Brian Dundee is what Americans want

Giving the customer what he or she wants is the oldest rule of business, but the one many SMEs forget. Too often businesses create a product that they believe there is demand for (or that they have always dreamed of producing) and then try to sell it. When it doesn’t work they come to marketing agencies and ask them to put some lipstick on their pig… but retrofitting strategy is like trying to put reins on a horse after it has bolted.

That’s why last week’s Tourism Australia advertising stunt at the US Super Bowl was so refreshing.

For years Tourism Australia has been trying to convince Americans that Australia had beaches like California or food and wine like Tuscany or urban sophistication like New York. Half of Americans don’t have passports so telling them to “See Australia in a different light” in 2004 didn’t work when most of them didn’t even have a dim pre-conceived view.

However, if Americans have one indelible image, it is of a knockabout, easy going, wise cracking and laid-back country bloke etched on their minds from Australia’s highest grossing movie of all time – Crocodile Dundee. Just like you can’t take bangers and mash out of a London gastro-pub or moussaka out of Mykonos, you can’t erase the Aussie from Australia.

Yes, Brian Dundee is cringeworthy, as are all of the other cliché-characters played by the cast of celebrities including Russell Crowe and Hugh Jackman. As “modern” Australians we don’t feel totally comfortable with that bush-ocker image, especially as 95% of us cling to the five “teeming sores” of our coastal cities, wear RM Williams boots as fashion statements and eat prawns with chopsticks not machetes.

But it doesn’t matter what we think – what does the customer think?

Tourism Australia paid three times what other advertisers like Budweiser paid for their 30 second slot, but the $15 million deal isn’t just one shot in the locker: digital trailers prior to Super Bowl convinced the US public that Crocodile Dundee III was imminent (calls for a remake are out of control) and the viral and digital campaign will continue for two years reputedly costing upwards of $36 million to lure Americans to our shores (a snap when the “See Australia in a different light” cost $120 million 13 years ago).

In the week leading up to the Super Bowl, online engagement with Tourism Australia leapt by 1256% and during the pre-game month of January the campaign outranked giant brands such as Pepsi, Coke, Hyundai and Toyota.

And let’s not forget that on the night of Super Bowl 100 million potential tourists lapped up the spoof about a new Crocodile Dundee movie while subliminally understanding that we have beaches and food and wine as well as kangaroos and opera houses. A massive 50% of Super Bowl related online engagement mentioned Tourism Australia and by the next morning it had achieved a social media reach of 412 million.

Time will tell if the campaign boosts US visitor spend to the targeted $6 billion by 2020 (currently $3.7 billion) but at the very least we shouldn’t be surprised if Driza-Bone and Akubra sales leap over the next year or two – and prawns on barbies make a comeback.

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