I still call Australia home

The 5As of ‘Aus-vertising’

During times of uncertainty, we look inwards for comfort, activating divergent thinking and expressing a preference for what resonates with our local identity 1. Local brands operate well in such an environment, which is conducive to growth. But their success or otherwise depends on more than extrinsic forces. Growing brands are those that have identified the real needs of Australians; they have shaped products and brand narratives accordingly, and maintained dialogue across different touchpoints. This year’s Kantar BrandZ Top 40 ranking demonstrates the importance of brands being bold, creative, and progressive in their thinking, and vernacular in their language.

In a country as diverse as Australia, what defines ‘local’ is our value system, Aussie-isms, and humour. To be effective, meaningful and different, successful brands deploy the 5As of ‘Aus-vertising’:

1. Ascribe to local identities
Establishing and connecting local identities starts with a positive portrayal of Aussie diversity, as Landcruiser does, or uniting and elevating communities as Qantas has done with ‘I still call Australia home’. It could also be a local brand celebrating its role in our way of life, or celebrating different palates. Local brands assure Aussies that they understand them and cater to their multiple needs, but with just 12% of ads featuring ethnically diverse talent, there is some distance to be covered.

Foreign brands can also reflect local identities, as in the case of ‘Maccas’. Local identities are not always linear and exclusive. Brands can aspire to make strongly rooted connections through codes like representation, community sentiment, patriotism or celebrating the good times that define the Aussie spirit.

2. Tell Aussie stories
Iconic brands are great storytellers. They understand culture, people’s needs, and they raise spirits through a good brand tale. But this is easier said than done, explaining why only a quarter of ads employ true storytelling2. NRMA’s ‘Everyone needs a home’ ad is a heart-warming story of kindness and care that has helped grow the brand.
Good stories create relatability, as Dan Murphy’s does by exploring its brand heritage, and MLA did in its 2017 Australia Day ad, tracing settler history and Aussies’ love of lamb.

Storytelling can also be about investing in what truly matters (Vanguard Investing in us). Each of these campaigns tells a story with the brand at its heart, connecting meaningfully with consumers with a local identity in a recognisable context.
Often marketers imagine storytelling has to be a long form, dramatic piece of work. But stories can be simple and short, with a singular theme that has the brand at the core.

3. Adopt humour
Australia loves a belly laugh. We over-index in the use of humour in advertising (40% of ads are funny here, compared to the 33% global average 3) and there’s nothing prescriptive about what works and what doesn’t. Anybody who can get a laugh is welcome here!

Be it situational humour, satire, wit or wordplay, every form of funny is embraced and appreciated. Humour knows no category biases, and homegrown brands are not afraid of laughs, even if it means giggling at their own tactics.

Think of ANZ’s financial wellbeing ads, or the classic AAMI humour. Local brands are often more confident about experimenting with humour because they understand Aussie sensibilities.

Humour can also be subtle and contextual, but steer clear of poking fun at any person or people. Everybody deserves a fair go.

4. Accelerate social change
Australians want to be inspired – to make people’s lives better by doing what matters. Smart brands understand and cater to this without being preachy or dogmatic (look at Medibank’s Only Human campaign). However, only half of Australian ads are perceived to be progressive in this area, and there are many strands of forward-thinking that can be explored – ageism, gender identity, race, and ethnic representation. Messaging needs to go beyond box ticking and move into true problem solving.

Brands can start by recognising the issues troubling under- represented groups and create products to address these needs to make themselves more relevant. Telstra’s ‘Time for Change’ campaign breaks away from pre-conceived notions and brings people together, embracing them for who they are – an important Aussie quality.

When it comes to ageism, only 1% of global ads feature older generations. But brands in Australia are bucking the trend, moving away from depictions of magical grandmothers 4 to bold, brave mavens, as in APIA’s Kay Cottee creative.

5. Advertise and act
Brands that consumers perceive to be more sustainable grew their brand value by an average of 31% in 2022 5 and local brands get it. Nine in 10 Australians 6 are considering and/or actively engaging with sustainability. We want to see and know about what brands are doing.

There is a strong need to act as Auspost, Telstra, XXXX Beer, Woolies, 4 Pines and Victoria Bitter do. The best
examples of brands becoming more sustainable – and talking about it in their advertising – are those integrating purpose into both their product narrative and business practices.

But brands must keep the conversation going at all times, and provide Aussies with a sense of meaning, purpose and relevance. Local brands enjoy an edge in this sphere.

Local relevance will be the future. Let’s hope the best is yet to come!

1 LINK Database, Australia, 2022
2 LINK Database, Australia, 2022
3 LINK Database, Australia and Global, 2022
4 Women’s Health Victoria stereotypes
5 BrandZ Sustainability Index Report, Global
6 Australia Sustainability report, 2022


Irene Joshy
Head of Creative,
Australia, Kantar

This was first published in the Kantar BrandZ 2023 Most Valuable Brands Report – download it here