Aerial view of Fitzroy River in Rockhampton, Queensland.
Aerial view of Fitzroy River in Rockhampton, Queensland.

Aspire CQ: ‘Market region as Australia’s next powerhouse’

I HAVE been doing a 12-week marketing masterclass and on the last day of the online course the professor, who lives in Tasmania, shared a personal insight, one way COVID-19 has affected his wife.

She does yoga classes and with COVID-19 restrictions the teacher stopped the offline sessions and offered online classes. This had been an acceptable solution for both the wife and the teacher, who continued to charge the same price.

Now with the restrictions lifted the yoga teacher has decided to continue only with online sessions, closing her bricks and mortar studio.

However, the wife not getting the same fulfilment from the online classes and with no other close by brick and mortar options, is now looking to California for online yoga sessions.

Why California; because being the ‘hip’ state, they will have more diverse, better online yoga sessions to choose from. Well that is her perception.

I imagine compared to Tasmania this could be true.

More importantly though how did she create that perception of California, is it a common perception and what are the consequences of the COVID-19 accelerated usage and acceptance of online content for personal instruction, personal health and fitness just being one industry, tertiary education being a much bigger one?

Will Australia’s smaller population size in comparison to USA, suffer as the big get bigger with more Australians, perceiving they’ll get better instruction and reward (salaries included) from globally well-known big overseas providers, accessing them online?

After all reality is irrelevant, perception is everything, isn’t it!

After writing last week’s column I was left wondering is Central Queensland bigger than the Outback or is the Outback bigger than CQ.

I’m not talking geographic size, if either could be defined on a map, but perception wise.

Do more people perceive the Outback as big and positively, like the professor’s wife perception of California, than CQ?

If so, what advantage is there for the seven councils on the western side of the Drummond Range, that make up the Central Western Queensland Remote Area Planning and Development Board, of proactively collaborating with the five councils on the eastern side of the Drummond Range, that call themselves Central Queensland Regional Organisation of Councils (CQROC), to better market the whole and parts of CQ?

But, are city slickers’ romantic perceptions of the Outback, its images, characters, settings and stories strong enough economic drivers to provide substantial sustainable employment opportunities to reverse Central Western Queensland’s population decline?

The word ‘hip’ can cover so much, its cool, fashionable, innovative, informed, trending; in fact, what is considered hip is continually changing, thus making it a fantastic positive way to identify and unify different parts of California, its lifestyle and industries with one word (even if the reality is different).

‘Outback’, arguably doesn’t have the same perception power as ‘hip’.

The region where QANTAS first started will always have a problem being perceived as innovative and trendy, to retain and attract youth, while persisting with the outback message and the mental package that comes with that.

But other than Australia setting up its own space departure station in Longreach (or something of similar technological significance) the tourism focused outback branding does appear the best course to keep attracting people and money to provide semi-sustainable (seasonal), desirable jobs for its local population, though maybe not enough of them.

The Galilee Basin, and the imminent opening of coal mines within it though and later possible gas and oil extraction, will bring opportunities and challenges for the outback councils, that over time might change the perceptions of Central Western Queensland.

But, arguably the real big-bang benefits of this will be derived by the coal mine owners, state government royalty coffers and the FIFO hubs, where the workers families reside and their incomes are spent.

Leaving Central Western Queensland with what when it is all over!

While ‘Outback’ may have stronger perception power than ‘CQ’, I would argue it is in the interests of the Councils west of the Drummond Range to effectively collaborate (even combine) with their eastern council cousins to better market CQ as Australia’s next regional powerhouse, especially as the Galilee Basin develops, and provide the clout to maximise the benefits of and for CQ.

The first proactive sign of this collaboration should be developing a brand for CQ from which desirable perceptions can be derived from.

Arguably at the moment the perception of those who hold one of CQ is primarily associated with beef and coal. Hip, probably not an associated word!

I imagine the yoga teachers in CQ don’t get too many inquiries from other parts of Australia about their online courses. (Tell me if I’m wrong.)

While beef and coal are the reality it would be good for people to conjure other images that also tie in the islands of the southern Great Barrier Reef, the port and industry of Gladstone, the surf break of Agnes Water and romance of the outback.

Coming up with one word is not the answer, it is an ongoing planned development of building a favourable image, a brand, that people associate desired words to.

Other’s may describe California as sunny, tech, chilled, hippie, movieland for example, but they all fit within the desired image, brand, the state wants to project – the Golden State.

If CQ (west and east) wants to project itself as the next regional powerhouse of Australia, as CQROC indicates, and have people positively perceive this and actively consider the personal opportunities this offers, then I would recommend stop using the word ‘powerhouse’.

What perceptions does ‘powerhouse’ conjure?

Research it, I’ll be surprised if there are not more negative comments than positive.

Look at what Las Vegas did to be thought of something other than just gambling (a possible negative word).

Research led to the ‘what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas’ line (not the Hangover movies), that is known worldwide and considered a major factor in Las Vegas attracting millions of tourists each year.

Research CQ needs to do, to develop its own brand.

A brand that helps CQ build pride from those within and respect from those outside it.

A brand that indicates opportunity, diversity, geographic size and strength.

A brand that people associate desirable words with it and builds a positive offline and online perception.

One that all councils within CQ want to be identified with.

And because of this unity provide the clout to maximise the benefits CQ accrues from the development of its resources.

Next week I’ll discuss whether Central East Queensland is better off proactively collaborating with Central Western Queensland.