Interviews

Ian Harrison

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Ian Harrison, CEO of the not-for-profit organisation Australia Made, Australian Grown is my next guest. Australia Made, Australian Grown raises awareness of Australian goods through their well known label which sports a gold kangaroo on a green background. Conceived in 1986 this logo is now recognised around the world. Ian will reveal how other countries respond to the symbol and also how the current economic climate is impacting Australian manufacturers. Welcome to Talking Business Ian.

IH Thank you Peter.

PS Why don’t you tell us why the name Australia Made has now changed to Australia Made, Australian Grown?

IH Yes, I can do that. A couple of years ago the federal government introduced a new label called Australian Grown and it was to address concerns amongst producers that they wanted to make clear that their produce (so it relates to fresh and packaged vegetables, fruit, fish meat that type of stuff) was more clearly able to be recognised as Australian. Consumers at the same time were concerned about the imports coming into the country, largely unknown the origin of the produce.

PS Like Californian oranges and Thai tiger prawns, things like that?

IH They’re the ones. And so Australian Grown was introduced and the government’s working party was chaired by the then Minister for Agriculture, Peter McGauran. They decided to use the stylised kangaroo in the triangle, our symbol, and so we rewrote our rules because it needed to extend then to fresh and packaged produce, and changed the name of the logo after all those years from Australia Made to Australian Made, Australian Grown.

PS Can you fit that on the little logo? There’s so many words!

IH Well no, the people use our symbol, we ask them to put one or the other, or it’s required in Australia that they use Australia Made, Product Of Australia, or Australian Grown. They can then write other things. Some companies like ownerships so they write Australia Made and Owned, some might write Australian Grown, and you’ll see the Coles supermarket group at the moment are using this extensively in their fresh produce area to help their packaged grocery lines, as well to give a regional aspect to their labelling. They’ll have Australian Made in Riverina, or Australian Grown in Goulburn Valley, and of course people throughout Australia have seen this now in the Coles supermarkets.

PS Yeah, fantastic. How successful has the whole initiative been?

IH Well the campaign of the logo itself of course was back in 1986, as you mentioned in the introduction, and it was an initiative of the then Hawk Labour government of ‘86. I think it was very strong for the first 10 years, the government in those days put in a couple of million bucks or there about, sometimes more into the advertising campaign. That’s why 98 per cent of Australians today recognise this symbol.

I think it probably weighed a little bit after the Advance Australia Foundation, they promoted the campaign for the first 10 years and they stopped operating in the mid ‘90s. They used to do the logos as well as some Australia Day awards and that, and when the coalition government was elected back in ‘96 and there was a big problem with the governments deficit, they cut expenditure in a range of areas including the money that’s been set aside for the promotion campaign for the old Advance Australia Foundation, so they stopped. The logo referred to the federal government that owned it, the federal government then talked to the Australian Chamber of Commerce and its major state and territory members, and out of that came a new organisation, Australian Made Campaign Limited, which is the corporate entity that I’m with, and the campaign was re-launched in ‘99. So the government has signed the logo across to this new body.

I think then there was a struggle with resources and in the early 2000s, with the government having help to re-launch it, it didn’t actually provide any financial assistance at all, none. So I think there was a struggle with resources, it was based in Canberra which I don’t think was the right place for it, because if you’re in Canberra shroud settles down over the organisation and everyone looks at the house on the hill. So not long after I became involved in the middle of 2004, we shifted the office out of Canberra to Melbourne, we worked hard to reposition the campaign so that it’s more about branding, it’s more about giving consumers advice that the product or produce that’s carrying this symbol is good produce. What we’ve seen of the last four years are our numbers of licences, they’re the companies that use the symbol, they’ve grown by nearly 65 per cent.

So we’ve had a fantastic resurgence of the campaign, and one of the major contributing factors to that – and it’s one of my predecessors, not me, Peter – applied for a grant of the Federal Government to do some export promotion, and so we’ve worked very hard to position this symbol as a global symbol for the Australian industry, Australian export industry, and we’ve said that the Australian market is merely one of the markets in that global network.

PS We’re talking to Ian Harrison, the CEO of Australian Made, Australian Grown. Do you ever get some negative feedback, the fact that some foreign companies that make stuff here and, I guess, employ people here, are also able to carry the Australian Made, Australian Grown logo?

IH We do, yes. I mean, there was a significant debate a few years ago, in fact, really before I joined the group, and I know that Dick Smith took a position for a while with an organisation he associates with.

PS It’s unusual for Dick to have a controversial position, isn’t it?

IH Our position is quite simple. We’re interested in where the product is made, we’re interested in where the produce is grown. The question of ownership is an important issue for Australians generally, but it’s not, in our assessment, as important as those issues of where the location of growing or production is. So whether it’s a multinational company or whether it’s an Australian owned company that’s producing or manufacturing a product here, that’s that we’re focused on. Question of ownership is difficult to track, certainly in public companies. I mean, it’s not an easy concept and, in fact, the organisations have put a bit more focus on that, they get a little bit wobbly in terms of the way it’s actually defined, so we’re clear about our priority. At the same time, as I mentioned earlier, companies who want to stress ownership, we’re all for that, can put Australian Made and Owned, they can put Australian Owned and Grown under the symbol so they can have the best of both worlds, they can pick up the power of this symbol, and its market standing is enormous. I mentioned earlier that 98 per cent of Australians recognise it. I think even more significantly, Peter, that 96 per cent of Australians trust it more than any other country of origin symbol. Things like a flag, maps and pictures of animals and so forth, they trust this symbol implicitly, and so it’s a powerful marketing tool for Australia.

PS Well, given its powerful marketing pulling power, is it important for companies during this challenging economic times to think about whether they should actually have this associated with their product?

IH One of the things that will emerge globally... actually, we saw that with the steel matter that Obama raised recently in the US, we’ve seen it repeatedly with the rural lobby groups in Europe, and what they’re doing with the milk industry, and so forth. There’ll be a re-emergence of nationalism, look after your own patch, invest in your own community, that type of thing. So I think that the campaign that I said earlier, we sort of work hard to reposition as a global symbol, the domestic element of that will probably increase irrespective of whether we pursue that or not. One of the sides of that question though is globally we keep a close eye, because we’re running a very interesting campaign in the US, in Asia, and we were in a tradeshow in Dubai recently. Looking to China right now, into Shanghai, one of the issues is whether we run up against that in some of the foreign markets that our companies are exporting to, so it’s just something that we keep a close eye on and we do a lot of research where we conduct our activities. But the view that we have right at strong and it’s a very marketable position that’s available to our exporters. So the research that we did back in ‘04 to ‘07 with the first round of governments, we thought we had based primarily in the US and Thailand. We picked two markets that looked quite different and showed very clearly that identifying your product or produce as Australian will be a benefit in the market place. People have an inspirational view of Australia and it makes sense to build that into your marketing strategy. You don’t just do that and nothing else, but when your product is sitting on a market shelf or a retail shelf in Los Angels and people are looking for products, the point of difference is that yours is an Australian product, and the research we’ve done makes genuine sense to highlight that. So not only do we tell people it makes sense to use this symbol, but use it aggressively and boldly.

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Important information:This content has been prepared without taking account of the objectives, financial situation or needs of any particular individual. It does not constitute formal advice. For this reason, any individual should, before acting, consider the appropriateness of the information, having regard to the individual’s objectives, financial situation and needs and, if necessary, seek appropriate professional advice.

 

 

Published: Wednesday, October 14, 2009

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