This week, Jenna Barrott, Cardwell Beach account executive and resident office Australian, sits down with Brian Erickson, Cardwell Beach’s chief marketing officer, to talk about the ways Australian and American business, marketing campaigns and product categories differ. Why, for example, is Australia one of the only countries in the world where Starbucks failed to gain a foothold yet is also fascinated with American food trends? Learn more about our neighbors down under in the first part of this two part special.
Brian: My name is Brian Erickson. I am the Chief Marketing Officer here at Cardwell Beach and I am with Jenna Barrott.
Jenna: The account executive at Cardwell Beach.
Brian: Perfect. In case you couldn’t tell, Jenna is from Australia.
Jenna: That’s right.
Brian: She recently moved to the States so we’ve had her here for how long?
Jenna: Two months.
Brian: Two months and she’s been working furiously over here and we want to kind of get some of the differences while she’s still fresh from Australia in terms of cultural perspective on the work style, as well as some of the differences that she has seen in the branding world where she was previously at an agency over in Australia as well and does have a good amount of experience in the advertising and agency world. Jenna, I guess we’ll just open it up and maybe we can just start by talking about some just overall kind of cultural differences. A lot of times you think about Australia and America as being relatively similar countries despite being so far away. But there are a lot of nuances in just kind of communication style and level of … what was that word we were using before?
Jenna: What’s that word?
Jenna: I think irreverence is the right word. We obviously care about our leaders but we also do like to pay them out as we’d say. We definitely like to all be on the same level. We’ve got a casual working environment no matter how high the other person is. We all kind of work to be same as a team.
Brian: Interesting. Actually I studied abroad in Australia as you know and I was working at a radio station for the six months that I was there in the early show at 4:30 in the morning. I definitely caught that. What I wasn’t really able to observe at this time was how that attitude comes through in the brands or in the marketing in Australia? Is there anything noticeable that’s not present here, a certain level of maybe political correctness that is kind of pervasive through American marketing that we’re just kind immune to?
Jenna: I think our humor definitely comes through in our advertising more so in Australia. We don’t like to be sold things directly. Australians are a bit funny about being arguably marketed to. They sort of lack a bit of humor. We’re also kind of controversial in our humor as well in the way that we sell things. That usually goes down a little bit better than direct advertising.
Brian: You know with the holidays right around bend here, we are just a couple of weeks from the C word on December 25.
Jenna: So the C word. Yeah that’s another thing. I haven’t really heard Christmas mentioned too much around America this time of year whereas in Australia, we are very comfortable mentioning Christmas and that particular holiday regardless of its religious background. It’s not really an issue of that kind. But I’ve noticed it’s a bit more a bit cautious towards other cultures in America perhaps because you’re a bigger country. That’s a massive difference. You can definitely talk about Christmas back in Australia and it doesn’t seem to leave anyone out.
Brian: Let me make sure that I’m getting this correct because I think there are couple of things in what you said that are interesting. You mentioned a directness, right, but at the same time almost an indirectness in the way that Australians preferred to be marketed to.
Jenna: Well I will start with one thing actually. We have some legal differences that are pretty big in our advertising. Prescription drugs, when I first saw advertising for that, when I came here, I was actually blown away. I have never seen that in my life. Anything pharmaceutical, you can’t advertise direct to consumers at all and I know that’s only done B2B. If you wanna go get a drug for whatever you might be suffering from, it’s your doctor that’s responsible for advising you on that drug, which is a huge difference.
Brian: It’s kind of interesting on the topic of pharma, just last week we had an international pharma forum with a meeting of the US and Japan Pharmacuetical Society and there were some pretty high level people there. You’ve kind of got a triple perspective here, not having been here to too long.
Brian: But was there anything that you took from that that was surprising about Japan or about the US that you haven’t known before?
Jenna: On a positive note I really thought US consumers in terms of the pharmaceutical market they’re actually quite empowered by the fact of— informed by their advertisements almost. That’s a good thing because I wouldn’t know what I’m getting prescribed. That’s good whereas I guess it’s sort of up to the doctor back home. You don’t really know. You just have trial and error with whatever you got as a prescription drug.
Brian: One of the speakers at the pharma forum mentioned that there is 85% confidence rate in Japanese consumers in pharmaceutical companies. 85% of Japanese consumers trust their pharmaceutical companies with no hesitation. In America that was rated, I think they were below politicians. Now how does that compare—we don’t have any official statistics here—but what’s kind of your perception of pharmaceutical companies in Australia?
Jenna: They are big corporate giants and it’s not necessarily a bad thing but it does give an element of distrust. I think that people will try and inform themselves on the drugs they are taking and do their research to find out we’re taking and compare. You talk to your peers that are on the same sort of medication. That kind of thing. You’re not really, there is an element of distrust. That’s for sure.
Brian: There is a similarity to the US market there?
Brian: In terms of the ways that people are getting their information or let’s say the ways that people are most exposed to advertisements. Would you say that that’s kind of similar, the mediums, there’s a TV, digital, what’s kind of leading the way in terms of what’s you’ve seen in advertising?
