Category : Business Toggle

Is the Gold Coast creative enough for the Commonwealth Games?

A surfer exits the sea on a Gold Coast beach in Australia

Marketing, design, branding and advertising agencies in the Gold Coast/Brisbane region have their work cut-out for them preparing local businesses for the Commonwealth Games 2018. As the smart brands scramble to update their marketing collateral, refresh their brand and capitalise on the benefits of an anticipated 650,000 visitors to the Gold Coast for the Games, the sad truth is that many local businesses will lament this time as an event that failed to meet their expectations. To understand why, we need only to look around at local brands and put them in context.

Having worked in my previous profession as a Graphic Designer in Melbourne and London, then shooting in various other countries for 14 years, I returned to Australia with a subjective eye for Australia’s brand scene and frankly, I was shocked. What I was exposed to in London in 2000 was a far more progressive branding, design, marketing and advertising scene than my previously admired Aussie scene.
By late 2014, very little back here had changed. Prolific copy-cat naming such as ‘All-Tools’, ‘All-Pools’, ‘All-Tyres’, ‘All-(insert industry type here)’ was everywhere, Incorrect Title-Casing of Copy Lines, client-led creative, horrific logos and amateur photography still lines the high streets. Clearly the value and purpose of creative industries has been missed by many business owners – and agency’s attempts to educate their clients have failed. Damn the torpedoes, someone has to say it; outside of the major metropolitan cities (and often in those too), Australia can tend to look like a quagmire of branding catastrophes!

Within Australia, businesses can get away with this due to it being such a commonplace oversight. Foreign visitors, however, will have been exposed to quality branding, marketing and advertising. Any Australian businesses represented by poor identity, collateral and strategy will look like a joke to these people. Australian business owners need to have a qualified person – be it an honest friend or contractor, to audit their brand and give careful consideration to this.

Opportunity exists to capitalise on a huge sporting event here in the Gold Coast and Brisbane region. My advice, for whatever it’s worth, is to do precisely this by remembering that, yes, ‘a brand is more than a logo’ – it is often the entirety of what’s used by your prospective market to judge your business – and if they want to engage with it.
INVEST in your identity. Some cowboy freelancer charging $300 for a logo is going to make you look shit. Good designers are not screwdrivers who can ‘do something up’ for you. Nor do they eat crayons. They’re qualified, practised, developed in their tastes and informed about trends and effective strategies. Listen to them like you would your mechanic and resist the temptation to ‘play with the crayons’ yourself. You wouldn’t have a shot at a vital fix or build component on your car. You’d leave it to a professional. Demonstrate the same respect for your designer and they’ll look after you by extending this simple and yearned-for gesture!   🙂

A Big Blue Sky outlook for the Gold Coast.

Symposium participants at the Big Blue Sky event 2015 at Q1 on the Gold Coast

Last week I attended the inaugural Big Blue Sky event at Q1 on the Gold Coast.
This was an opportunity that came about after a meeting with my client, Karen, from Gold Coast Food & Wine Tours, who introduced me to her business mentor, Susan. Susan and I gelled almost immediately and got chatting about her past work writing about social justice issues and the UN’s Communications Department. To be honest, this shared passion of ours hijacked the meeting and the photography aspect was almost lost sight of! I later shared some of my past writing on social justice and foreign policy matters and voila, was invited to participate in this most amazing of events.

Big Blue Sky is an initiative that aims to change the way that business is done on the Gold Coast. More broadly, the ‘moonshot’ essence of it, is to change the entire paradigm of the Gold Coast from that of a somewhat tacky, unrealised city in the true sense of the word, to a progressive, community-led destination for innovative businesses, that will enrich the existing community in many more ways than just professionally. Vibrant, engaged communities self perpetuate positivity and flourish. Academics aside, this is the true heart of the Big Blue Sky initiative.

Crucially, this is a new model for sustainable and ethically sound business. It’s a grass-roots movement of critical thinkers and entrepreneurs who have decided to be proactive in creating the change that we’ve been wanting to see and have run out of patience in waiting for what we believe to be inevitable. Big Blue Sky is a community-led, inclusive enterprise that began with a day of keynote presentations from some of the most dynamic and sought-after change-makers in the world. I’ll be honest and say that being involved fundamentally changed how I see the Gold Coast’s future and how I approach business. I’m still digesting everything that was discussed and being intellectually out-gunned in such dramatic fashion, this process may take a while!!!

So now the true work begins.
We workshopped ideas broken into 3 ‘Moonshots’, which will be developed over the coming year, in preparation for major progress reports at the next event in November 2016, as well as infrastructure being put into place during this time. You can read more about these Moonshot specifics here.
This work is voluntary and I encourage anyone who has professional skills to offer, to get in touch with the team or myself for further information, where you will be brought up to speed and supported in any way that we can help us all reach these lofty goals that will benefit everyone on the Gold Coast. Mayor Tom Tate has leant his support to Big Blue Sky after being exposed to the calibre of ideas that the day produced and it’s great to see a member of the establishment recognise that communities need to be democratic, organic and less hierarchical. This will only speed implementation of the positive change.

I look forward to sharing more here over the coming year, as plans for our new community-led paradigm develop here on the Gold Coast. Good times!   🙂


A Gold Coast Aboriginal didgeridoo player opens the inaugural Big Blue Sky event on the Gold Coast, November 5th, 2015

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Gold Coast Mayor Tom Tate (2nd from right) with Big Blue Sky Co-founder Lou McGregor, British entrepreneur Matt Desmier and Co-founder Christine McDougall.