The State Of Our State Brand

February 24, 2021


Algo Más Managing Director Julie Wrobel reflected on South Australia’s branding in a recent LinkedIn article. Here’s what she wrote:

What does South Australia stand for? My ears immediately pricked when I heard UDIA SA delegates discussing this very question at the recent annual conference. The conversation wasn’t about our visual identity or logo, which Ken Cato created, but more about our personality: who we are and, more importantly, who we want to be. With the COVID-19 pandemic significantly impacting travel and migration, now would seem the perfect time to review how we communicate our state brand to grow our economy and our population.

We’re not short on personalities to promote. But which state is the right state to run with?

Is it:

The Festival State

This label first came into play in 1960 when we held the first Festival of Arts. South Australia has certainly come a long way since then with a 2019 report saying Adelaide’s 11 major arts festivals inject more than $109m of new money into the state economy and contribute to 1000 FTE jobs.** Everyone loves a festival but is love, and $109m, enough when you look at the way other sectors are performing.

The Safe State

Our state government spruiks South Australia as a ‘safe state’. In fact, the ‘safest state’. This is certainly something to be proud of: especially during a pandemic. A safe state can be an attractive place to do business, work and live. No constant lockdowns, the freedom to go out to dinner and the movies, open schools and a stable job and economy. But is safety ‘sexy’ enough to create broad brand appeal?

The Entrepreneurial State

South Australia has a Chief Entrepreneur, new innovation precincts and small business starts-ups, so does that make us an entrepreneurial state? In her book ‘The Entrepreneurial State’, Mariana Mazzucato debates the role of the state in fostering long run innovation led economic growth. Citing case studies from the United States, Mazzucato argues that the state has actively shaped and created markets – and that the private sector only finds the courage to invest after an entrepreneurial state has made high-risk investments. Is a state led entrepreneurial brand what we need and, using the American baseball film ‘Field of Dreams’ as inspiration, ‘if we build it, will they come’?

The Space State

Adelaide is home to the Australian Space Agency which opened early last year. Australia’s space sector is expected to grow at an annualised 7.1* per cent over the next five years and is an industry that should generate jobs and help grow the economy. With the Space Agency based in our state, you’d like to think we’d get a large chunk of that growth. But will we have the skilled, labour force to take advantage of these opportunities and work for the companies who are part of this industry? And if we don’t, will marketing South Australia as The Space State attract them.

The Cyber Security State

Australia’s first Cyber Collaboration Centre (A3C) opened at South Australia’s innovation precinct Lot Fourteen in mid-2020. The A3C is intended to support the development of a cyber workforce for global businesses looking to relocate, or establish, cyber teams in South Australia. The global cyber security market is projected to expand at a compound annual growth rate of 10.0% from 2020 to 2027^. As a growth industry, does it make sense to add cyber security to South Australia’s flourishing list of things we stand for?

The Defence State

According to the Defence SA website, ‘seven of the world’s top 10 defence companies call South Australia home’. With submarine, frigate, aircraft and land vehicle projects, along with space and cyber projects, is defence the key to attracting workers? And is there merit in promoting ourselves as The Defence State?

The Education State

Before COVID, South Australia’s international education sector was worth $2bn. According to Home Affairs Department data, the number of people lodging visas to study in Australia plunged 60 per cent in 2020.^^ With our international students returning home, international travel restrictions hindering people studying here and Australia’s border closures apparently sending many international students to Britain and Canada instead, can we really call ourselves The Education State anymore? Besides, Victoria claims to be the education state so is it really a unique selling proposition we can trade on given our eastern neighbours use it as their claim to fame?

The Wine State

There’s no doubt our wine regions, and experiences, are world class. While an award-winning shiraz might attract travellers, is this reason enough for people to move to South Australia for good?

I’ve created many brands during my time at Algo Más. We start the process with a brand discovery or research phase. Depending upon the client’s needs and budget, the discovery phase may be as simple as running a workshop with key stakeholders or as extensive as a consultation process with a whole community. This discovery phase helps us, and all those involved in the project, determine how that brand is currently perceived, and in most cases, how that brand wants to be perceived. We then distil the research down to one key message or positioning strategy to market that brand.

In the case of South Australia, it’s hard to work out what our key message is and what we stand for.

Are we The Festival State, The Safe State, The Entrepreneurial State, The Space State, The Cyber Security State, The Defence State, The Education State or The Wine State – can we be all of these states at the same time or do we need to choose one and own it?

I don’t want to take away from the good work great people have been doing to market South Australia but is it time to restate our state brand? While South Australia has its fingers in many pies, are any of them really tasty enough to entice people to stay and others to come – for good? For example, how can we entice millennials to live, work and play in South Australia? How do we get them to choose our state over ‘the rest’ so we create economic and social wealth in South Australia long term? After all, if you don’t know what a brand stands for, how can you trust it to deliver what you want?

There’s a saying: ‘if you try and be everything to everyone you will be nothing to no one’.

Which state would you choose?


*IBISWorld Industry Report OD5545 Satellite Communications and Astronauts in Australia, November 2018, page 7.

^Grand View Research, Cyber Security Market Size, Share & Trends Analysis Report, 2020–2027, June 2020


**Economic Impact report, 2018

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