would move to Sydney).

The Canberra branch of the ALP talks the talk about trendy metropolitan development, then signs off on exburbs full of McMansions on the extreme border of town and has the nerve to call them ‘Garden Suburbs’.

I’m moving to Yass when I retire, this city is doomed.

rosscoact 6:38 pm 08 Dec 15

Pragmatix said :

CBR is a Labor/Green brand and it stinks. It is not a brand for Canberra and the marketing agency that made the brand grew from Labor/Green money… oh, and the money from taxpayers of the ACT.

😀 Alistair, is that you?

In fact it is a brand of Canberra, just not one that you agree with. Much of the marketing emanating from the government is paid from government funds and the rest from businesses. So CBR is your brand, you paid for it. Enjoy it

dungfungus 5:59 pm 08 Dec 15

“Mr Fluffy” has been a winner.

dungfungus 5:58 pm 08 Dec 15

farq said :

I always assumed it meant:
Continuously Ballooning Rates.

How much did this branding exercise cost I wonder?

Love that.

dungfungus 5:29 pm 08 Dec 15

Pragmatix said :

CBR is a Labor/Green brand and it stinks. It is not a brand for Canberra and the marketing agency that made the brand grew from Labor/Green money… oh, and the money from taxpayers of the ACT.

Given that the new ICON art work and TM registration cost over $200,000, we can imagine what the CBR Canberra one cost.
ICON sells water but CBR Canberra sells everything.

creative_canberran 3:33 pm 08 Dec 15

Pragmatix said :

CBR is a Labor/Green brand and it stinks. It is not a brand for Canberra and the marketing agency that made the brand grew from Labor/Green money… oh, and the money from taxpayers of the ACT.

Because the Liberals’ attempt with “Feel the power of Canberra” went so much better.

Pragmatix 1:58 pm 08 Dec 15

CBR is a Labor/Green brand and it stinks. It is not a brand for Canberra and the marketing agency that made the brand grew from Labor/Green money… oh, and the money from taxpayers of the ACT.

farq 12:12 pm 08 Dec 15

I always assumed it meant:
Continuously Ballooning Rates.

How much did this branding exercise cost I wonder?

rommeldog56 9:14 pm 07 Dec 15

Is that what CBR means “Confident Bold Ready” ? I thought it was an abbreviation for “Canberra” – like on airline tickets.

Instead of “Canberra” being written under the CBR, shouldn’t it be designed to send the message “Confident Bold Ready” – so that the reader, ever if the can make out that it actually says CBR, can understand the message trying to be conveyed (ie that Canberra is Confident Bold Ready – for what ?

“Making it happen” & “the best of everything” convey to me, a message. Still, I suppose its in the eye of the reader. Maybe Canberra can be “AFC” – Age Friendly City ” ?

In the OP you say “The first step is to establish trust in your intentions, but how can you do that if people won’t even listen to what you say ?” If you are elected to the ACT Legislative Assembly, perhaps you can explain that to the ACT Labor/Greens Govt members – if they are re elected. Then u talk about substance – not spin. Groan. So, what is all the “marketing” for the tram ?

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