The world is curious about Australia—our environment, people and lifestyle. Rebecca Spicer explores the significance of Australiana products and services on the world market, and emerging opportunities for exporters.
From the fluffy stuffed koala and the novelty boomerang, to Australian produce and international celebrities, our Australiana exports are certainly eclectic. While there are no real statistics to quantify the exact strength of ‘Australiana’ on the global market, Tim Harcourt, chief economist at Austrade, says it would represent a significant portion of our exports considering the number of industries and categories the term falls into, especially if we include our tourism and education sector.
"The Australiana brand to me is lifestyle, the Australian quality of life," he says. "So anything that’s to do with beach culture and lifestyle is a good selling point, and nothing to be ashamed of. Even my own book, Beyond Our Shores, has the beach on the cover because I knew it would sell better overseas for that reason."
Given this, he adds, surf brands like Billabong and Quicksilver are big overseas. "Billabong is more important internationally than Westpac is." Underwear and swimwear manufacturer aussieBum is another perfect example of an exporter leveraging off Australia’s beach culture in its international marketing. The multi-million dollar small business now exports 90 percent of its product into 75 countries. "People like Australian undies for some reason," says Harcourt. "All the women’s lingerie has done well, and aussieBum’s a huge success."
The Anholt Nation Brands Index, which outlines the results of a survey of more than 25,000 global consumers and businesspeople, has ranked Australia in sixth place in terms of the world’s national brand identities. In the latest Index, released earlier this year, Sydney came in as the number one city in the world in terms of work, play, and economic presence.
In light of Australia’s high performance since the launch of the Index in 2005, inventor Simon Anholt told Tim Harcourt: "Now is the time for Australia to be producing great Australian-branded products, culture, events, services, ideas, and media, as fast as it possibly can. Anything that reflects, promotes, and sustains those essential and admired Australian values, will sell."
Harcourt says the big export markets for ‘all things Australian’ are Japan, the UK and the US. But, countries like Peru and France are also emerging as key markets interested in our beach culture.
China is opening up thanks to its current booming economy, and countries like Dubai, Singapore, and Hong Kong are also popular with Australiana, where there’s a large Australian presence.
The attraction to Australian people is particularly alluring to foreigners—another driver for Australiana exports. "Australian people are regarded as not only friendly and fair-minded but also hard-working and very well organised," says Harcourt. "Partly as a result of staging events like the Sydney Olympics and the Commonwealth Games." But mostly thanks to our celebrities, especially the late Steve Irwin. "Anybody who sounds like him, they like. Steve did so much to build Australia’s reputation and image in a positive way around the world. In many ways, he was the face of Australia and one of our best-known exports."
People like doing business in Australia because of our easygoing natures, straightforwardness, stability, and care for our natural environment, he adds. "As a ‘celebrity export’ Steve Irwin played a big role in this, particularly in terms of raising awareness of both Australia and wildlife conservation simultaneously."
The ‘Kylie effect’ has also infiltrated the UK, as has the likes of Natalie Imbruglia, Silverchair and Jet, and other musicians on the world stage. Supermodel Megan Gale is our tourism ambassador to Italy, and our sporting heroes such as Ian Thorpe (hugely popular in Japan) and our cricketers (in India) continue to build this love and recognition for Australian people. We even reported in the May issue of Dynamic Export how Australia’s greatest Boomer, Andrew Gaze, recently announced a strategic partnership between his company, Australian Basketball Resources (ABR), and the new Indian sports company, Jus Sportz. The director of Jus Sportz reported India’s growing love of sports and all things Australian made the deal a perfect fit.
And then, of course, there are our actors in Hollywood flying the Aussie flag, such as Nicole Kidman, Toni Collette, Geoffrey Rush, Hugh Jackman, Cate Blanchett, Naomi Watts and Heath Ledger.
"Australia’s celebrity exports do help people know about Australia," says Harcourt. "They have not so far led to people buying more Australian products, but they do raise Australia’s profile as a desirable place to go."
According to Ian Harrison, CEO of the Australian Made Campaign, Australia is regarded very highly throughout the world, and there’s a lot of goodwill towards Australia and Australians. "We’re also seen as an environment that’s very clean, we’re seen as a country that’s got good standards and very good skills," he says. "Being recognised as Australian is a tremendous advantage for food and beverage products because of the environment those products are coming from."
While he admits Australia’s manufactured goods aren’t generally well known, the country is so well regarded that if a product is identified with Australia, it’s likely to be attractive. Consequently, Australian businesses (including exporters) are increasingly using the official Australian Made logo on their products.
There are currently around 8,000 products which carry the green and gold kangaroo logo, and this is set to grow when the campaign’s application to expand the use of the symbol is granted. It is hoped the new Australian Made, Australian Grown logo will be launched late May, which will mean it can be used on fresh and packaged produce, as well as the traditional manufactured product. "The great significance of this for export is that it’s another complete range of products travelling out of Australia, that can carry this famous country-of-origin symbol," says Harrison.
The Australian Made logo is already being used on a wide range of goods in more than 30 countries, and according to a survey of Australian Made licensees in 2004, of those who export, 84 percent use the logo and the majority consider that it adds value to their export marketing.
