Q&A with Nick Baker – the strategy behind ‘There’s nothing like Australia’

On launch day of phase two for ‘There’s nothing like Australia’, Marketing sat down to talk with executive general manager of marketing at Tourism Australia, Nick Baker, about the strategy behind the campaign.

Marketing: The new campaign marks the second phase of ‘There’s nothing like Australia’. Why have you chosen to stick with the same theme from the last campaign?

Nick Baker: When we first launched ‘There’s nothing like Australia’, it was creating a platform, if you like, and it was creating a rational argument why you believe there is nothing like Australia, our strategy for the future. Having said that, the next job was to prove it, so this is our proving, this is taking some of the most amazing experiences in really incredible places and bringing them to life, and set them against something in a very emotional way, because that’s what really sells.

This is the first time that a major tourism campaign has been launched overseas. Why was the decision made to do that?

It actually seems very rational when you think about it, the fact that most of the money that we’re spending on this, 90% of the money we’re spending on the campaign will be used overseas, and the biggest market that we’re going to be using for this year is going to be China. So therefore we wanted to launch it in China, although we’re launching in the UK and the US as well at the same time.

Why was China chosen? The opportunities in the East are well documented, but just how big is the opportunity in China for Australian tourism?

China experienced over 20% growth last year, so it’s the biggest growing of all of our markets. It’s becoming our biggest market by expenditure, and has certainly got the biggest growth trajectory for the next five or six years. When you take all those things into consideration, it’s a very logical market for us to do that in. We still spend a lot of our time marketing obviously in Europe and the US because they’re primary markets for us, but this is our chance to give China a red hot go. There is a lot of competitive activity in China now, everyone is competing for it. The number of direct flights are rising dramatically, so access is so much easier for people to get here. So when you combine access, spend, growth, actual and projected, it’s logical. And we really wanted to give it a really good go over there to show it, and we know that the Chinese consumer is very well disposed towards Australia; they think it’s a great place to come. It’s an antidote for a lot of the things over there, if you look at the comparison between living in Shanghai and living here. Just the stunning visuals work for them. We also found that when we launched the first iteration of ‘nothing like Australia’, I think it was about 91% of people who saw the ad went and did something about it… went and actually looked further into an Australian holiday, which is massive. So it showed us that we were hitting the market, and the market we were hitting were really interested and compelled by our story, if you like. The other element I probably should mention that I didn’t mention is Facebook, and social. You may have seen that we just hit three million, of which almost one million are from Australia and two million are from around the world. We’re great believers – our job at Tourism Australia is effectively to be storytellers, and as with all things storytellers, it’s often best to have other people tell your stories rather than yourselves. We have these fans out there that are great advocates for the country. They’re telling our story for us. We are launching today, in a couple of hours, our campaign on Facebook, and then we’ll back it up with a 24 hour roadblock tonight on Facebook, so Australians that are on Facebook will be served up our full ad tonight, our full three-minute version. We use those to push out the whole network effect that Facebook brings. There is a great sense of social advocacy that surrounds it because the underlying principle is that the world travels to experience difference, so therefore be different, differentiate yourself and know kind of what it is you’re going after. And the second is word of mouth is the most crucial part of any kind of marketing. Through Facebook and through Weibo Sina, and RenRen and others we’re a part of, we can amplify that message and create stories told by other people about this country.

One thing I noticed in the campaign is that there seemed to be a few luxury hooks in there; there were a couple of private boat cruises, there was one scene in a high rise that was full glass with a fantastic view, and there was a black tie function. Is that something that’s been chosen specifically for targeting the Chinese market?

Not specifically to target the Chinese market.

Is it important to the Chinese market though?

It is. But it’s not specifically for China. We’re doing that for the whole world. And the reason why we’re doing that is the world is in a constant state of change; we’ve got the occupying movements, the Arab Springs, the global meltdown, and why we’ve done that is we’ve been very much more targeted. The last year we spent a lot more time targeting who is coming to Australia and who are our target audience, and obviously they’re an affluent group because of the costs of coming down here; the currency and everything else coming to Australia is not a cheap holiday. What we’re doing is the same principle, I guess, that any fashion brand does or automotive brand, we’re pitching our best first to create a halo for the rest of the country. And in China, they go after a lot of luxury brands; there’s a great sense of status and symbolism that’s attached to it. So not just for them, but for everybody, we unashamedly pitched some of the upscale product that we’ve got in Australia. But what differentiates Australia from most of the other places – and we’re doing that; South Africa and New Zealand have been doing that with their lodges for a long time. What differentiates that is that nearly all the experiences that we’ve got in there that push upscale, can be done whether you’re spending $1000 a night or $20 a night. You mentioned the El Questro, whatever that title was. You can spend $1000 there, or you can go to the Emma Gorge camp site next to it and spend $20 a night, and I’ve done that. But you can still have all the experiences that are out there. So the great thing about Australia is that it offers these unique experiences, but at the same time, it doesn’t matter whether you’re on a beer bucket budget or a champagne budget.

