More bang than whimper in Australia please

First published in New Zealand Herald 29 June 2015

Social media is a media darling when it comes to column inches. So, you could be forgiven for thinking it’s the only media channel a company needs to reap mega rewards. In fact, it couldn’t be further from the truth.

In Australia, evangelic social media companies and commentators spring up on a daily basis. This wouldn’t be a problem if their argument was balanced: social media together with other forms of media does indeed create a complete marketing picture, and you reach target customers in all the places they’re likely to be.

However, far too many social media zealots are determined to convince you that advertising on Facebook is the solution to all your woes.

There’s no silver bullet.

I don’t blame many New Zealand companies from holding on tight to their wallets when they bring their business to Australia. Consumer brands that need to market to reach customers will find Australian media immensely expensive.

I live in Melbourne and when I drive to the city there’s a massive digital billboard on the iconic corner of Swanston and Flinders Streets across the road from Flinders Station & Federation Square. As far as outdoor media goes, it’s one of the biggest. It’ll also set you back $200,000 a month and put you in rotation with 7 other brands. Clearly not for the meek or uncertain.

Unless you’re Fonterra, not many businesses have the luxury of “giving it a go” for two hundred grand. At that monthly spend you want to be pretty damn certain that your advertising investment reaches the right people and generates sales.

But herein lies the challenge for New Zealand companies that want to get big in Australia. While it’s good to come in quietly and ensure all the groundwork is set, there comes a time when you need to speak up. If your customers don’t know about your business, you have no business.

I feel like all too many Kiwi consumer brands put money into the Australian set up, but then struggle to go the distance.

You might celebrate that a supermarket put your product on its shelves, or the opening of a new Aussie store, but customers don’t magically appear. Now more than ever people want to be informed about what they’re buying and they need to be reminded of it. Whether it’s a car or a packet of bagel crisps for kids’ lunchboxes. You need to be out there reaching your buyers.

From time to time the New Zealand papers write about Kiwi brands and their impending big entry into Australia. I keep an eye out for these both out of professional interest and also out of expat nostalgia and a desire to support Kiwi business over here.

In supermarkets I’ve watched Jed’s Coffee appear, Abe’s Bagels, of course Whittaker’s, ecostore. I’ve also seen how the supermarkets muck around with these and other brands simply because they can. One day on a top shelf, next day on a bottom shelf, next week no longer there. It’s brutal. Same goes for fashion retail.

But I can’t help thinking I don’t hear enough from some of these guys when it comes to Australian marketing. As a customer I need to know why I should keep buying the products I do, because there’s no loyalty any more and just appearing on a shelf simply isn’t enough.

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