One year into our Gippslandia project and we can tell you a couple of things with certainty — Gippsland is geographically immense and tremendously diverse. Yet, although we are scattered to all corners of our region and our backgrounds are similarly divergent, we can seemingly be unified by pride for our Gippsland home.
Why do we lose our way when we attempt to promote the whole region? How could the rebranding of Gippsland as a united region with enticing varied attractions and resources benefit the area?
This may not be a revelation for you, but camels aren’t synonymous with Gippsland. This fact actually has very little to do with this story, other than light humour, as they say, a camel is a horse, designed by a committee. A camel may still be a beautiful animal, but the analogy stands — when things are over-thought, over—analysed and pulled in a myriad of different directions, we run the risk of potentially reaching a solution that doesn’t completely address our original problem.
In Gippsland, we’re both assisted and hampered by having six local government authorities. Considering Gippsland has an area comparable to some European countries, we likely need them, as one or two MEGA councils couldn’t adequately service the entire region. From an outside perspective, is a visitor from China benefited by the disparities in branding between the Latrobe City and Baw Baw Shire Council? Do they realise the difference in the regions? Would a visitor from New Zealand? Heck, would a Melbournian even know?
Now, you may retort by asking us to name the different council’s of Melbourne — that’s fair. But the 2009 re-branding of the City of Melbourne by Landor Associates is memorable. The vibrant ‘M’ presented in publications, on billboards, in promotional videos and on event tickets is instantly recognisable and engaging. It firmly hits its aim, as described by the project’s Creative Director, Jason Little, ‘the bold ‘M’ presents a full expression of the identity system — immediately recognizable and as multifaceted as the city itself: creative, cultural, sustainable’. It provides the city with a unified, flexible, and future-focused image — and that’s powerful.
Currently, Gippsland’s present situation reminds us of a restaurant in which the front of house staff, the chef, food producers and the dish washer all have equal representation in the restaurant’s marketing activities. It’s occasionally interesting, but it doesn’t necessarily put inspire us to book a table to dine frequently.
Let’s revisit our restaurant after undertaking a similarly comprehensive branding exercise to Melbourne town. It now has a singular focus to attract people through the front door and have them depart satisfied. They’re eager to share with their excellent experience family and friends. The food is incredible, as the wait staff will proudly declare, they can even tell you the farms the chef sourced the produce from, the kitchen attracts the best chefs that are actually remarkably happy, and they’re serving sublime dishes on the cleanest plates. Every facet of the restaurant invigorates their co-workers to excel and the results are incredible. The return patronage is constantly increasing and the word-of-mouth marketing is off the charts. Every department of the restaurant is united behind the brand, they’re achieving their objectives and a meal there has become a ‘must-do’ event. Obviously, we want that metaphoric dream to become a reality here.
If you’re one that enjoys pointing fingers, it’s a tad difficult here. Readdressing the current state of play is actually one of those problems that will take some serious dialogue and negotiation. You see, our six local governments sit below the State Government. This forces each of these councils to frequently compete against each other to land approval for funding that will launch the next great project off the ground, which will welcome streams of cashed-up visitors to the winning council.
This repetitive competition makes true collaboration between our local governments extremely difficult, which leaves us with a void, instead of promoting a unified, vibrant and dynamic Gippsland. We all have our opinions on Gippsland’s identity. You may feel that the delicious offerings of our agriculture industry best represent us, maybe it’s our deserted sandy beaches, our snowfields or even the power industry. This challenge of isolating our “Gippslandness” is tough, but this only highlights that it’s our diversity which is our greatest strength, yet it’s our inability to promote our marvellous medley coherently that may perhaps be one of our greatest weaknesses.
Again, a great example of promoting diversity is provided by our metro neighbour. We’re all aware of how multicultural Melbourne’s population is. Heck, it’s a substantial point of pride. A quick search displays numerous websites promoting demographic stats, such as how the city is, ‘home to residents from 200 countries, who speak over 233 languages and dialects and follow 116 religious faiths’. Melbourne has successfully made its broad range of cultures a unique point of appeal.
The creation of a united voice that represents Gippsland would be no small feat but remember, ‘eat the elephant one bite at a time’. The marketing benefits would be a clear, cut—through message and brand for our region. A clear, distinct visual language for Gippsland, that’s free to access, enticing so we all want to use it and is accompanied with easy to comprehend guidelines to outline its use would be an excellent step in the right direction.
Imagine driving through Warragul, Morwell, Wy Yung then Marlo and the welcome sign to each town was uniformly ‘Gippsland’, instead of distinct differences between each council. The visual cues that divide the drive would be removed. No longer would there be subconscious triggers demarcating boundaries, but a huge expanse that invites visitors to keep wondering what’s just around the next corner.
A fine supporter of this publication (blatant plug to the great people that support us!) has suggested that we need to embrace a concept that combines cooperation and competition — ‘co-opertition’. Their belief is that while we need a healthy level of competition, we also need to encourage people to visit the businesses that neighbour us, even if that business could be seen as a competitor. That it’s better for both businesses for the visitor to have an exceptional time, so that they continue to return to the region, bring friends and hopefully, explore further each time.
Gippsland was seen as a great place to be not that long ago. Did all that much change? The region is still stunning, still grows nourishing food, the beaches are still there, so is the bush. Did the perception just change?
Let’s bring that excitement and pride back.
10 ideas for identity building.
Here are our ten ideas to showcase the incredible diversity of Gippsland with a more unified punch!
1—A free visual identity and style guide for Gippsland.
This includes logos, colours, typefaces, use of language and photography. Arm everyone with an open source collection of quality branding (and the education to best use it) to help promote our region.
2—Establish a Design Council for Gippsland.
Their aim is to provide a considered design perspective to major infrastructure and town planning decisions throughout the region and to be the custodians of the Gippsland Brand.
3—Create a Gippsland Regional Council.
To represent the region as one unit. Embracing cooperition, and attracting tourists and economic activity to the area, irrespective of town or local government boundaries.
4—Consistent signage throughout the region.
To get the hierarchy of our messaging correct. People will first know they’re in Gippsland, the town names will be second and local council will be discretely presented third. It will create a real sense of place, unity and belonging.
5—Removal of local government identifiers publicly.
Removal may be a step too far now, but at least lowering in the message hierarchy on designs. Can we assume that residents know where they live? Then, why not structure our communication towards our visitors?
Believe us, Gippsland has more than enough enthralling stories to produce our own version of ‘Postcards’, ‘The Great South-East’ or any other shows of this kind. What could a TV version of this very magazine do for Gippsland?
As part of our brand and style guide, we should have an icon that demonstrates that you’re consuming quality Gippsland produce. Our fine food is consumed all over the world. Are we currently missing a golden opportunity to market ourselves more widely?
8—Pride of place education.
An educational package for Gippsland schools that describes the history of our region in an engaging, fun and freakin’ cool way. Educational films don’t have to make you cringe the viewing. We reckon that a conversation with Dr Doris Paton would be an excellent starting point for this project.
9—Development of a Gippsland Marketing Plan.
A strategy that focuses on promoting our region’s livability, economic development and tourism potential. It’d be driven by the Gippsland Council with the aim of attracting the best in the world to Gippsland and taking the best of Gippsland to the world.
10—Ownership, Accountability, Trust.
None of these ideas can be successfully ‘designed by committee’. Gippsland deserves a majestic horse, not a stumbling camel. We’ll need to trust someone to design an interpretation of our identity — and then it’s up to us to present this unified vision to the world.