Phil Phelan
Jun 15, 2015

Swaying a nation

Phil Phelan offers four themes for brands to consider when influencing Australia’s omnichannel consumers: wellness, on demand, wealth worries and social media.

Swaying a nation

Phil Phelan offers four themes for brands to consider when influencing Australia’s omnichannel consumers: wellness, on demand, wealth worries and social media.

In the face of economic uncertainty (are we unprecedentedly wealthy or in a recession), planes falling out of the sky, a looming ageing-population bomb, terrorist raids and dysfunctional governments stealing our meta-data, Australians are focusing on what matters most—namely eating well and watching television.

Food fixation

Australians’ obsession with food as a lifestyle has moved from the Masterchef phase to the next level—eating their way to health. Local blogging-media personalities, Paleo Pete Evans and Belle Gibson, were big news stories recently. Both personalities found themselves plagued by scandals related to their food-based celebrity; and both are symbols of Australia’s intertwining obsession with social media celebrity, the culture of food and the pursuit of wellness.

In both these scandals, strong themes of contemporary Australian life resonate; in these narratives you can see how powerful the cult of social media celebrity has become, how central food culture is in the Australian consciousness and the fact that our major health concerns aren’t pollution or obesity, but kale shortages.

A nation of pirates joins Netflix

Globally Australians have been the worst offenders for online piracy, almost one third of adults admit to routinely using illegal download services to watch TV and movies. Even before its Australian launch, Netflix had 200,000+ Australian users, accessing the US service via VPN.

Over time, piracy is likely to fade as Netflix saturates the country, other subscription video-on-demand competition comes on line (such as Stan and Presto), Apple TV mainstreams and of course new anti-piracy laws arrive. The Netflix story shows clearly three fundamental shifts in Australian consumer behaviour.  

First, the expectation of being able to get what I want, when I want it on demand. This is now the baseline for marketers; those who don’t meet it will find Australian consumers quickly ready to use technology to answer their needs elsewhere.

Second is video’s return to dominance as a major media form. While TV growth has been low to nil, video is becoming the format of the internet. In an average month 13.8m people are streaming online video content; the majority use YouTube and Facebook, but other services like Vevo, Vimeo and various news brands also perform well. Over the top (OTT) platforms like Netflix only fuel this shift. Video is again where audiences and advertisers are.  

The third trend is about moving on from ‘everything for free’ to ‘preparedness to pay’. Australians have always had a track record of fast adoption of new technology. Now services such as iTunes and Netflix are creating a generation of Australians who also expect to pay for well-designed and useful services and content. This is a profound shift for Australian media and marketers used to lacklustre ecommerce.

Wealth, how to get it and how to keep it

Financial services have always been a big part of the Australian economy (9 per cent of it to be exact) and its marketing landscape. With an ageing population and increasing competition, it’s become a ubiquitous presence.

For example 7 of the 10 biggest campaigns in 2014 were for Insurance. An ageing population moving into the retirement zone is creating a boom of marketing for anything to do with accumulating and protecting wealth.

Banking, super (pension) funds, financial advice or literacy and wealth management are all hotting up and the concerns of Australians here will move beyond and into health services, property, automotive, education and media.

Social on mobile is eating all our attention

Australia has 21 million internet users, 13.8 million of whom are active social users, of these 12.4 million are social on mobile devices. The average user spends more than two hours daily on social media. Already 23 per cent of Australian web traffic is mobile and traffic is growing by 30 per cent or more annually.

Mobile devices are fast becoming the dominant digital channel, and social media is the operating system for the mobile web.

The most popular social platforms are Facebook (by a long way), Twitter, Google+, Instagram, Pinterest and LinkedIn. Messaging applications like WhatsApp are just starting to make a dent. Social media is also a key source of news for Australians, with Buzz Feed and Huffington the two most popular news brands on social networks.

It’s important to balance these numbers with the fact that TV still very strong. The average Australian watches 97 hours a month of TV, of which 89 are broadcast; compare that to 11 hours for video viewed on a PC  or a device.

So do I need a Periscope drone for my Australian product launch?

No, and you won’t need 3D printers, Bitcoin or Oculus Rift either. The truth is that most technologies like these are still trying to find a market or a significant use case outside of agency innovation labs.

There is a case for the Periscope- and Meerkat-type ‘live’ platforms making an impact simply because they plug easily into the social and broadcast models. But that impact is still emerging. Equally, SapientNitro has a number of Australian projects at present using augmented-reality type technologies to enhance venue, demo or in-store experiences and here the technology finds a strong use case.

Overall where we can truly see technology making a widespread impact right now in Australian marketing is in the surge of marketers using technology to build true omnichannel customer experiences.

Look for touch-screens, beacons, sensors, responsive experience design, personalisation, self service, data management, commerce platforms and content management systems all to be integrated by brand-specific, customer-centred design. A client’s “owned” ecosystem can be big, dirty and complex, but this is where technology is truly making an impact on how Australian organisations connect with their customers.

Phil Phelan is Sapient-Nitro’s head of strategy for Australia



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