T&R Pastoral CEO Darren Thomas argues that a new brand will attract more investment to South Australia and entice more people to the state.
In my business at T&R Pastoral, I get the opportunity to spend time with the grassroots people of South Australia, as well as abroad, in the international community where we export our meat products to more than 80 countries. For example, just recently I was on Kangaroo Island talking to a local sheep farmer and then a week later found myself in a famous New York restaurant where, by sheer coincidence, some fantastic South Australian lamb was being served on a plate to guests. As a proud South Australian, I want to see more of our state being showcased on the world stage like this, but as a business person I also know that if products are left unbranded they can look like any similar products and easily be overlooked. SA is a wonderful state and has many opportunities to grow and prosper, but despite some of the exceptional things we offer it is clear we are still underrated interstate and relatively unknown overseas. Unfortunately, the fact of the matter is we lack a clear identity both within Australia and internationally where there is considerable ignorance even about where Adelaide and South Australia are located on the map! It’s time that we stood out on our own, strengthened our unique reputation and started forging a more prosperous future for our state. This is what ‘place branding’ is all about. The geographic equivalent of product branding like Apple, Coca-Cola or Google, place branding defines what is special about a place – be it a country, state, region or neighbourhood – and provides a common understanding of its features, people, characteristics, values and beliefs. It is not just a logo, slogan or tag line. Through place branding, South Australia can distinguish itself from other states, not just in Australia but globally. Place branding will allow us to start influencing how others think about SA and, just as importantly, change the way we think about ourselves to help stimulate new levels of pride within our own community. As a member of South Australia’s Economic Development Board and at the request of Premier Jay Weatherill, I’m excited to be leading the development of South Australia’s new brand which I believe is one of the most defining projects in the state’s recent history. Over recent months, it’s been inspiring to see so many marketing, communications and policy professionals from across government and the private sector join forces to develop a brand in partnership with local communities, industries and individuals who have provided outstanding ideas about how our state should be portrayed. I’m excited to say that the new state brand will be unveiled to South Australia and the world very shortly, which we think will truly establish the essence of South Australia, its people and potential. The new brand will shape awareness and understanding of who we are and what we stand for, and provide that all-important point of difference in the global marketplace. We believe the new brand will help us attract more investment and entice more people to come to South Australia to be educated, to work, to enjoy holidays and to live. It must be said that establishing an effective brand is no easy task. More cities and states are seeking to be recognised in an increasingly global environment, and equally it’s become more difficult to distinguish one city or state from another. But, for those places doing it properly, the benefits are huge in terms of greater international trade, new investment opportunities, higher levels of tourism and enhanced cultural pride. Currently, and it pains me to say this, I can understand why people from interstate or overseas choose somewhere else when considering where to invest, where to send their children to university, where to visit for a holiday, or where to migrate. It’s certainly not because South Australia is inferior in any way. On the contrary, my travels over the years have only reinforced my long-held views that our state is as amazing as any in terms of agriculture, education, tourism, mining, manufacturing, food, wine and the arts. What lets us down though is that other regions, including other Australian states, are much more visible and much more vocal than us, and therefore better known around the world. For this reason alone, I believe in and am a strong advocate of place branding and establishing a differentiating brand for South Australia that is commonly shared and understood by locals and visitors alike. I, for one, can’t wait for the brand to be revealed shortly and our state’s message crystalised so that I can start spreading it loudly and clearly on my travels, in my business dealings and in my everyday life. I urge you and all other South Australians to do the same. Together, I am confident we can build recognition of our state and improve global knowledge of who we are and what we can do – to the ultimate benefit of every South Australian. Darren Thomas is a member of South Australia’s Economic Development Board and Chief Executive Officer of T&R Pastoral – Australia’s largest family-owned business. brandingsouthaustralia.sa.gov.au