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The follies of brand Canberra

By Paul Costigan 3 February 2016 27

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It was at a recent National Gallery opening that the ACT Chief Minister used the term for Canberra as being the coolest little capital in the world. His subsequent use of this terminology has been reported several times by others and it appears on his own web page for urban renewal. (That page also emphasizes how vibrant everything is!)

The other branding that is in use by the government is the now infamous CBR campaign and the associated advertising campaigns. There is also that mysterious website for CBR that I am still trying to work out what purpose it was supposed to serve.

I was surprised recently when it was explained that CBR stood for the three words – Confident Bold Ready. As anyone in marketing would tell you – use those words that way and it probably means that you are not – more that you still lack in confidence and are trying to convince yourself that you are something you are not (yet).

Before Christmas friends told me about some Canberra advertising that was running interstate and they were surprised how ineffectual and superficial the advertisements were (and they like coming to Canberra). I was curious and so investigated online and found a host of podcasts being used under the branding Visit Canberra. It seems we have yet another set of branding logos and campaigns in circulation.

After looking through these advertising podcasts I have to agree with my friends in Sydney – that these would not entice anyone away from any other city with their own contemporary (if not better) amenities, food, cafes, parks, galleries and public open spaces.

Listing a few favoured cafes and restaurants in national advertising seems dumb to me. And it must really annoy all the other restaurants and commercial centres that do not get a mention.

While the national institutions get a quick mention – there is no irresistible reason being put forward why anyone would want to make the effort to travel to Canberra – rather than stay home and enjoy their own city or to travel elsewhere. There are loads of things to enjoy around the national institutions, and a few local ones, but you would be hard to work out what was on offer from these podcasts.

The CBR and other branding campaigns are unfortunately not about sending that enticing message that tourists need to visit and spend time and money in Canberra. Curiously it seems that the branding and associated campaigns are more targeting Canberrans to tell us that Canberra is a good place to live. I thought we knew that already.

Canberra for its size has many things to offer and the message needs to be far more than glib jingles and corporate photo shoots and talking heads.

Any campaign needs to emphasize the current offerings – what’s on at the galleries, museums, and the special places and events that other cities do not have (maybe a sculpture walk through Civic!).

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With the opening up of direct flights to two other capitals – and through them to the rest of the world, one would hope that a serious and mature marketing campaign was ready to capture people’s imagination and provide them with reasons to commit their precious money and time to travel to Canberra.

I have my serious doubts that the present marketing of Canberra has much to offer and will be do little to attract new national and international tourists.

If anyone thinks calling Canberra ‘the coolest little capital in the world’ is an intelligent and creative way of attracting attention – then I suggest they need to get out more often and appreciate what makes places really hum (or should that be ‘vibrant’).

Canberra is a great city. It has very special features and attractions. It is time we had someone creatively tell others about it.

Footnote – after spending far too much time looking through these campaigns, I can see a direct link between the marketing in the recent Utopia (ABC TV) programs and the style of marketing from the CBR campaign – one wonders just how much of it they saw.


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27 Responses to
The follies of brand Canberra
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tuco 7:12 am 07 Feb 16

Six comments out of 16. How’s that site ban going Rubes?

rubaiyat 1:44 pm 06 Feb 16

The peanut gallery is the perpetual ningnongs on the sideline who don’t bother to study anything (too hard) or research anything (too hard) and are incapable of actually doing what they are criticising, but sure aren’t going to try as that just might destroy a few illusions they have about their “expertise”.

rubaiyat 5:47 pm 05 Feb 16

pajs said :

Charlotte Harper said :

I see I’m outnumbered on this thread but I actually really like CBR. It works so well on Twitter because #CBR takes up less space than #Canberra in that 140 character environment and it’s immediately recognisable as meaning Canberra whereas CAN, for example, wouldn’t be. Being our International Air Transport Association code, it ties in with the shiny new airport, which is the entry point for many national tourism and business visitors and from September, for international visitors as well. I’d agree that the Confident, Bold, Ready message doesn’t work so well for interstate tourism, but it does from the perspective of marketing Canberra to businesses like Singapore Airlines and sporting organisations like Cricket Australia.

