This weekend was the first of two weekends where ACT tourism invited 250 people from across the country who are influential on social media. These guests were invited to bring a friend or even their whole family and the second weekend is schedule for February 2013. With the impending 100th year celebration since Lady Denman, wife of then Governor-General Lord Denman, stood upon Foundation Stones and announced that the name of the new Australian capital would be Canberra.
It would have been difficult to miss all the online activity created by attendees over the past 3 days. With thousands of posts on Instagram (2,700+), Facebook and Twitter as well as check-1ins on Foursquare and videos on YouTube. The decision to spend marketing and tourism dollars in this way is a very interesting one indeed.
The traditional campaign would have seen thousands, if not millions poured into TV, radio and newspaper ads in the hope that a certain percentage of people who seen them, believed the marketing message and packed their bags for Canberra.
Human Brochure takes a very different and deliberate approach to spreading the word about what Canberra has to offer. By getting real people to experience the place for themselves, the story is told through the eyes of real experiences, not those of marketing spin. It takes an incredibly brave team at ACT tourism to hand over control of the message and put in the hands of the people. It had the potential to go wrong if executed badly and participants didn’t enjoy themselves. If you invite some of the most connected people in Australia, the message either good or bad, has the potential to spread very quickly.
It turns out that this weekend is seen as not just a once off, but a new way of doing marketing. While potentially risky, the potential benefits of human-level social engagement has the ability to reach, but more importantly be believed by an audience much more vast and diverse than ever before.
The fist evidence things were going well was the hashtag #humanbrochure was trending on twitter, 3rd in Australia, the same day Windows 8 launched and the iPad mini pre-orders went on-sale. By mid-Sunday, the expected 85% positive reactions online, was actually hovering around 99%. The real metric for the success of this campaign will really be only known over the long term if all this sharing online actually does mean that people consider Canberra for their next holiday destination.
Personally the weekend was incredibly enjoyable, but being overfed great meals and copious amounts of wine, it was always going to be difficult to have a bad time. From the moment we stepped off the plane, a chauffeur greeted us and promptly delivered us to the new EAST Hotel. The incredibly spacious apartment was filled with art deco furniture, contrasted nicely with contemporary cabinetry featuring soft-close doors. The room wasn’t short of technology either, with NFC keyless entry, a 42” LED TV in the lounge room, a 32” LED TV wall-mounted in bedroom, and an iPad/iPod docking station. Best yet was the organisers had organised the regular 100MB internet limit for guests to be lifted, instead encouraging sharing of media with unlimited high-speed broadband (Wi-Fi and wired).
History is abundant engrained in Canberra culture and it’s clear the people here are very proud of what’s on offer. After visiting the War Memorial, the National Art Gallery and the Australian National Botanic Gardens proud feelings of our nations heritage and those that have come before us were impactful. The problem is that history never changes.
While the past should be understood and respected, it is no match for innovation and the future. What was missing this weekend was a sense of where Canberra is headed, not where it’s been. I know there’s amazing people hard at work creating amazing things in Canberra, but this weekend we heard about none of them.
Home to 3 universities, Canberra is playing a key part about educating this nation’s youth, a group of people who care less about the past and more about the future – something they have the ability to change. Where was the visit to the Department of Industry, Innovation, Science, Research and Tertiary Education, CSIRO or references to things like Startup-camp Canberra and promotion of key national infrastructure projects like the NBN? There is new development going on around the city, as evidenced by the new multi-story buildings accompanied by construction cranes. This wasn’t discussed at all, nor were figures on new housing developments or any attempt at selling Canberra being a place to live, this seems like a missed opportunity.
I guess what I’m saying is that the Food & Wine track was incredibly enjoyable and a chance to switch off for a few hours, I would have loved to see a Science and Tech offering.
Now lets talk about the website for a minute. The Human Brochure website – http://humanbrochure.com.au began as a destination to register for the competition. It then changed to a portal for learning more about the winners and a way to put faces to names. When the weekend began, it then changed to be a Pinterest-style aggregator of content posted across the web that was tagged with #HumanBrochure. The site is fantastic, the web team has done a great job and should be commended on it.
So after a long weekend in the nation’s capital, I’ll leave you with this message, Canberra is a great place with lots to offer, but it’s future is not in its past. Talking about history will get people to visit once, but talking about what’s new will have them coming back time and time again.
While some of my favourite photos from the weekend are littered through this post, there’s plenty more from each of the destinations over our weekend available on Flickr.
More information @ http://humanbrochure.com.au