Engaging a Nation – Lest we forget

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I attended the ANZAC Day dawn service this year. I stood there with 45,000 other people at the shrine of remembrance, as I looked around I realised what a diverse crowd was in attendance. I started to think about the challenge ANZAC Day faces in engaging with a whole nation of people of all ages and ensuring content is relevant to past, present and future.

Not unlike brands, ANZAC Day has been on a journey with varied levels of support and attendance. Following Australia’s involvement in the Vietnam War, interest in ANZAC Day reached its lowest point. On 26 April 1975, The Australian newspaper covered the passing of ANZAC Day in a single story. ANZAC Day now draws impressive crowds with an increasing number of young Australians in attendance.

This got me thinking; ‘are young people engaged with ANZAC Day in Australia, do they identify with the historic brand and why is it so important for ANZAC Day to position itself in a way that every Australian and New Zealander can identify with?’

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Similar to other products or services ANZAC Day is susceptible to environmental factors. The longevity of the meaning inherent in the day for generations to come will very much depend on how these environmental factors are responded to.

In the not to distant future we may be faced with a nation whose majority haven’t lived through a war with such large numbers of lives lost. If this happens, are the values prevalent in the ANZAC spirit going to be strong enough to bring the nation together every year on the 25th of April? To have a chance ANZAC Day will need to ensure it connects with target audiences and builds relevance and esteem in the hearts and minds of all Australians.

In comparing ANZAC Day with a brand we intend no disrespect. There are many pitfalls with the comparison, however the nature of our work means we look at the world through brand coloured gasses.

Similar to a brand, ANZAC Day has core values, values such as mateship, camaraderie, strength, bravery and courage. These values are the things that individuals no matter what age can identify with. They are universal values that have become important to the national identity of both Australia and New Zealand. Standing at the dawn service I heard past and present stories all with these common values, values that can be made relevant and celebrated for years to come.

One thing that struck me as I listened to people talking was the reference to present times and the war in Afghanistan. Soldiers who had fought in this war told stories of bravery and of sorrow. It was personally moving to me and I felt a connection with the speaker and the topic. I was deeply engaged with the spirit of ANZAC Day.

One way that ANZAC Day is rallying support is through marketing and partnerships. Victoria Bitter is partnering with legacy to promote ANZAC Day with their ‘Raise a Glass’ campaign. The campaign encourages everyone to raise a glass and pay tribute to service men and women.

The campaign has attracted controversy for linking the consumption of alcohol with the celebration of ANZAC Day. And although it’s possible the connection between the day and the consumption of alcohol may not promote long-term support and engagement, it will however promote awareness which will go a long way towards encouraging people to become engaged with the day.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k_6VR7PdSEo

This year the organisers of ANZAC Day took marketing one step further by embracing new technologies to increase the communication channels with young people.

The VB website offered a free wake up call service so people could be reminded to attend dawn service. The site also had a function that enabled people to search for their closest dawn service. By utlising modern technology they provided a link for people to become engaged with the day and take away excuses such as “it’s too early”, “I’m tired” or “I didn’t know where the dawn service was”.

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In future years it will become even more important to ensure that young people remain engaged with ANZAC Day which will demand that organisers communicate with them in a way which they understand and with messages which make the day relevant to them and their lives.

It has been criticised that young people don’t treat ANZAC Day with the respect it deserves by attending ceremonies swathed in Australian flags, wearing green and gold T-shirts and with Australian flag tattoos imprinted on their skin.

Like many brands the day means different things to different people. What we know and understand of the way brands work, it is critical for the long-term success of ANZAC Day for new generations of participants to be able to connect with the day in a way that feels relevant for them. Brands that seek to control the manner in which people engage with them typically lose their place in the lives of the ever changing consumer. This freedom to connect with ANZAC Day on their own terms will be critical if we wish future generations to engage with the Day and develop their own sense of shared ownership.

It took a dawn service in London 16,891km away from Melbourne for me to come to my own realisation that the spirit of ANZAC Day should be cherished and is very relevant to people of all ages.

ANZAC Day promotes a sense of unity, perhaps more effectively than any other day on the national calendar. People whose politics, beliefs and aspirations are widely different can come together and remember those who have lost their lives and celebrate the ANZAC spirit.

For me it is about remembering the past and giving thanks to those who lost their lives, it is about celebrating the spirit of Australia, a country that I love, and being proud of the ANZAC spirit and values. I look forward to seeing how ANZAC Day evolves of the coming years and I hope that with each passing year more and more Australians of all ages become engaged with the ANZAC Day spirit.

 

Gemma Dittmar,
Director of Brand Projects.

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