I agree. Don’t think ‘Confident, Bold, Ready’ is anything other than bland self-affirmation and marketer’s pap, but the overall CBR and the hashtag are distinct and useful. Through one of my jobs I get to meet a lot of interstate and international visitors to Canberra and there has been a shift in the last couple of years. Common to have people (couples visiting without their kids in particular) express surprise at how good their time in Canberra was, including the food and wine.

My experience too. I had to shove my couch surfing Austrian back onto Murrays, she wouldn’t leave.

rubaiyat 5:43 pm 05 Feb 16

Mysteryman said :

rubaiyat said :

Good advertising pays, and whilst I won’t describe this as ground breaking it is certainly professional and doing its job.

I disagree. I don’t think it is doing its job despite what a handful of your friends/family think.

The Agencies and and Canberra Tourism research and calculate the benefits. Not quite up to your expert “thinking”.

I am sure they are just waiting for your email.

Hint don’t attach your CV as “file”. That one I saw today went straight in the Trash.

rommeldog56 4:16 pm 05 Feb 16

Mysteryman said :

rubaiyat said :

Good advertising pays, and whilst I won’t describe this as ground breaking it is certainly professional and doing its job.

I disagree. I don’t think it is doing its job despite what a handful of your friends/family think.

You probably shouldn’t have said that you disagree, Mysteryman – see post # 18.

Welcome to the peanut gallery…….LOL…..!!!!

Ghettosmurf87 3:47 pm 05 Feb 16

dungfungus said :

Charlotte Harper said :

I see I’m outnumbered on this thread but I actually really like CBR. It works so well on Twitter because #CBR takes up less space than #Canberra in that 140 character environment and it’s immediately recognisable as meaning Canberra whereas CAN, for example, wouldn’t be. Being our International Air Transport Association code, it ties in with the shiny new airport, which is the entry point for many national tourism and business visitors and from September, for international visitors as well. I’d agree that the Confident, Bold, Ready message doesn’t work so well for interstate tourism, but it does from the perspective of marketing Canberra to businesses like Singapore Airlines and sporting organisations like Cricket Australia.

And how large is the demographic that is beholden to Twitter, can afford air travel and has the time and money to watch live cricket?
Clearly, Canberrans live in two different worlds.

Why are you talking about demographics when Charlotte was talking about targeting businesses?

For your information however, apparently there are approximately 2.8 million active Australian twitter users. So that covers the possible Australian audience that the twitter hash tag could reach, on top of the active global users which numbered approximately 288 million in 2014.

justin heywood 3:02 pm 05 Feb 16

rubaiyat said :

….Usually a measure of how just well a campaign is working is exactly how much the peanut gallery hates it.

Huh?

Peregrine Beaumont, Director, Massive Tool Marketing: “Members of the board, I’m sure you’ll agree that our marketing campaign has been a huge success. There’s no actual evidence that it IS a success, but all my friends like it, and the peanut gallery REALLY hate it. In light of this triumph, I’d like to present my invoice”

Board member: “Who is the peanut gallery?”

Peregrine: “Well they’re just all the people who don’t like it. Obviously unintelligent and unsophisticated, not like me at all, and…er, people like me were your target market….weren’t we?”

Board member: “Well, no, not really, this town already has enough vacuous spin doctors. How much are we paying you again?”

Peregrine: ” er, I’ll just leave the invoice at reception shall I?”

dungfungus 2:16 pm 05 Feb 16

Charlotte Harper said :

I see I’m outnumbered on this thread but I actually really like CBR. It works so well on Twitter because #CBR takes up less space than #Canberra in that 140 character environment and it’s immediately recognisable as meaning Canberra whereas CAN, for example, wouldn’t be. Being our International Air Transport Association code, it ties in with the shiny new airport, which is the entry point for many national tourism and business visitors and from September, for international visitors as well. I’d agree that the Confident, Bold, Ready message doesn’t work so well for interstate tourism, but it does from the perspective of marketing Canberra to businesses like Singapore Airlines and sporting organisations like Cricket Australia.

And how large is the demographic that is beholden to Twitter, can afford air travel and has the time and money to watch live cricket?
Clearly, Canberrans live in two different worlds.

Mysteryman 1:06 pm 05 Feb 16

rubaiyat said :

Good advertising pays, and whilst I won’t describe this as ground breaking it is certainly professional and doing its job.

