My good friend Andrew Thomas, publishing manager at Communicate (the magazine), asked me recently if I’d be interested in writing a piece for the iPad version of Communicate (which is excellent by the way).
We went back and forth a bit and we agreed it would be interesting to take a look at marketing and communications landscape in Australia, and how it differs from the UK.
So, here is an adapted version of the piece I wrote, but if you’d like to enjoy it as part of the iPad version of the mag, download the app here.
How does the marketing and communications landscape in Australia differ from the UK?
After spending more than seven years in London, coming back home to Australia has been a real eye-opener.
On one hand, this very young country continues to change at an incredible rate, becoming more diverse and interesting by the day. On the other, marketing and communications practices probably haven’t evolved at the same speeds as other parts of the world.
Why? There are a number of factors involved and I think the following will give you the best picture of what is happening across this great southern land.
Australia is the 6th largest country in the world in regards to land mass but 53rd overall when it comes to population which creates a series of interesting challenges and opportunities for the businesses operating here.
In the United Kingdom, you have 10 national newspapers, in Australia there is one. Television news is also heavily tailored for local markets. The physical distance between the major cities in Australia, coupled with the relatively small population makes it difficult to run national campaigns even though digital has become more of a force in recent years. This impacts on the marketing budgets and often forces dulled down regional campaigns to be run at the expense of groundbreaking national activity.
A by-product of the big land mass, small population situation, is that there are often only two or three brands operating in each sector.
For example, Australia is dominated by two supermarket chains, Coles and Woolworths, who have about 80% of market share. The same is true in many other sectors including banking and finance, and consumer verticals.
There are two main issues that result from this (un)competitive landscape:
- Marketing and communications innovation struggles – this is not due to the agencies who put sometimes very creative ideas forward, but rather the decision makers at the bigger organisations who have more to lose than gain from truly innovative campaigns. If you only have one or two genuine competitors in your sector, why would you risk losing market share if you might only gain a little bit on the back of something that pushes the boundaries.
- The big guys buy the challenger brands as soon as they start gaining traction – when challenger brands do start to chip away at the market share of the big brands, often on the back of different marketing and communications activity, they get snapped up by the very brands having a run at them.
This is a very different situation to other places around the world, especially the UK which has several brands vying for consumer attention and resulting marketing and communications campaigns need to reflect this.
Average Australian broadband speeds are ranked 39th in the world which has a significant impact of the ways brands and business behave.
Slower broadband speeds mean campaigns with an online or mobile component can struggle to achieve cut through if the target audience can’t access content in a timely and solid fashion.
Closely linked to the market size and geographical isolation Australia has in comparison to the rest of the world is that we tend to wait for other people to adopt things before we do.
Ironically, once something is adopted, it is embraced with widely open arms. Australia is second behind the USA for percentage of Facebook penetration versus overall population.
This tends to lead to a copycat mentality which sees brands and business virtually rip off campaigns that take place in other parts of the world because there is no overflow effect like there can be in Europe.
A good example at the moment is the meerkat campaign from comparthemarket.com.au which is just an adapted version of the highly successful original version from the UK. Perhaps it d0esn’t have the same cut-through for me because I experienced it a few years ago, or it just doesn’t feel as culturally appropriate for a country outside of Europe. It certainly hasn’t created the buzz of the original version.
The ‘digital obsession’ is not confined to just the northern hemisphere as brands and businesses and been blinded by the shiny lights of digital communications out here too.
But, what you tend to see, and this is probably true of most parts of the world, brands (and their agencies) want ‘digital ideas’ as opposed to ideas that can work across digital platforms (and other traditional mediums).
This is something that will settle down in time but it is an issue that is holding back the genuine creativity that resides on these shores.
Digital Talent (or lack thereof)
There is a HUGE shortage of digital talent in Australia, especially in Melbourne where I’m located.
Even when digital talent is identified and brought into the big integrated agencies, it is hard to hold on to the talent because the opportunity is often oversold and doesn’t live up to the expectations set.
I hope this isn’t perceived as a negative overview of the marketing and communications landscape in this country. It simply highlights the many challenges the marketing and communications community faces in a market of this size, population and location. Like all things, the cream will eventually rise to the top.
Don’t forget to check out Communicate (the magazine) on iPad for some great content from Andrew, his team and talented stable of contributors.