Branding lessons from the Aussies, part one

MaryLou Costa is a key member of the Marketing Week features team and her blog brings her unique Australian perspective to brands. She also oversees the Market Research Focus weekly bulletin.

Being Marketing Week’s token Australian staff member meant it was inevitable that I would eventually draw on my heritage for inspiration.

Today that day has finally come, with two examples I wanted to share – one of Aussies who run a very slick corporate and media strategy, and one of an Aussie who needs some lessons in marketing a personal brand which I’ll reveal in part two of this entry.

That big red W that has come to punctuate London’s retail landscape by being the shopping haven that lies at either end of the Central line is nothing short of an impressive business operation.

From its origins in Sydney 1960, Westfield has grown its footprint all over Australia, followed by the US and the UK. Westfield’s latest development in Stratford, which I had the pleasure of previewing this week, is set to be the largest shopping centre in Europe.

A presentation – led by suited, moustached men resembling the Australian Mafia, as my colleague put it to describe just how slick a business Westfield comes across as – gave some great insights into just how Westfield has thought of everything and more to do with its Stratford development.

Westfield will pretty much make itself synonymous with the London 2012 Olympics, with the main thoroughfare designed to take games spectators through the outside part of the shopping centre. When asked about overcrowding issues, execs promptly responded that people would be enticed to stay on for further food, drinks and entertainment within the Westfield centre to avoid the crowds.

Parts of Westfield Stratford’s own media and corporate hospitality offering will be available to non-Olympic sponsors, with rooftop and top floor suites overlooking the games facilities and London skyline means brands can still get in on the action without shelling out for top dollar sponsorship.

LOCOG isn’t overly pleased with this strategy, the execs admitted, but can’t do much about it as long as the activity remains in line with anti-ambush marketing policies. Wesfield expects those opportunities to be largely taken up by non-sponsors, which are to be announced soon, but their branding will not be allowed to appear on external facing windows and walls. As Westfield’s head of Olympic brand alliance Mark Zimmer put it, “ we don’t want to become ambush central – we could very easily do that but it’s not in anyone’s best interest.”

I’ll be very interested to see who Westfield seals these deals with and how they utilise that precious space both through utilising experiential, promotional and PR tactics.Westfield appears to have taken great time and care to understand the demographic and cultural situation of Stratford and its surroundings, saying that its food and drink offerings, and some boutiques and cultural collaborations, will have an East London feel. On top of that, 2,500 people will be taken out of long term unemployment to help staff the place and Westfield says it is commited to ongoing training of local people.


There’s even a Westfield element to parking, where people can park at the Westfield in Shepherd’s Bush, and take the Central line to Stratford.

But when the buzz of London 2012 dies down, will the Westfield/Olympic effect be a lasting one? As Mark Zimmer says, “this development has changed the access points for London” and as an Eastsider myself, I can’t help but agree. And I think that the somewhat reasonable chances of the Olympic stadium itself heading into white elephant syndrome are lowered by having the Westfield giant by its side – run by these very capable Aussies, of course.

Right. Onto part two…


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