An article in last weekend’s Age newspaper was a great insight into how Bendigo in the north of Victoria has transformed its gold mining history into a gold standard in regional branding. Throughout every region of Australia one will find some conscientious members of the community contemplating what their region should stand for to encourage investment, tourists and new residents. If they have not yet unlocked a potent strategy I suggest they study what has been playing out in Bendigo. Call it good luck or good management, Bendigo is leveraging a number of fundamental regional branding principles.
Firstly they have created a cultural asset with pulling power. Every region wishing to attract visitors needs to offer an experience worth travelling for. Some regions are gifted gems by nature and others have to create their own sense of magic. Bendigo has done the latter with the development of a vibrant Art Gallery that plays host to diverse and interesting international collections.
Late last year another exhibition of gowns from the Victoria and Albert Museum, The White Wedding Dress, was seen by 76,000 people. Bendigo City Council estimated that exhibition boosted the city’s economy by $10m. More recently there has been the high profile exhibition of a collection of Grace Kelly’s wardrobe – and at double the audience of The White Wedding Dress exhibition, the Kelly show would have doubled the economic impact. The gallery growth in visitation has been impressive – 5 years ago it attracted approximately 17,000 visitors annually, in the past twelve months is has climbed to 250,000 visitors. Seemingly an overnight success, it has been 125 years in the making. It is one thing having a building that is called an Art Gallery, however without the talent and resources to drive it, it will simply fade like all the other buildings in the city. The Bendigo City council has been active on a couple fronts in the last 5 years, it has assumed control of the gallery and it has engaged great true talent to operate it. Gallery Director Karen Quinlan appears to have been a creative genius with a can do attitude.
The second significant regional brand factor playing out is that Bendigo appears to be building a food culture. So many regional brands we have worked with over the years bemoan the lack of a quality food culture to treat visitors to a memorial culinary experience. Most feel that the locals are not discerning enough to support more expensive and adventurous eating options. However, build it and they will come, is a reasonable mantra when it comes to great food experiences, doubly so when a region is able to create some scale and diversity to their offering. Bendigo has been fortunate to have attracted some inspired individuals devoted to lift the culinary quality and repertoire of the city. From a Food Fossickers movement, to a thriving farmers market, to an amazing array of restaurants, wine bars and cafés.
Every region that wishes to create fame needs a proposition that is relevant and captivating. The more random the development of that proposition is, the more random the fame building will be.
Regional Brand Scientist…of sorts