‘People saw themselves reflected in the story’: Behind Brand Tasmania’s place branding success

Tasmania is an island state to the south of the Australian mainland. Separated by the Bass Strait, Tasmanians have long felt like second-class Australians and the media reinforced negative stereotypes of isolation, poverty, and backwardness. However, in 2018, a place branding authority was established to identify and tell a better, more realistic story about Tasmania. Brand Tasmania’s mission is to inspire and encourage Tasmanians in their quiet pursuit of the extraordinary – a mission that the team have seen huge success with. Jess Radford, Director of Place Branding at Brand Tasmania and one of our 2023 CNP Awards jurors, outlined what it is that contributed to the success of their place brand strategy.

It’s great to have you with us as part of the jury for the City Nation Place Awards. Brand Tasmania won our Place Brand of the Year Award in 2021 and are a stand-out example of how a place branding strategy can revitalise your place. What do you think is the biggest contributor to Brand Tasmania’s success?

Tasmanians. It has been wonderful to see how Tasmanians have embraced the work we are doing and are using the Tasmanian brand to inform their own work, make better business decisions, and improve their communities.

We talk a lot about how place brands should avoid doing a ‘big launch.’ What did Tasmania do instead and how do you think this compares to a more traditional launch of a strategy?

We just went out and started telling the story we heard in our research back to Tasmanians, and the story resonated. People saw themselves reflected in the story, and that became an invitation to be involved, in lots of big and small ways. We’ve never thought of ourselves as ‘traditional’ so we try and find Tasmanian solutions – through projects and storytelling – to help us solve the particular problems we have here, or to highlight our unique competitive advantages.

You can’t tell an authentic story about your place without facing the hard truths and historical mistakes head on, something that I know has been a priority for Tasmania. How has this shaped your storytelling?

lutruwita/Tasmania has a long history that stretches back over 2,000 generations. We have learned – and continue to learn – so much from our friends in the palawa/Tasmanian Aboriginal community. The palawa people are the original storytellers of lutruwita/Tasmania, and in the oral tradition of the palawa telling stories is how the teachings of their ancestors have been passed down from one generation to the next. Carleeta Thomas reminds us that through storytelling, Brand Tasmania has simply adopted a process that the palawa have perfected over 60,000 years. We never forget this.

Congratulations on the launch of Little Tasmanian as well! What initially sparked the idea of creating a children’s book?

Little Tasmanian was created in response to what we heard from Tasmanians during our research. The message they wanted to communicate to their fellow Tasmanians was: “Someone just like you did it and you can do it too. Whatever ‘it’ is.”

We want Tasmanians to understand the specialness of this place as early as possible in their lives. We want parents to be proud to be Tasmanian, and to transmit that quiet confidence to their babies and toddlers.

The Little Tasmanian book tells the story of four people who overcame challenges and adversity to pursue their passions in this special place. The story is about the opportunity for all little Tasmanians to do it too, with the support of their parents and their community.

The book is part of the broader Little Tasmanian project which has been a true partnership across government and the community sector, and is an important part of the Tasmanian Government’s Child and Youth Wellbeing Strategy.

What’s next for Brand Tasmania? Do you have any projects in the pipeline that you’re particularly excited about?

We have a huge work programme ahead of us for 2023-24: a new round of in-depth research to inform our updated Strategic Plan, implementation of a certification trademark for Tasmanian products, completing a new book for Little Tasmanian, developing a campaign to support the recruitment of health professionals, regenerative tourism projects, activating the Tasmanian Youth Story, and the ongoing promotion of our renewable energy advantage.

And we are also branching into the realm of olfactory place branding through the development of a Tasmanian scent. Working with a talented perfumer who has recently moved to Tasmania, we will create a scent that interprets the Tasmanian brand through the olfactory lens in a way that triggers positive emotional connections to Tasmania.

Ahead of the City Nation Place Awards, we’d love to get your thoughts on what makes a standout place brand or marketing strategy. What was the last campaign or strategy you saw that really impressed you, and what made it stand out?

I’m a huge fan of Visit Faroe Islands. Every campaign they produce is captivating and compelling, but I think the Closed for Maintenance program is a standout. Not only does this campaign continue to capture the media’s attention, but Guðrið and her team have created something extremely meaningful for the volunteers. I was lucky enough to participate in 2022 and this was one of the most transformative experiences I’ve ever had – it was a real privilege to be involved and this feeling of meaningful connection to a place is what I strive for in my own work at Brand Tasmania.

Thank you for sharing that with us, Jess. We look forward to having you involved with the judging for the City Nation Place Awards this year!


Discover the 2023 City Nation Place Awards winners here.

The Place Brand Portfolio is City Nation Place's searchable portfolio of Awards case studies from the past five years.