Jenna: I think digital was huge back home with less and less people actually watching TV and being able to skip their ads with Netflix and what have you. It’s all about digital these days and more sort of PR elements as well of getting the message there. People again, I don’t think they want to be sold something directly through a television advert as much anymore. They can skip through it.
Brian: Maybe America and Australia are more alike than we think.
Brian: Let’s talk about the types of business relationships, some business etiquette. If you’re going over to Australia, some things to kind of keep in mind that you know are important in the business culture there.
Jenna: I think Australians, they like to get on a very friendly term sort of with whoever they’re dealing with very quickly. Everything is always professional but after the initial sort of introductions with someone they worked with, they want to sort of get on that mate level as we call it. It’s pretty quick to become casual in Australia.
Brian: But don’t over-achieve?
Jenna: No. No. You don’t want to be placed up above the team or show you’re trying to be the over-achiever of the group. You want to be on the level. Th egalitarian approach is how we do business back home.
Brian: That’s the type of atmosphere in the business world. How does that affect the dynamic between brands and agencies in your perspective working with Aussie brands?
Jenna: Well I would say that this goes for Australians in general compared to Americans. Americans are excellent at selling themselves and I say that in the most positive way. It’s great. Australians, not so much. Between Australians to Australian, it doesn’t always get seen the best way. We tend to like doing the modesty thing I guess we call it but also the team achievement sort of approach. I think even with advertisers, this actually spills over a little bit. So as I said, you don’t want to brand to state how good they are. They kind of have to back it up with statistics and evidence back home more so. Yeah. And now Australians are, it’s tough one to answer. They’re a little bit funny on how they sell things. That’s for sure.
Brian: So it’s kind of a laid back approach but they’re looking for some sort of hard facts to back it up?
Jenna: Yeah, 100%. They don’t want to a big spiel about how good this brand is, because X, Y and Z, and they want the hard facts. That’s exactly right.
Brian: And that tends to come through in advertising?
Jenna: Comes through in advertising and then finally now that comes through in corporate culture as well. So it translates over. So I think it broke through, through the health food thing at the moment and clean eating and all of that. And I notice that their calories are printed on everything in America which is interesting.
Jenna: Right, yeah.
Brian: That’s regional actually.
Brian: All the menus in New York, they were actually thinking of—also I don’t know where this is policy was by now—making sodium a mandatory nutritional fact on restaurants menus like that.
Jenna: Oh wow. Okay. That I can agree with. Calories is actually kind of more of a negative stigma in Australia because it’s associated with the wrong aspect of health. It’s closely associated with just weight-loss products. And there’s a real focus at the moment on like whole foods and eating for the bigger picture or not necessarily just focusing on weight sort of issues. So, to discuss calories and diets and things almost has a bit of a stigma in Australia whereas I feel like it’s not such a big deal.
Brian: So if you are taking a food product that is originated in the United States and has had success in the United States, and maybe you’d say low calorie or low fat or something like that, food product. That would not do as well in Australia with the same type of packaging?
Jenna: If it was a diet product, like it was specifically for a weight loss line, sure but with health things in Australia at the moment we’re really going for the clean eating, nutrients, bigger picture sort of thing in the moment. Calories have always had kind of a bad stigma. It’s got a bad rep talking about calories at home.
Brian: Is there anything else in the food space specifically that you notice overtly is just different?
Jenna: I have noticed that Americans love cherry and peanut butter flavors.
Brian: Cherry and peanut butter flavors?
Jenna: Yeah and I’m starting to love them as well.
Brian: So those are not big in Australia?
Jenna: No. They are not big. They are not. There are definitely trends here that I’m starting to love—oh, and the pumpkin flavor.
Brian: We did a piece on that a couple of months back.
Jenna: Oh wow. Amazing.
Brian: That definitely is, that’s somewhat new over here too. I mean that’s—
Jenna: That’s a good trend.
Brian: Yeah. I mean, last five years it’s really not big. It’s been around for a little while but it’s really taken off recently.
Jenna: Wow. That’s so interesting. We have a little salty sweet flavor obsession in Australia at the moment like you know, and something kind of, we took it a step further and we do the Vegemite flavor Cadburry chocolate which actually was terrible but—
Brian: So do you think that there is a market for Vegemite in the United States?
Jenna: Oh God no. I don’t think so. I mean, someone could try— it’s like a niche product for somebody who wants to feel cultural or more so try some typical Australian on their food favorites but I don’t think so. I don’t think so just like I don’t think cherry is going to take off in Australia anytime soon.
Brian: Well that was going to be my next question. Is there anything that you’ve seen so far here in the States that you think would translate well to Australia market or is an opportunity.
Jenna: Nothing we haven’t already got. At the moment Australia just speaking from where I’m staying right now, and kind of they have a real obsession with the gourmet sort of burger thing.
Jenna: As opposed to fast food. I don’t know if that was a thing here first but I would normally guess that it would be, in snack and food.