I disagree. I don’t think it is doing its job despite what a handful of your friends/family think.

rubaiyat 1:02 pm 05 Feb 16

Holden Caulfield said :

pajs said :

Seems to be a dodgy assumption at the heart of your argument, that people only go to other places for the kinds of things/experiences they can’t have at home. Sometimes people travel to other cities and do the same kinds of things they do at home (eat out, see art, buy stuff, listen to music, drink wine etc), but in a different place. Focussing only on the kind of ‘civic’ activity you can do in Canberra but not elsewhere seems both a narrow-minded and stuffy representation of what Canberra has to offer. NIMBY marketing, really.

I agree with this.

Furthermore, my understanding is that the CBR logo and its tagline were intended to target business as much as tourism (if not more), in which case the Confident Bold Ready wording makes a bit more sense. Canberra has far too long been dismissed by other Australians, at all levels I suspect, so in that context stating that the city is confident stands up to scrutiny well beyond a few internet detractors.

As we can see here by the OP and most of the following comments it’s very easy to knock a brand off its perch. A lot of people don’t understand creative approaches to problems, especially if they’re problems that the critic perceives don’t exist in the first place. And therefore glibly screaming, “That’s crap!” is about all they can come up muster in terms of critical dialogue.

If anything Canberra has been late to the party, with many other cities in Australia, and the world, having adopted a more formalised approach to branding themselves well before CBR was created.

It can be argued, as Paul has partly done, that the messages between CBR, VisitCanberra and the like are not as streamlined as it could be. That said, VisitCanberra does a pretty good job on social media and with its website and is certainly more visible. Perhaps, as originally intended, CBR does the bulk of its work out of the public eye in boardrooms etc.

The current result is that Canberra is a much better place to be now than it ever has been. Let’s rejoice in that instead of being miserable bastards who whinge all the time. It’s just as easy to put a positive spin on things and smile as it to frown at every new idea used to try and make our city better tomorrow than it is today.

Every Agency knows they are going to cop it from the peanut gallery, and that the peanut gallery given half a chance would create the Homer Car.

The peanut gallery being what they are, THEY don’t know that.

Which is why they get ignored.

The one thing Agencies dread is the client suggesting ‘Let’s throw this to the Public and run a competition”. A recipe for the usual useless amateur cock-up that has the participants enormously pleased with their efforts because, like your kid’s drawings or violin playing, “It’s absolutely brilliant”.

Usually a measure of how just well a campaign is working is exactly how much the peanut gallery hates it.

pajs 12:46 pm 05 Feb 16

Charlotte Harper said :

I see I’m outnumbered on this thread but I actually really like CBR. It works so well on Twitter because #CBR takes up less space than #Canberra in that 140 character environment and it’s immediately recognisable as meaning Canberra whereas CAN, for example, wouldn’t be. Being our International Air Transport Association code, it ties in with the shiny new airport, which is the entry point for many national tourism and business visitors and from September, for international visitors as well. I’d agree that the Confident, Bold, Ready message doesn’t work so well for interstate tourism, but it does from the perspective of marketing Canberra to businesses like Singapore Airlines and sporting organisations like Cricket Australia.

I agree. Don’t think ‘Confident, Bold, Ready’ is anything other than bland self-affirmation and marketer’s pap, but the overall CBR and the hashtag are distinct and useful. Through one of my jobs I get to meet a lot of interstate and international visitors to Canberra and there has been a shift in the last couple of years. Common to have people (couples visiting without their kids in particular) express surprise at how good their time in Canberra was, including the food and wine.

justin heywood 12:42 pm 05 Feb 16

wildturkeycanoe said :

For anything really fun you have to leave Canberra and get into the surrounds of N.S.W..

Everyone thinks their home town is boring!
As a non-native Canberran I can tell you that Canberra has many charms. Where else can you be driving through the empty countryside and then Bang! you’re inside a large city. A classy, sophisticated and well-educated city, with world-class attractions, beautiful, uncluttered, very different to any other city in Australia.

In my opinion we don’t need to pretend to be mini-Melbourne, because we will never be.

Being the ‘bush capital’ might not be hip, but it’s nothing to be ashamed of either.

Holden Caulfield 12:18 pm 05 Feb 16

pajs said :

Seems to be a dodgy assumption at the heart of your argument, that people only go to other places for the kinds of things/experiences they can’t have at home. Sometimes people travel to other cities and do the same kinds of things they do at home (eat out, see art, buy stuff, listen to music, drink wine etc), but in a different place. Focussing only on the kind of ‘civic’ activity you can do in Canberra but not elsewhere seems both a narrow-minded and stuffy representation of what Canberra has to offer. NIMBY marketing, really.