In terms of fostering dispersal, where you’re trying to ensure that there is a share of the result from the campaign across all the different destinations, how does this campaign approach that?

What this campaign does is it moves away from just the normal icons, if you like. This is not just about the reef, the rock and the Opera House, and what we do is we show a greater diversity and a greater depth to the country than I think has ever been shown before. Going into places like the Kimberleys, going down into Tasmania, going into Kangaroo Island, these are dispersed areas, if you like, but these are the things that really differentiate Australia against the rest of the world. And when you see those images, they couldn’t be anywhere else in the world; they really strongly show why there is nothing like Australia. It’s part of showing the depth of the country, part of getting greater dispersal and part of just showing what is best in this country.

One of the criticisms that international national campaigns have had in the past is that they relied on the old stereotypes of both the Australian ocka, but also the icons. Has there has been a purposeful move away from that this time?

Yes, what there has been is there has been a definite approach to show the best of Australia, wherever it exists. So unashamedly, we’re still going to put the Opera House in because you’d be crazy not to; it’s an icon of this country. It is part of what makes this country unique, and in fact, as soon as you see it on the screen, it’s shorthand for Australia, and we all need, as marketers, to have that cut through. But at the same time, we’re showing some other incredible parts of this country that people don’t know about. And I think that one of the things is not just parts of the country but also experiences that you can have in the country, because really it’s about experiences, which is why everything in there is about an experience, not just here is a beautiful landscape, here is another beautiful landscape, here is another beautiful landscape; it’s about experiences. So we’re trying to get the people to see it, I guess, to imagine themselves, as it were, in that experience. And that is a different approach than we’ve taken before. But the remit was prove the line, prove why there’s nothing like Australia. That’s the challenge that I set myself, and that’s what hopefully we’ve done.

When you were targeting the different markets, are there nuanced versions of the TVC or slightly different things that you do?

Yeah, very good question. And that’s one of the key things because everyone says how can you make one campaign that’s going to fit everybody in the world? Well, the key inside this is that this has been built modularly, so I can take out segments that are more about cities, I can take beaches, I can take out segments that are just about a state, if a state wants to partner it. We have been extraordinarily careful in making sure that this could be broken down into different parts and reassembled either for a market, a customer type or for a partner, so they could build it. And that’s the great thing about the song and the way that we’ve built it; it’s lots of little stories, so you can take individual stories to make it.

This version that’s being launched today – is that the one that will be launched in the four locations that you’ve mentioned?

Yes, it will be. It is the same, as it exists now. Once you start getting down to the cut down versions, the 30 seconds and 15 seconds and 20 seconds, those kind of ones, that’s when it’s more likely to be broken up. So we’ll be partnering – last time we partnered with I think about 180 partners, when we launched this campaign two years ago, which we believe is a mark for success. And lots of times, they will take, for instance, 20 seconds of this footage, add their own 10 seconds for their airline on the end of it. That’s when we’ll do a lot more of the cut down versions of it. But an interesting point is when you do all the research around the world, and we do in-depth research and analysis on our customers, pretty much 80% of the things that inspire people, differentiate the countries, motivate people to make a booking, are the same regardless of the world over. People come here for our nature, they come here for the adventure, and they come here for this great freshness and lifestyle that Australia has. That’s right up there. It’s the other things that differentiate it further down, for instance, the German market really loves big sweeping landscapes and more drama, the Chinese market will like some more city and shopping experiences, those kinds of things. So that’s why we built it so that it can be tailored. But the majority of what we show unites everybody.

And given that there is a large focus on China, are there any cultural sensitivities that you’ve taken into account for that market in particular?

There is cultural sensitivities taken for all markets. Obviously Asia has some of those, Muslim countries have some of those. It’s everything from clothing through to alcohol, those kinds of things, always have to be taken into consideration when you’re doing this. The choice of talent, the experiences you portray people doing. You have to be very careful in a global campaign, and that doesn’t matter whether it’s China or whether it’s Arab states or whether it’s even America or the UK. There are certain things that you’ve got to do to bring the campaign to life, and it means that you have to be careful of all those nuances. So we work very closely with OMD on identifying these.

Can you give some examples of some of those that were selected for the Chinese market?

Again, some of those things are everything from showing bikinis, which a lot of Muslim and Asian markets just wouldn’t allow. The question of drinking alcohol is often a big one for certain markets. Those two are probably two classic examples, if you like. But also the China market, I guess, one other one that’s specific for them is, for them, it’s much better if they see activity. The Germans might like a big picture of sweeping open desert landscape, but for a lot of the Chinese market, they’ll go and say, “Crikey, that’s a bit daunting. How do I do it, all that open space?” Which is quite natural when you consider that they’re so highly urbanised. That’s why putting people in and having those experiences in them, which is what we wanted to do anyway, fits.

So there is a bit of comfort factor there for the Chinese market?

Yes, for the Chinese market – to be quite honest, for a lot of markets, because there’s not many markets – most people like to see people doing things, and certainly we want to show how it can be done, yes.

Are there any partners for this campaign?

