Towns and their Brands

Now that BP no longer gives out ‘Spotto’ cards for the amusement of the motoring public, I’ve taken to passing the time during long holiday drives noting the ‘brands’ of sundry rural towns one passes through, and I’ve ascertained certain principles of brand choice.

Number one:  if you’ve got something really good, name it.  Sheffield, for instance, is the ‘Town of Murals’, for obvious reasons.  Kentish Council is ‘The Home of Cradle Mountain’.  Curiously, nearby Circular Head claims to be ‘a caring, progressive, dynamic community’, instead of going for something a bit more punchy such as ‘Home of The Nut’.

Number two:  If you haven’t got anything in particular, claim to be the gateway to the nearest natural marvel.  Victoria’s got plenty:  Mansfield, Heathcote, Eaglehawk and Kyneton are, in order, the gateways to the High Country, Lake Eppaloch, the Whipsticks and History.  Which made me wonder: wouldn’t ‘gateway to’ be a better choice for Kentish than ‘home of’ Cradle Mountain?  Big rugged wild mountains don’t really have homes.  However, ‘gateway’ has been reserved for the big new fancy-pants architect designed visitor centre – the Cradle Mountain Gateway Project. 

The West Coast claims to be the ‘Gateway to the Tasmanian Wilderness’.  Hmm.  Another gateway.  How about something more specific like ‘Home of the Abt Railway’? Or if you really want to tap into the visitor mindset: ‘Home of Those Weird Denuded Hills You’ve Heard About’

Local enterprise is also an option, if it’s any good.  Horsham In Victoria’s west asserts that it is the ‘Home of Australia’s Finest Vanilla Slice’.  How could you resist popping in to test that one?  We didn’t, and yes, it lived up to its billing.  Rochester in the flat Victorian wheat country is an honest little farming community, which hitherto hasn’t come up with anything more exciting than ‘Hub of the North’.  They should change it to ‘Home of the Finest Fish and Chips for Miles in Any Direction’, for such it is. 

When I heard that Sorrell farmer Shane Newitt had once again set a record for growing Tasmania’s heaviest pumpkin it occurred to me that the little township of Bream Creek has a ready-made brand: ‘Home of Giant Pumpkins’, or ‘Gateway to Pumpkin Central’ for something even snappier. 

Shane’s 731kg whopper broke his previous record of 553.5 kg, but he’s a long way off the world record or even the Australian record.  It’s a highly competitive business, this Extreme Gardening, and will be the subject of a future column. 

Hobart has a brand, or at least we did back in 2005.  ‘Hobart – the way life should be’.  It didn’t come especially cheaply – it cost us $90,000, and bought us, apparently, a means of ‘differentiating ourselves from other destinations and building a shared identity and a sense of what Hobart and the people of Hobart stand for’, according to our then Lord Mayor. 

Back then neighbouring Glenorchy acquired a brand too.  They were, they said, ‘the best place in Tasmania to live, work and play’.  Which is pretty all-encompassing, and kind of contradicts Hobart’s claim.   

Perhaps local councils have realized that ratepayers aren’t convinced by these empty slogans and don’t see the point in enriching marketing consultants to come up with them, because it seems to me these brands have been allowed to fall by the wayside. 

Speaking of waysides, the re-branding of the Midlands Highway as The Heritage Highway seems to have stuck, possibly because it doesn’t involve silly comparisons between towns and municipalities. 

Does New Norfolk have a brand?  If you google that question you’ll learn that the Derwent Valley brand is based on nine local icons gleaned from the community during ‘brand consultations’.  The icons are:  The Derwent River of course, ditto The Hops, The Oast House, Willow Court and the Barracks, The Cherries, the Tiger (as in the thylacine on account of the last one being trapped in Maydena), The Eucalypts (possibly tallest in the Southern Hemisphere) and The Fagus – Tasmania’s only cold climate deciduous tree, which puts on such a glorious show in Autumn.   

Then there’s The Swan.  This is an interesting one.  Irish composer William Vincent Wallace was gazing out of his window at the Bush Inn in 1838 when a flock of swans banked over the Derwent and burst into song.  This romantic scene inspired him to write ‘Scenes That Are Brightest’, the song memorably sung by Dame Nellie Melba at the same pub in 1924.  And there you go – I never knew swans could sing!

This was published in the New Norfolk News and Derwent Valley Gazette on 22.4.22