I agree with this.

Furthermore, my understanding is that the CBR logo and its tagline were intended to target business as much as tourism (if not more), in which case the Confident Bold Ready wording makes a bit more sense. Canberra has far too long been dismissed by other Australians, at all levels I suspect, so in that context stating that the city is confident stands up to scrutiny well beyond a few internet detractors.

As we can see here by the OP and most of the following comments it’s very easy to knock a brand off its perch. A lot of people don’t understand creative approaches to problems, especially if they’re problems that the critic perceives don’t exist in the first place. And therefore glibly screaming, “That’s crap!” is about all they can come up muster in terms of critical dialogue.

If anything Canberra has been late to the party, with many other cities in Australia, and the world, having adopted a more formalised approach to branding themselves well before CBR was created.

It can be argued, as Paul has partly done, that the messages between CBR, VisitCanberra and the like are not as streamlined as it could be. That said, VisitCanberra does a pretty good job on social media and with its website and is certainly more visible. Perhaps, as originally intended, CBR does the bulk of its work out of the public eye in boardrooms etc.

The current result is that Canberra is a much better place to be now than it ever has been. Let’s rejoice in that instead of being miserable bastards who whinge all the time. It’s just as easy to put a positive spin on things and smile as it to frown at every new idea used to try and make our city better tomorrow than it is today.

farq 8:48 pm 04 Feb 16

Masquara said :

Quite. Just how is “confident” meant to be appealing to tourists/visitors? It denotes attitude, which is a turnoff. “Bold” – ditto. “Ready” – Ready for what? That appears to put the onus onto the tourist/visitor to do something. Do what?

Such a godawful campaign. But what do you expect from the man who foisted that depressing, empty . windblown Westside onto us. (Are those businesses going to sue Andrew Barr, or just go broke?)

plus 1 Masquara!

dungfungus said :

Condemned
Broke
(and)
Ratsh&t.
That’s what CBR means to me.

Under the Barr government to me CBR equals:
– Cr#p Building Regulations
– Compact Block Releases
– C*nts Boaning Ratepayers
– Cretins Causing Rate-increases
– Can’t Buy Respect!

Who ever got payed to come up with CBR as a branding was payed way too much. It just asks for ridicule and satire from disappointed residents.

Using an acronym is as stupid as asking a question on a billboard. Both are just asking for some smartarse to come along and come up with a witty response (http://cdn.acidcow.com/pics/20151216/vandalized_billboards_16.jpg)

Just another example of the amateur hour antics we have all come to expect from our current local government.

    Charlotte Harper 11:35 am 05 Feb 16

    I see I’m outnumbered on this thread but I actually really like CBR. It works so well on Twitter because #CBR takes up less space than #Canberra in that 140 character environment and it’s immediately recognisable as meaning Canberra whereas CAN, for example, wouldn’t be. Being our International Air Transport Association code, it ties in with the shiny new airport, which is the entry point for many national tourism and business visitors and from September, for international visitors as well. I’d agree that the Confident, Bold, Ready message doesn’t work so well for interstate tourism, but it does from the perspective of marketing Canberra to businesses like Singapore Airlines and sporting organisations like Cricket Australia.

rubaiyat 6:00 pm 04 Feb 16

Mysteryman said :

rubaiyat said :

bikhet said :

“If anyone thinks calling Canberra ‘the coolest little capital in the world’ is an intelligent and creative way of attracting attention – then I suggest they need to get out more often and appreciate what makes places really hum (or should that be ‘vibrant’).”

Reminds me of “Cool Britannia” – and wasn’t that a hit.

It’s worked for both.

On my recent trip up the back of NSW mentioning I was from Canberra got a whole lot of respect that it didn’t used to get, because the campaign married up well with serious changes in Canberra, the way a good campaign should. It doesn’t work in isolation.

I don’t think your anecdotes are evidence of a general shift in attitude towards Canberra.

The whole campaign came across a trying way too hard to make us look like Melbourne’s little brother. The “Confident, Bold, Ready” part of the campaign is particularly cringe worthy. As other commentators have said, if you have to tell everyone how confident and bold you are, then you aren’t either of those things.