A large partner domestically is going to be with Qantas, and we’re going to be partnering with loads – we’ve got a partnership with China Sun up in China, but there will be loads of partners all over the world that we’re doing this with.

Will Qantas be participating on an international level?

Yes, they will be participating in lots of different markets, but they are actually at launch today. And the reason why I’m saying that is that our launch in some of our other markets around the world takes place at different times.

How important is the TVC or video ad these days in the scheme of the campaign?

The TVC or the film, whatever you want to call it, is still vital, not because it plays out on TV necessarily, but because of the role that it plays out across all of your platforms and all of the mediums that you use, because that will probably be seen more online than it will be seen on the television, but it will be seen in the cinema, it will be seen in integrated outdoor and it will be seen digitally. But ultimately, there is always a manifestation of a brand that comes to life; there is always a spark of creativity, a spark of something that has to show the brand, and that’s the job this still has, which is still just as important as it ever was, and it just plays out differently now than it used to do. What is just as important is you can’t just sit there and go, “Here’s our TVC, that’s it. Fine, we’ll walk away now.” It’s how you bring that to life because the TVC, if you just show a TVC, you’ll get excited by it; there’s a long way of getting excited to actually buying and, these days, the proliferation of people trying to get in to stop you from doing what you hope it’s going to be, to do a lot of other things, is greater and greater. The media proliferation, fragmentation, all that stuff that we know about. So what we’re trying to use is social and digital to keep people on that story. And the great thing we know about with tablets is once you get somebody to actually interact with your brand, you leap frog ads on awareness, and on a connection front, because you really started a tangible conversation. Getting fans to interact with your brands is the most important thing today, whether it be on Facebook and liking it, or whether it be on a tablet and downloading it, or whether it be on aus.com or a mobile site. It’s all part of this multimedia storytelling, and the best way of storytelling is to have it two-way.

User-generated content is something that I think you used in the last phase of the campaign, and something that you use ongoing in social media. Does it form any of the key parts of this campaign?

It’s not included in the TVC, although references to all the places that excite people – and we got great learnings from the 60,000 stories that we had last time – shaped some of our direction. User-generated stuff will form because it will come through what we’re doing on Facebook. In other words, in Facebook, four weeks ago, we started seeding the idea of some of the things that were best of, and people just like telling their stories. So absolutely user generated through social media forms a big plank because the reason why we’re going out to all these Facebook people and we’re using Facebook at the centre of this is to get people talking about our brand, and that’s at the hub.

How is user-generated content received when it makes up the main part of the campaign?

When we launched ‘There’s nothing like Australia’ the first time and we got 30,000 people to tell us their stories of why there is nothing like Australia. It was really well received; it gave us a great footprint and it gave us a great tick to saying everyone believed in the strategy and everyone could easily show if it was truthful; in other words, nobody said that we went and represented the country untruthfully. It was very truthful. We then went out a second time last year and we asked again for ‘Nothing like’ and we got 40,000 people commented in 12 days. So the desire for people to tell stories about this country and tell stories about their holiday experiences, is absolutely alive and kicking, and we find that very powerful. Because you look at some of those stories, and if you ask any place, and you want to know how people think about a place, just log onto our There’s nothing like Australia, go onto that map, type in a location and you can see exactly what people think of that place, it’s real life. And now we’ve embedded that with TripAdvisor, with Facebook content. It really becomes a platform that people can interact with and get as much user-defined content as possible, if that’s the way that they went. So we are linking up all of these elements at the moment.

This campaign seems to tick a lot of boxes. Some of the criticisms that I’ve seen in the past, whether using the stereotypes or not showing anything new about Australia, whether it’s been more tailored towards Western audiences or Eastern audiences, it seems to cover off a lot of different angles this time.

Two years ago, it’s been a very interesting journey. When we had ‘Where the Bloody Hell Are You?’ stuff, it was like a punctuation mark for us, it was a stop. We used the Baz Luhrmann one to use that to tag on to Australia, the movie, quite naturally; it was something that had a big ball of energy that we sat behind, whilst we worked out what the next iteration was, what the future was. When you have something with that amount of power and voice out there, not necessarily all positive, to break away from it, it takes a bit of time to get the right thing. So we launched, ‘There’s nothing like’ two years ago as a start for that side of this journey, and this year was really about the incorporated knowledge that we gained over the last three or four years about what to do, what not to do, where the world is going, about working with our partners, all those learnings, and really trying to be on top in digital and social environments, because that’s where we really put a thrust, and we are against other countries in the world above them, to do something right this time. So it’s given us those learnings to do it.

And your greatest critics are always going to be at home, aren’t they?

Yes, which is why it’s very audacious to launch this campaign domestically, which we haven’t done before, but I really feel and hopefully you saw there, there was stuff that people in Australia don’t know about, that is quite emotionally inspiring, and certainly the research we did prior to launch of this showed that when people saw that, there was a sense of pride in their country and believability about their country. And also, a lot of people, when they came out of it, said, “I need to find out more about my own country.” So the research really gave us some fairly strong indications that we were on target.