While it seems COVID-19 has developed a very pro-Australian sentiment in the retail marketplace over the last few months, the pandemic has also brought enormous levels of consumer engagement with the Australian Made logo as well. This engagement is particularly evident across social media platforms with the Campaign already recording a 300 per cent increase in engagement across its social media platforms, according to Australian Made Campaign Chief Executive Officer, Ben Lazzaro.
As the largest online product directory of genuine Australian Made products, the australianmade.com.au website has also doubled in traffic during the pandemic, while the Australian Made Campaign has also received a dramatic increase in calls and emails from consumers asking where they can find certain products or how they can support Aussie manufacturers. This certainly shows a growing need in the community for Australians to support local businesses, Mr Lazzaro said.
“While support for Australian Made products remains, obviously we want consumers to follow through on their purchasing intention. This comes down to a number of factors, particularly with people in lockdown, and is also why online shopping has become very important. Not only because they can purchase Aussie products online, but they can also find all the information they need about the product beforehand,” Mr Lazzaro said.
Mr Lazzaro also believes that the renewed consumer enthusiasm for supporting locally made products is not “a flash in the pan”.
“The pandemic has been seriously impactful across a number of fronts and it is the shock of something like COVID-19 that jolts people into action and support Australian Made, which is what we believe is happening at the moment. We have to remember too that local manufacturing was also thrown in the spotlight due to COVID-19. It was our manufacturers that re-tooled overnight and pivoted their businesses so they could make the emergency medical equipment and personal protection equipment that Australians needed during this time. Australian manufacturers had an opportunity to really demonstrate that we can make just about anything here, and we need the infrastructure to do that,” Mr Lazzaro said.
Australia has long had an overreliance on imported products, and Mr Lazzaro said the pandemic was a wakeup call for many Australians to address this imbalance.
“We are always going to need a mix of local and imported products. I think the pandemic has also demonstrated that this balance was too far skewed towards a reliance on imported products. This is why we will see a different manufacturing landscape moving forward,” he said.
Recent increased activity to Australian Made directories is also being attributed to consumers wanting to identify genuine Australian Made products, including every product that is licensed to carry the Australian Made logo.
“Our day to day activity here is ensuring that the logo is used only in accordance with the rules, which contributes to the integrity of the brand as well as the products that carry it. Promotion of the Australian Made logo is also key. This is why we always drive traffic to our website and our social media platforms to deliver extra value to those brands that use the Australian Made logo,” he said.
“At the moment we have over 250,000 consumers hitting our website per month. We have also had huge increases in engagement on our social media platforms.”
“Additionally we have a Facebook group which is designed specifically just for manufacturers so we can link manufacturers with other manufacturers who might be seeking Australian components for their products. This is a closed group with entry only for licensees of the Australian Made Campaign, where they can conduct business,” Mr Lazzaro said.
While the growing preference for Australian Made products is evident, there still is a lack of imported products in some segments, so companies are being forced to look for materials locally and dig a little harder than usual. Hopefully this is a new habit that manufacturers will adopt full time, Mr Lazzaro said.
“While there will always be a sector of the community that will buy purely on price, what we believe will happen is that we will see a larger portion of the community take a bit more consideration in their purchasing decisions and start to look at value more closely, rather than just at price. The perception that buying Australian Made is often a more expensive choice is not always the case with Australian Made products often on par with imported products. This is when consumers should look at the value of the purchase, particularly from a standard and safety point of view, which is also becoming very important.”
The Australian Made Campaign’s research has also discovered a growing trend from the younger generation who not only want to know if a product is ethically produced, but aspects of sustainability as well.
“When you look at products that are ethical and sustainable, these are all attributes you can associate with Australian Made products. Saying something is Australian Made may not necessarily land with the demographic of those aged in their 20s and 30s. However, if you tell these customers that a product is ethically and sustainably produced, their ears will prick up. So, it is also about changing the language around how we express the Australianness of a product,” Mr Lazzaro said.
“Local employment is also in just about every article you read at the moment and around 84 per cent of Aussie consumers now associate the Australian Made logo with jobs. It would be unusual if anyone in June 2020 did not have exposure to someone that had either lost a job or had their hours reduced as a result of this COVID-19 situation so I think ensuring our family and friends are employed is already becoming more relevant for people when they make those purchasing decisions,” he said.
Australian Made compliance
Applications for businesses to use the Australian Made logo has also risen by an incredible 400 per cent, according to Mr Lazzaro who said businesses now want to tell everyone their products are Australian Made.
“The most effective way to do this is by using the Australian Made logo because they know this is the logo that 99 per cent of consumers recognise and 88 per cent trust. We are finding that businesses are certainly looking to leverage this very pro-Australian sentiment that is in the market place at the moment.”
“The majority of manufacturers understand that there are compliance requirements expected to make the Australian Made claim. Our compliance team helps them through this process to ensure products that meet the criteria are the only ones that end up carrying the Australian Made logo,” Mr Lazzaro said.
The growth in applications and consumer interest in Australian Made products is also being attributed to the current Australian Made marketing campaign, titled, ‘It has never been more important to buy Australian than right now’.
“We are a not for profit organisation but we have managed to get a campaign away worth more than $500k across TV, outdoor, radio, digital, online, social nationwide. We will use the campaign to try and hit as many Aussies as possible. Obviously, it is a campaign that a lot of people can get behind and we are seeing the evidence of this at the moment,” he said.
Although the Australian Made Campaign does not have access to a lot of retail data, there has been an influx of building related products that have come on board in recent times, according to Mr Lazzaro.
“The Australian Made logo may be used across all 34 classes of goods, so this includes everything that is sold in Australia including an industrial tanker to a jar of vitamins. It is very diverse and the compliance team have to become subject matter experts very quickly. The hardware, building and renovation sectors are also very strong at the moment and we have definitely seen and uplift there,” he said.