Tasmania's recipe for success
The team at Brand Tasmania, they set out to solve a cultural and a strategic problem. The cultural problem is a lack of confidence. Tasmania is, historically, Australia’s poorest state. It’s isolated, underestimated, and misunderstood. For generations, mainland Australians mocked Tasmanians for being unsophisticated. There were few outlets for a ‘Tasmanian voice,’ and challenges with low levels of aspiration in its young people.
Yet tourism to Tasmania has increased exponentially in the last decades. They have a private ‘museum of sex and death’ that attracts attention around the world. Small businesses have created an artisanal economy and culture. Battles for the environment launched the global green political movement from Tasmania. They have the cleanest air in the world, the purest water. They're self-sufficient in renewable electricity.
But they don’t know how to talk about any of this. In the past, they traded in cliches like “clean and green” and “explore the possibilities.” Businesses, local councils, and artists had no shared language to rally behind, and the state government had no brand trends for decision – making.
So their strategic problem was disunity.
Start with culture
Rather than launching another campaign, they decided to begin with culture, to create a unifying cultural expression and use that expression as the core of the strategy. They interviewed over 400 Tasmanians, one-on-one, in hour-long sessions using a random but representative sample. They were looking for a consistent, powerful story, and they heard it.
This is a story of hardship and obstacles, both in the lives of Tasmanians and the history of the place. They heard about convicts. The decimation of Aboriginal Tasmanians by British colonists informed the UN definition of genocide. Globalisation destroyed Tasmanian industries and bought entire communities to their knees at the end of the 20th century. The more recent Tasmanian pattern of success has been about overcoming those obstacles with grit and determination. This creates special products, services, experiences, and projects. It was a quiet confidence; Tasmanians took pride in hard work and expressed it with unusual humility.
The story is clear, but they couldn’t express the successful outcomes in a boastful way.
The quiet pursuit of the extraordinary
Brand Tasmania’s stated mission is to inspire and encourage Tasmanians, and those who want to be Tasmanian, to quietly pursue the extraordinary. The strategy was to do nothing alone. They would launch unifying ‘Trojan Horse’ projects to demonstrate how a brand works. They would communicate first with Tasmanians, and then the wider world. Tourism Tasmania were already telling the Tasmanian story in their award winning ‘Come down for air’ campaign – now was the time to bring the Tasmanian story to life for intra-state tourism in the wake of lockdown. The new campaign, ‘Make yourself at home’ is all about the quiet pursuit of the extraordinary.
They worked with government partners to bring the brand to life, and created a podcast about our working and place branding to explain their ‘impossible mission’ to implement a unifying cultural expression; the team want their partners in government and business to understand, and they want to share important lessons they’ve learned with academic and practitioners communities.
And where so many place brands seek to camouflage the truth with glittering generalities, they’ve owned their historical mistakes and challenges.
Between 1 April 2020 and 31 July 2021, ‘Australia’s poorest state’ led the country in employment growth, in population growth, in equipment investment, and housing construction. They were second in retail growth. From a starting point of zero, Brand Tasmania gained over 2,000 partners, and the podcast has so far been downloaded more than 2,500 times. Most importantly, their partners in and out of government are using the brand - and no one had to force it on them.
Perhaps the most meaningful feedback they’ve received has been from an Aboriginal elder who had described our work as “a journey… of inclusion, acknowledgement, and one that embraces Aboriginal culture in such depth, it brings the past and the future together and shines a light on our present.”