There are many different kinds of campaign because the subject and the circumstances are always different.

The responses to campaigns also vary. Your take on it is not the same as the target’s take. It is a delicate line to run between beating your own drum and not being too cocksure. In Canberra’s case being an underdog, that has long been either the butt of jokes or the target of abuse more appropriately aimed at our masters, standing up for yourself and marking yourself as independent and confident is a good start.

Campaigns evolve and should be planned to grow onto the target audience and I detected in my travels a surprising shift in people’s thinking. Of course that is anecdotal, but it was noticeable because it happened throughout our trip around rural NSW. I have never seen that before, except for our very close neighbours.

If you have some personal experience or expertise on the subject say what that is, but really when you are not the target don’t be too concerned it isn’t hitting your mark. I am sure the agency has engaged researchers to see how this is working, on whom, and what refinements need doing.

That Canberra is growing up and has a much more lively culture that pays more than lip service to excelling is the lynch pin in this campaign. For Melbourne it is our truffles, wine and winning the world championship Barrista contest. For Sydney it is being a great day trip to our galleries, the National Zoo or outdoor activities. For country people it is all of those, plus more approachability than the really big cities.

Good advertising pays, and whilst I won’t describe this as ground breaking it is certainly professional and doing its job.

wildturkeycanoe 5:19 pm 04 Feb 16

Let’s face the facts people, since fireworks were banned and sex toys became purchasable on-line, Canberra has little left to offer visitors. Apart from the fact that it costs a motza to visit anything, including the parking and food, visitors will have to “leg-it” to one of our “convenient” bus stops to get to any remotely interesting features. You can only walk so far and eat so much food, that’s about all there is to promote in Canberra. Pity if you have kids, they’d be bored by the end of day one. This city is a public service and business hub, not a touristy attraction place. For anything really fun you have to leave Canberra and get into the surrounds of N.S.W.
CBR – Completely Boring Realm.

rommeldog56 3:14 pm 04 Feb 16

rubaiyat said :

How about putting some urgency into the campaign?

All good sales pitches end with a final motivation so the punter acts on the message.

Obviously the Light Rail has now begun the Total Ruination of Canberra and we will soon be in total penury with Alexander Maconochie becoming the world’s largest Debtors Prison, filling the entire valley.

What’s left of the ragged starving population will be begging in the streets, trying to sell their children to whoever will take them.

It will be a moral lesson for all who visit: “Don’t ever, Ever, EVER get out of your cars, or this could happen to you!” 😀

I know I shouldn’t ask this – nah, but I will.

Whats that got to do in response to the issues raised in the OP ?

Mysteryman 2:25 pm 04 Feb 16

rubaiyat said :

bikhet said :

“If anyone thinks calling Canberra ‘the coolest little capital in the world’ is an intelligent and creative way of attracting attention – then I suggest they need to get out more often and appreciate what makes places really hum (or should that be ‘vibrant’).”

Reminds me of “Cool Britannia” – and wasn’t that a hit.

It’s worked for both.

On my recent trip up the back of NSW mentioning I was from Canberra got a whole lot of respect that it didn’t used to get, because the campaign married up well with serious changes in Canberra, the way a good campaign should. It doesn’t work in isolation.

I don’t think your anecdotes are evidence of a general shift in attitude towards Canberra.

The whole campaign came across a trying way too hard to make us look like Melbourne’s little brother. The “Confident, Bold, Ready” part of the campaign is particularly cringe worthy. As other commentators have said, if you have to tell everyone how confident and bold you are, then you aren’t either of those things.

justin heywood 12:51 pm 04 Feb 16

I’m old and daggy, but even I know that if you have to tell people you’re cool, you ain’t.

We’re the national capital. Embrace it and promote it that way.
Why try and pretend we’re a poor man’s Prague.

rubaiyat 9:39 am 04 Feb 16

How about putting some urgency into the campaign?

All good sales pitches end with a final motivation so the punter acts on the message.

Obviously the Light Rail has now begun the Total Ruination of Canberra and we will soon be in total penury with Alexander Maconochie becoming the world’s largest Debtors Prison, filling the entire valley.

What’s left of the ragged starving population will be begging in the streets, trying to sell their children to whoever will take them.

It will be a moral lesson for all who visit: “Don’t ever, Ever, EVER get out of your cars, or this could happen to you!” 😀

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