Branding Australia: the commercial construction of Australianness

by Juan Diego Sanin Santamaria

Institution: Monash University
Department: School of Media, Film and Journalism
Year: 2015
Keywords: Australian nationalism; Commercial nationalism; Consumer culture; Cultural studies; Cultural history
Record ID: 1072393
Full text PDF: http://arrow.monash.edu.au/hdl/1959.1/1145366


This dissertation presents the results of a doctoral research about commercial nationalism in Australia, analysing the construction of Australianness in consumer culture. Although previous studies have considered this phenomenon as relatively new, this thesis proposes to understand commercial nationalism as a historical process characterised by the intersection of nationalism and consumer culture in practices related to nation-making, the creation of national symbols and the defining of national identities. Based on this definition, the thesis argues that commercial nationalism has played an important role in the construction of Australia in three ways: facilitating synergies between public and private organisations, commodifying national symbols and nationalising commodities, and mediating the construction of national identities and citizen participation through consumerism. This argument is developed through a case study research analysing concrete manifestations of commercial nationalism in three periods of Australian history. The first period corresponds to the first half of the twentieth century, when Australian nationalism was characterised by a strong connection to Britain. This part of the thesis presents a case study of a buy Australian-made campaign called the “Great White Exhibition Train”. It demonstrates that this and other buy-Australian campaigns were important for advancing the agendas of British-Australian nationalism, specifically for making Australia a new nation within the British Empire. The next period corresponds to the second half of the twentieth century, a time when Australian nationalism was detached from British influences and the nation started a makeover aimed at reinventing its national identity. This period is analysed through a case study mapping out the process by which Vegemite came to be considered, in spheres of popular and official culture, a symbol of this new national identity. This part of the thesis shows how Vegemite and other bread spreads have materialised historical issues and debates surrounding the idea of Australianness. The third period is located in contemporary times, when Australia is redefining its identity on the basis of the local and following the principles of neo-localism. This part presents two case studies. The first analyses two corporate campaigns in which Australian supermarkets, Woolworths and Coles, incorporated nationalism in their corporate cultures and became involved in the advancement of nationalist agendas in the marketplace. It shows how supermarkets claim to be contributing to national development by assuming a series of national causes as their own responsibility. The second case examines the nation-branding campaign, “There’s nothing like Australia”, and explains how Australians citizens were enlisted as co-creators of commercial imaginaries of Australianness on the internet. It explains how the organisations behind the campaign claim to be constructing a democratic and authentic image of Australia that is based on the knowledge and…