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Supporting each other the ultimate in brand power

August 14, 2014

It was announced last week that the Victorian State Government through Regional Development Victoria, The City of Greater Geelong, Deakin University, G21 and the Committee for Geelong would all put funding towards completing an analysis of ‘Brand Geelong’ What a great idea and all of those organisations should be congratulated.

No doubt the aim of this project, as is the case with most brand analyses, is to build competitive advantage for the region. Competition amongst regional centres for business and public investment is extreme.

Just as fierce is the competition to attract new residents. Attracting families that might build a new home, open a new business and have children that will attend a local school must be a key  ‘target market’ for ‘Brand Geelong’.

Building competitive advantage isn’t easy though and will involve looking at the region’s resources and capabilities. That is, what do we as a region control or physically have, and what activities do we perform more proficiently than other regions, that will provide us with an advantage?

By no means are these easy questions particularly when every other region will lay their claims to many of the suggestions put forward.

An honest, and I suspect at times difficult, assessment of Geelong’s resources and capabilities needs to occur. This won’t be a time for blind optimism and cheerleading nor will it be the time for prophecies of doom or naysaying.

The good news is that there is no doubt that Geelong does have genuine competitive advantages to build upon. These should be developed, enhanced and highlighted in our new Geelong brand proposition.

One such capability that I hope is highlighted, is the incredibly supportive nature of the community and region. Businesses supporting other businesses, businesses supporting charities and individual residents donating and volunteering are all examples of this support.

Geelong embraces and supports its own.

Such support has led to what I think is a major competitive advantage for the region. The social assistance sector in Geelong is as strong, if not stronger, than anywhere in the country.

The support that this sector receives is reciprocated and given back to the community through the myriad of programs and projects that are undertaken each and every year. What family, couple or individual doesn’t want to live in such a community? What business wouldn’t want to operate in such a community?

Organisations like Karingal provide best practice disability services. Diversitat is acknowledged as one of the leading settlement agencies in the country as well as leading the way through its entrepreneurial, social enterprises in Wholefoods Café and The Pulse radio station.

One of the biggest success stories and best social enterprises of its kind is Geelong’s own ‘Dial a Lunch’, while Bethany Community Support and Glastonbury Family Services continue decades of high quality family support.

Give Where You Live is also unique to Geelong. To my knowledge there is not a like organisation in the country. No other region’s residents and businesses support an organisation like Geelong supports Give Where You Live. No other regional organisation has a million dollar workplace giving program and no other regional philanthropic organisation distributes $2M per annum in grants. Give where You Live started in Geelong, is supported by Geelong and helps build a better Geelong. That’s something that other regions don’t have.

There are many more community service organisations, far too many to name.

I hope that the social assistance sector is specifically invited to contribute to the Brand Geelong analysis. The Health and Social Assistance sector in the region provides over 12,500 jobs which represents 16% of the workforce. Combined, it contributes 10% of gross regional product or nearly $1billion. In reality these figures are considerably higher when you consider that the economic value of volunteerism in the region is worth $300M. Much of this could be attributed to the social assistance sector.

Brand Geelong will not and should not be solely about the health and social assistance sector in the Geelong region – but it should be highlighted. The sector is economically critical and helps create many of the lifestyle attributes the region has to offer.

What person, what family, what business wouldn’t want to be a part of a community in which you receive support simply because you are a part of the community?

Now that’s a competitive advantage.

Bill Mithen, CEO Give Where You Live