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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.

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