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Feds look to Oz for tips on branding Canada

OTTAWA - From those ubiquitous UGG boots to kayaks and cherries, a little green logo featuring a kangaroo has told Australian consumers what's been made or grown by their country for nearly 30 years.

Now the Canadian government is looking to the Australian Made campaign as a model for a domestic branding exercise here. This year's federal budget promised a private-sector steering committee would be struck to make recommendations about a formal Made in Canada system.

The committee is expected to number around six people, composed of marketing experts and figures from various major industries, says a government source. Although the government is kick-starting the idea, the source said the campaign would ultimately be funded within the private sector.

The Competition Bureau already oversees country-of-origin rules that prohibit Canadian manufacturers or producers from making false claims about their products. An item that claims to be "Made in Canada" must have had its last transformation in Canada, and 51 per cent of the production costs incurred here. A "Product of Canada" means 98 per cent of the costs of producing the good happened in Canada.

But Canada does not have a single logo that is administered by any one body, or a strategic plan to market that brand.

Finance Minister Jim Flaherty recently travelled to Australia to talk to the people running their product branding campaign. Other countries, including South Africa and New Zealand, have also gone to Australia for pointers.

Australian Made's history wasn't all rosy. It was started as a government-funded initiative in 1986 until its cash was pulled by the John Howard government a decade later. After going into liquidation, it eventually resurfaced as a not-for-profit organization managed within the private sector, but with its compliance rules overseen by the federal government.

"Australian Grown" and "Australian Seafood" logos were recently added.

Since 2004, the campaign has grown from 800 licensees to 1,900. The entire budget is funded through the licensees.

"Fortunately for Australians by and large our standards are high, our healthy, clean, green environment is very desirable, particularly into Asia," said Australian Made CEO Ian Harrison.

"So products and more importantly produce from this country are highly regarded, which means you'll get a premium in the marketplace for it in competition with cheaper alternatives."

Harrison had some tips for Flaherty and the federal government, which he shared with The Canadian Press:

1. Don't run the campaign out of the national capital

Harrison was part of Australian Made's move from the national capital Canberra to the country's second-largest city Melbourne in 2004.

"If you operate in a capital city like Canberra, I presume Ottawa's not dissimilar, then the focus is politics and the process of government and governance. I see this, and you guys should see this, as a commercial activity. We're not for profit, but we sure aren't for loss."

2. Don't talk about it as a trade measure

"It is a branding device, it's not a trade policy, it's not an import restriction, it's not anything that gets in the way of industry or trade policy per se. What it does, it enables business to easily promote the fact that their products or produce are Australian."

3. Make sure the business community is in the driver's seat

"This needs to be seen as an initiative that industry has a close relationship with. The administration of that symbol should not reside in government at all. Government should be supportive of the program, but the business community is where it should reside because it's a device for business to clearly identify their products."

4. But make sure the federal government controls the compliance rules

"It's a very exacting process, and I said that framework's important because it clearly establishes the legal identity of the symbol, and establishes automatic legal recourse in the event companies or individuals or whatever don't comply with the rules."

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