It’s official: we’re on top, down under

We all know Australia is the best place in the world, but what does the rest of the world think? Pretty much the same way, according to a new survey.


We all know Australia is the best place in the world (or pretty close to it) but what does the rest of the world think? Pretty much the same way, according to a new international survey of country “brands”.


The third annual Country Brand Index release by London-based Future Brand, which surveys consumer attitudes to a range of selected countries, has put Australia number one for the second successive year of the survey. Australia won the gold medal, USA the silver, with Britain picking up the bronze.


The big three were then followed by France, Italy, Canada, Spain, the Kiwis, Greece and Japan. Australia’s strong showing has also been mirrored in other similar Country Brand indices, and Sydney also fairs well in the similar measures of the world’s top cities.


How does the Future Brands Country Brand Index survey work? It basically ranks each country by several criteria related to travel, tourism and ease to do business, along with the country’s natural environment, culture and heritage, and people. The criteria is then combined to show how the nation fared overall as a national “brand”.


Australia’s top ranking was due to its particularly high ranking as a place for outdoor activities, natural beauty, family-friendly facilities and friendliness of our people. According to the index, the world regarded Australia’s climate as ideal, its natural environment unique and a place that would be on everyone’s “must-see list”.


Australian people were regarded as not only friendly and fair minded but also hard working and very well organised – partly as a result of staging events like the Sydney Olympics (“the best games ever” effect).


The Australian economy’s success is widely admired and Australia is regarded as a place that “works” – a good place to travel to and do business in. In addition, the survey showed that Australia has built not only an efficient economy but a great society as well – with fair minded straight forward people without the social tensions and conflict in other parts of the world. We ranked well as place for extended business trips as well.


So what do we make of all this? Surveys like this in a way are just the beginning, not the end.


According to the survey, Australia clearly has some great strengths to build upon. The world regards us well, people like us, they like our country and they think that Australia is a model of a modern economy, has well developed institutions and has built a strong community.


It is clear that our image as a tourist destination is in really good shape – although we shouldn’t all be panicking about renting out the spare room. After all, as the survey points out, although people would love to visit Australia, not all of them will do so because of perceptions of distance. As Megan Gale, who as well as being a model is also Australia’s Tourism ambassador to Italy, put it to me in Milan recently: “Australia is often there as a dream destination, but they think it is like going to the moon, so I am working hard to make their dream a reality.”


But can we leverage the Australian brand better for trade and investment? Despite our great rankings in Country Brand surveys, many Australian exports are hidden, apart from our large stock of “celebrity exports” like our great movie stars, models and sporting heroes.


Australia doesn’t have strong manufacturing export brands like Germany or Japan. Think of German manufacturing and you think BMW, think of Japan and you think of Sony, think Korea and you think of Hyundai. There are many global brands that have iconic status that are associated with their home country – like Volvo or Ikea (Sweden), Nokia (Finland), Coca-Cola (USA), and so on.


Australia doesn’t have the same consumer product icons, although this may be changing with Billabong, Rip Curl and RM Williams being identified as well known Australian brands in the global market place. After all Billabong, despite being a small surf wear manufacturer just a decade ago, now earns more offshore income than Westpac.


In fact, many of Australia’s great exports are not consumer icons but are adding value behind the scenes – with commodities such as coal, iron ore, wheat, alumina, or liquefied natural gas playing an important role. They are part of an industrial process rather than things you can buy in a shop.


In addition, Australia produces a lot of services and knowledge-based manufactures that are also hidden from view. There are many mining software exporters doing well in the exploration industry in Russia and China, and many agricultural services companies doing well in the Middle East and South America.


In addition, many great Australian exports are far from hidden; in fact they are very well-known celebrities. As we all know, Australia has been very successful in the exports of popular entertainment. In Hollywood, there’s Nicole Kidman, Geoffrey Rush, Toni Collette and Russell Crowe (OK, an Australasian export); in modelling there’s Megan Gale and Elle MacPherson; in music Kylie Minogue, Natalie Imbruglia, Silverchair, Jet and the like; and in television there’s Home and Away, Neighbours, the Crocodile Hunter and now Kath & Kim are making their charge up the export ranks.


Australia’s celebrity exports do help people know about Australia, but they have not so far led to people buying more Australian products, but they do raise Australia’s profile as a desirable place to go to – especially with our natural environment on display thanks to a range of stars from the movie Crocodile Dundee in 1987 to the Crocodile Hunter, the late, great Steve Irwin in the 2000s.


In closing, let’s hope we see more Australian brands like RM Williams, Billabong and Rip Curl making a start and joining our big celebrities on the world stage, and according to the Country Brand survey this could well be just the beginning of an increasing global awareness of the Australian brand.



*Tim Harcourt is Chief Economist with the Australian Trade Commission and can be contacted in Sydney, Australia on 61 2 9390 2166 or 61 408 485 479 or by email:

Thanks to Tim Riches and Samantha Taranto for their assistance with this article.

Tim’s book BEYOND OUR SHORES and his articles on Australian trade and economics can be found at:

For details of the Future Brands Country Brand Index please contact Samantha Taranto of Weber Shandwick on 61 2 999 444 66 or







For more Gone Global blogs, click here.


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