Harcourt says that while the logo is definitely a positive, it won’t be everything to overseas buyers. "I think attaching something to Australia can’t hurt because the brand is strong, but I think most of the time people will go for quality, price, innovation and after-sales service, so it’s a whole package of things—it’s not the only thing you can rely on."
Harrison agrees. "The fact that a product is conspicuously Australian will be noticed favourably by purchasers. Whether they’ll buy it will depend on the colour or the flavour or the cost and all the other things that come into play, but it’s our experience with exporters that if their own research shows that being recognised as Australian will help, then using the Australian Made logo makes genuine, strategic sense in their export strategy."
Driza-Bone displays the Australian Made logo proudly on its products. Like RM Williams, Driza-Bone is an iconic clothing brand that has a long Australian history dating back to 1898, when the first ever Driza-Bone oilskin coat was created. Driza-Bone’s marketing manager, Rod Williams, says the jacket is sy
nonymous with the ‘Australian’ brand because for around 100 years it has been worn by Aussie stockman and riders. The jacket has great appeal overseas, not only because it works as a product but also because of its affiliation with Australia’s heritage and the romance of the outback.
Driza-Bone began exporting in the early 90s, starting with the UK and US, and has since expanded into other European markets as well as Canada, Japan, and South Africa. Now, 20 percent of the business is generated through exports. In terms of marketing its Australian origins, Williams says using the Australian Made logo adds value and credibility to Driza-Bone overseas. The company also uses Australian celebrities, such as cricketer Brett Lee, to endorse the brand.
Australiana Online is another company which promotes its Australian-made product status (although not all carry the official logo). Rod Beach started the online business just two years ago to meet a demand for Australian-made Australiana gifts and souvenirs (from stuffed koalas to Aboriginal artwork). "People have a preference that an Australiana product be made in Australia," he says.
Going online was a natural choice for Beach who says they wanted to reach a big audience, and be instantly accessible to people all round the world. "The potential market for Australiana Online is not only the Australian market but also the many people and businesses overseas that have ties with, or an interest in Australia. Australiana is a niche product and the internet is an efficient tool to match niche products to consumers."
He says international sales were an important part of the business plan, and in fact the first online sale was to an overseas customer. Now, 40 percent of his business is generated through exports, and he predicts a large portion of his domestic sales will end up overseas as well, being gifts or mementos.
Asked why he thinks there’s such appeal for Australiana globally, Beach says it comes back to people’s curiosity about this far away place. "People overseas have a real interest in Australian culture and lifestyle, and our unique flora and fauna. An Australiana product for them is a small way of participating in Australia, and being part of the lifestyle."
Beach says he’ll be focusing more of their marketing budget on international markets and expects export sales to overtake domestic sales within one to two years. And while his traditional English-speaking markets, such as the UK and the US, have shown the most interest, there has been increasing demand for his products from Northern Europe, particularly Denmark.
Given Australia’s clean, green image and our care for the environment—a perception, again, encouraged by Steve Irwin—Australian flora and fauna are also successful exports. Longford Flowers has been exporting wildflowers to Japan for 20 years. While the Japanese grow most of their own flowers, owner Denis Tricks says they took to his flowers because they were novel, out of the ordinary. "The originality in the off-season to the northern hemisphere was the main attraction I think.
"Japan was also the most accessible market," he adds. "They’ve just about got the same timeframe as us, so you can pick up the phone during operating hours and talk to them. And it was also the most profitable market at the time, and it’s a very big market."
He’s never branched out into other overseas markets because the Japanese buy all his product. Tricks calls himself a Japanese specialist, which has simplified his exporting experience, but the paperwork and licences he needs to be able to export wildflowers can be a strain. He says this should be a key consideration for businesses exporting Australian flora and fauna.
A young company, MH Waters, is also making the most of our clean, green image, exporting its Tasmanian Rain bottled water to the US since the business was established in January last year. "This is an integral part of our marketing strategy and the single best defining feature of Tasmanian Rain. It is certainly what we are most proud of, in providing a naturally pure product to the world," explains director, Hunter Page.
The rainwater, captured before it even hits the ground in a pollution-free area of Tasmania, was an instant hit with Americans. "The US is made up of so many great markets which are, on the whole, extremely large by Australian standards, and there is a real love of most things Australian there," Page adds.
While 100 percent of its rainwater currently goes to the US, MH Waters plan to expand into other export markets and, according to Page, countries that are most receptive to all things Australian will be the most likely targets.
Some Australian goods are subject to export restrictions, and in these cases applications must be made to the relevant authorities.
The box below shows the main Australiana products that require export approval, and the authority responsible for issuing the required permits:
Primary products (excluding minerals), animals and marine life
Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry
Ph: 02 6272 3933
Animal furs and skins, live animals (native), wildlife and products derived from it, native flora and fauna, and any animal named under the Convention of International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES)
* Department of the Environment & Water Resources
Ph: 02 6274 1111
* Department of the Environment & Water Resources, Biodiversity Group
Ph: 02 6274 1111
Fruit and vegetables, grain, live animals (non- native) and animal products, plant and plant products, foodstuffs and animal products, certain woodchips and sawlogs
Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service
Ph: 1800 020 504
Heritage items (including Australian works of art, artefacts, coins, stamps, collector banknotes, precious stones, minerals, fossils, items of national significance)
Australian Heritage Council
Ph: 6274 1111