You’ll never never know, if you never never go sticks in the mind of many Australians as one of the most memorable tourism advertising catch cries of the past 30 years.
Led by Daryl Somers at his zenith in the early 90s, the campaign propelled the Northern Territory in to the consciousness of Australia’s holidaying public with enormous success. The results it produced were extraordinary. Packages sold out months in advance, planned television advertising had to be cancelled with inbound planes already full, and visitor numbers for some quarters during the two-year campaign were up almost 50 per cent.
Today, with scores of content platforms, increasingly fragmented audiences and fierce competition for consumer spend, the destination marketing game seems to be a far more intricate affair. Gaining the endorsement of a well-known public figure and backing their cult of personality with swathes of air time on Sunday night prime time television no longer cuts it.
So it should come as no surprise that today’s destination marketing successes aren’t coming from places telling the world what they’re about. Those success stories are coming from places that are showing the world what they’re about.
From massive urban regeneration projects such as Les Halles in Paris, to the tiny Tasmanian town of Queenstown which is using a festival to explore an uncertain future, today’s marketing is increasingly about showing today’s traveller what makes them distinctive, and then letting precious “word of mouth” take it from there.
Queenstown’s The Uncomformity festival was born in 2012 in tribute to the 1912 Mount Lyall disaster at the local copper mine, the town’s lifeblood for over 130 years. The closure of the mine in 2014 brought to a head a realisation that the community had known was coming. Their community’s future would need to include exporting something more than what came out of its famous copper mine. The town’s almost complete reliance on mining meant that not finding the answer to that question would jeopardise its existence all together.
So, whilst the town lost its most significant asset in 2014, this festival presented an opportunity for the community to explore what could lie beyond the mining dominated history that preceded. In the words of Travis Tiddy, the festival’s Artistic Director; We aim to mine new ideas that challenge the status-quo, redefining perceptions of what’s possible in our special part of the world. When one considers that every great industry and every great driver of prosperity has its origins in “an idea”, then you understand why this festival is so important. Fundamentally of its place, The Unconformity is a brave and honest exploration of what could be.
So, with primary industries under increasing pressure and so many Australian communities facing challenges not dissimilar to that faced by Queentown, bravery to challenge what has gone before is a non-negotiable. Or put another way, this can be summed up by tweaking Daryl’s famous phrase and daring to follow the edict; You’ll never never fly, if you never never try.
Stu Speirs is Government News’ Tourism and Events contributor and Program Director of the upcoming Place Branding Australia conference.
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