Marketing. Just the word conjures up images of people with pointy shoes that spell their names in strange ways. Conjures is probably a good word there – marketing can sometimes seem like dark magic with money disappearing into a black hole with sometimes nothing to show for it.

Having said that, if it wasn’t working, I don’t think companies would be spending the amounts of money on marketing that they do. In Australia, Wesfarmers (mainly Coles) spent a staggering $237.2 million on their marketing last year. McDonalds was convincing us to consume their food with a budget of $74.1 million and Telstra encouraged us to use their products to the tune of $73.3 million.

Marketing is a direct expense for these organisations and if they could add those dollars straight to their bottom line, I am sure their shareholders would be keen to see that happen. It would seem obvious that the decision-makers in these organisations believe that their marketing budgets help drive greater profits. These are all household brands and if all of their marketing was removed today, I am sure the profits would not suffer tomorrow, but there would be a downward spiral and loss of market-share that would cost more to recover than the amount saved in removing the marketing expense – if they ever recovered at all.

Many organisations see marketing as a tonic to take to help with falling sales of profits whereas I would argue that marketing is the oxygen that a company needs to breathe every day for its survival.

How does this apply to a city or a region? Should Councils ‘market’ their cities and, if so, what is the product they are selling? A business can measure the effectiveness of their marketing by looking at specific campaigns and comparing those to sales figures. Forget Web site traffic or Facebook likes – if you are marketing a business the only metric that matters is sales.

There has been some interesting discussion around regional Councils over the last couple of months in relation to Evocities. Evocities was officially launched on 22 September 2010. The entire Evocities campaign is a marketing campaign. Nothing more – nothing less. It is designed to ‘sell’ the concept of relocating from Sydney to one of the seven Evocities (Albury; Armidale; Bathurst; Dubbo; Orange; Tamworth and Wagga Wagga). The campaign started with an injection of funding from the Federal Government to conduct research to determine what were the key triggers to relocation and then to start the campaign. To give you some idea of the small budget Evocities had to work with – by way of comparison to some of the organisations previously mentioned – the total budget for research, admin and marketing for Evocities from the beginning through to today has been $4.705 million. In that same time, Wesfarmers has spent over $1 billion in marketing in Australia – or to put it another way Wesfarmers spend in a week what we have had in total since the program began.

Some of the discussion over recent months has been around the idea that Evocities may have reached its end. Possibly it is time to wind it down – it did a good job for a few years but its time has come to an end.

In just the same way that we see major organisations continue to spend on marketing, I think this would be a retrograde step. Marketing secures a company’s future; marketing shapes the customer base of a company; marketing creates more demand; marketing helps improve a reputation. We have worked hard to create a different perception of living in a regional city so stopping a marketing campaign when it has just gathered momentum would be akin to giving up.

Most importantly, apart from nice billboards and a pretty Facebook page, has the Evocities campaign delivered what we want? That is, have people relocated as a result of the marketing campaign. Did we sell any of our product?

I think the numbers speak for themselves. As in any marketing campaign, it is impossible to know that every sale is a direct result of your marketing and with Evocities we only know about the relocators that register with Evocities. But those numbers are impressive. We have had 2,313 families relocate over the course of the campaign. That equates to approximately 6,245 people. That means that this campaign can claim a minimum of 1.95 per cent of the population growth that has occurred across the seven cities. Each family that moves to an Evocity boosts the local economy by $94,909 meaning that the campaign is delivering $220 million annually across the cities. These are people being introduced to regional living for the first time with 49 per cent saying they knew absolutely no one in an Evocity prior to relocating. With research showing that 66 per cent of Sydneysiders would consider a move outside the capital this is not the time to cut back on a marketing campaign that has proven to deliver a very high return on investment. All of this costs each Council just $60,000 per annum. Sounds like a bargain!

Let me know if you think marketing a city is worthwhile at mayor@dubbo.nsw.gov.au

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