Brian: It’s all we’re known for, huh?
Jenna: Yeah, definitely. I felt like the pumpkin latte I think could take off. A little about coffee or more so espresso, we’ve had that coffee craze back home. There’s always a market for that.
Brian: Now, within Australia, you’re from the Adelaide area?
Jenna: Yes. I’m from South Australia.
Brian: Is there anything that sticks out to you as kind of strong regional differences in Australia or would you say it’s pretty homogenous?
Jenna: I would have to say it’s quite homogenous across Australia, branding and marketing wise for sure.
Brian: So kind of if you are looking at entering the Australian market, it’s kind of, it’s not like in the States where you’re saying okay this isn’t the Northeast, this is the West Coast, this is the South.
Jenna: Look, for the most part I think how you brand things is homogenous across the country but I mean in terms of specific products, things might work differently because of course we have varying, we have geographical differences and weather differences. So people up north, they probably, they might be able to get products that are summer orientated, foods that are more down that path might do better down there because we have a bit more winter and cold down in Adeliade and we have a bit more of like a wine and gourmet dining sort of focus. So a little bit of insight.
Brian: Excellent. Let’s talk about alcohol.
Jenna: Okay, alcohol.
Brian: Australians favorite topic, right?
Jenna: It’s our favorite topic. There are some big differences there.
Brian: Let’s talk about that.
Jenna: So we are very strictly regulated with alcohol. You cannot pour a spirit without measuring it in 30 round shot glass first, probably for our own safety. We also have an interest in wine at the moment.
Jenna: Hugely. So that’s kind of really interesting. I’m actually from like the wine capital of Australia, South Australia. And so there’s a huge market for that. We love it. We love our own wine. We love trying other people’s wine.
Brian: So is there an import market for wine do you think in South Australia?
Jenna: Believe it or not there actually is, which even surprises me. The more I get involved in that industry, I kind of learned that they do like to try other people’s wine. So obviously we think we’ve got the best syrahs or I think you call is shiraz in the world. But we love to try other wines that we can’t grow because it’s obviously where area specific where you can grow certain grapes. So, we get things from, for example, Napa Valley or Argentina.
Brian: Are those the regions you would say do the best?
Jenna: Definitely. I love your wine. Anything Argentinian seems to be really popular because they have a bit of a South American sort of craze going to mind with food and alcohol.
Brian: Interesting. Talk about that a little bit.
Jenna: Okay. So, I mean even now to the South American restaurant actually, they’re really into … really getting into that sort of trend. That’s our latest food trend. So everyone’s a bit wild for that.
Jenna: Yeah, hugely.
Brian: Now how was the Asian influence being there. That’s probably your next closest neighbor, right?
Jenna: That trend actually kind of died out.
Jenna: Yeah. We went from huge Asian influence and that’s kind of actually been replaced by an American influence. Food wise, yeah definitely.
Brian: What are some things that you would say are kind of uniquely Australian that if you’re going enter this market, you have to know these are the competitors?
Jenna: It has to be something like staple snack food items that most Australian have grown up with. So you know …
Brian: Tim Tams?
Jenna: Yeah. Tim Tams—which we call biscuits by the way. I think you call them cookies. I’m still getting used to that. Another thing is we’re really digging our coffee. And I’m not sure if this is very wildly known in America but Starbucks actually failed in Australia.
Brian: Did it?
Brian: Talk about that.
Jenna: Okay. So with coffee, you know, everyone will go down and get like something from their local café and it’s hugely high quality from the espresso machine. So when Starbucks came which was a chain sort of place their coffee which to us, the only other thing we’ve got for chain coffee is McDonalds which you do when you’re desperate. That didn’t really take off too well, even with the convenience level for businessman that maybe want a coffee first thing in the morning. They are just too accustomed to going down to their local café and getting you know like a niche product from a local sort of business to go to a chain place. So I think it lasted maybe not even two years before Starbucks had to kind of leave.
Brian: Is there a strong preference for a local chain?
Jenna: Yeah, definitely. I think a lot of it comes from the fact that we’re so far away from the rest of the world that importing and exporting is expensive and we have the resources to make good quality food on our own but not to import a whole lot. So there’s a real focus on making the most of what we’ve got especially our own farmers, a lot of farming. So there’s a bit of a stigma around buying imported stuff. You really want to stay local and you’ll got local communities.
Brian: So that’s seems to be in contrast a little bit with what you were just saying about …
Jenna: Yeah …
Brian: American brands and kind of the American food trends. Is it?
Jenna: Definitely. So that’s specifically with sort of takeaway food but at the same time there are still local businesses that are doing this. They’re just inspired by American culture.
Brian: So have you seen any success stories of American brands that have localized in Australia?
Jenna: Netflix is taking off hugely. We love it and so yeah that almost hit us like crazy.
Narrator: Thanks for joining us this week on the Cardwell Beach Podcast. Join us next week for more insights on the difference between Australian and American business, work, culture and marketing principles. See you then.