Both Cherry Coke and Coke Zero appeared on Australian grocery shelves long before the United States had even dreamed such things could exist. The McDonald’s McCafé concept debuted in 1993 in Melbourne, while the United States was the 18th country where it launched. And Australians were building the farms of their dreams in the über-addictive “FarmVille 2” long before the rest of the world. These are the lucky ones that passed the test, but has anyone in the U.S. even heard of the energy drink called Mother? Not all products have been so fortunate as to pass the rigorous test market that is Australia.
According to Penelope Holloway, Managing Director at H+K Australia, the land Down Under presents the perfect conditions for a test market when it comes to launching consumer products.
Holloway has worked on both sides of the Pacific Ocean, giving her unique insight into why Australia is such a trendsetting market. Here are her top six reasons.
Given the size and population of Australia, Holloway’s clients both past and present have found it to be an idyllic place to launch R&D products. “It’s big enough to be statistically relevant, but small enough to get the data back quickly and affordably,” said Holloway. With around 24 million residents, Australia’s population is smaller than the state of Texas (clocking in at 27.5 million). Testing campaigns in Australia allows marketers to quickly calibrate and rework their messaging or approach before a broader, more costly rollout.
We’re relatively isolated (you can make mistakes!)
Australia’s geographical distance from other major markets allows for campaigns to remain somewhat contained as a sample. “In this case, the tyranny of distance can certainly work in our favor,” said Holloway. “We’re included in global campaigns and activations, but the fact that we’re often considered to be at the bottom of the world can be used to our advantage.” Holloway explained that this distance allows them the space to think in new and innovative ways, act creatively, and do things a little differently.
In terms of consumer behavior and demographics, Australia is representative of other major markets, just on a smaller scale. “In many ways Australia models the United States,” said Holloway. “We’re very multicultural and have a rich diversity of complex perspectives and audiences.” In terms of cultural parallels, there are many similarities with American and British markets, including the influence of celebrity, television, and other media. “Part of the challenge is to encourage brands to do things differently down here. We like to take the bull by the horns and use it as an opportunity to lead the world with our thinking,” said Holloway.
We push boundaries
Another upside of being so isolated and getting to try things out first is that Australian marketers are able to push boundaries in terms of both messaging and campaign activations. “We’re able to reach an audience effectively through different channels, and our casual, larrikin nature [Australian slang for “rowdy but good-natured”] means we can get away with more,” Holloway said. As a recent example, Holloway cited her team’s work on the “I Touch Myself for Breast Cancer Awareness” campaign, which struck a chord with audiences beyond its initial local scope, gaining global awareness and since picking up a raft of international awards. The campaign video features 10 of Australia’s top female artists singing an emotional rendition of Chrissy Amphlett’s 1991 “I Touch Myself” to raise awareness of the importance of early detection. “While, to the more conservative folk, it could be considered racy, it has been a huge success here,” said Holloway.
We’re the first to rise
Australia’s geographic advantages extend to its proximity to the International Date Line. “Global campaigns tend to launch here first and follow the sun as it rises in other markets,” said Holloway. Day breaks first in New Zealand and Australia, which has worked well for clients including Air New Zealand. “Purely based on our position in the world and the time zone perspective, we can be first to market, and the rest of the world follows our lead.”
We’re famous for our ‘give it a go’ attitude
Finally, Holloway believes there’s something unique about Australian marketers that contributes to making the continent a perfect test market. “As a culture, we’re willing to roll up our sleeves, get things done, and do things differently. And that attitude shines through in the work we create down here — the mindset of ‘let’s give it a go.’ We like to have fun, but we work hard at the same time, and that’s an ideal mix for creating innovative work that cuts through.”