It’s not just the sausage sizzle that makes Bunnings an Aussie favourite. New research shows the brand’s resilience is a key attribute in its ongoing appeal. Mary Winters explains. 

It’s the brand that tops trust ranking charts and has consumers singing its praises. The sausage sizzle is legendary, and it’s a ‘must have’ store for suburban Australians. 

So why is Bunnings so wonderful and what can we learn from its relationship with the Australian public?

This year branding agency Principals conducted a study to uncover Australia’s most resilient brands. Qualitative research defined the core traits of brand resilience and these were then measured in quant research. On all the factors defining resilience, Bunnings shone out over and above almost all the other brands measured.

The research found that 75 per cent of Australians believe Bunnings acts with integrity and adapts quickly in the face of change. Seventy per cent said Bunnings addresses mistakes while 79 per cent said Bunnings feels free to be original. The study also found consumers see the brand as is willing to try and, if it fails, try again (72 per cent). The business also rated high on maintaining a clear sense of quality and value (83 per cent) and staying focused on what it is good at (84 per cent).

Clearly, there are some fundamental big box retail attributes Bunnings carries off superbly such as its range, location and price. These are the fundamental truths of the big box winner, but that’s not all it does well. There is more to being loved than being convenient and having the right products. 

Bunnings is a retail brand that speaks to Australians emotionally and has cultural capital. It has even been a part of a Bluey episode where the Aussie heeler family went off to ‘Hammerbarn’ to find a woodfired pizza oven one weekend (I assume they meant Bunnings). 

I have often used the term ‘tardis brand’ (as in Doctor Who’s tardis) to describe a type of brand that has the magic power of appearing small on the outside and being big on the inside. For example, some brands appear to be gourmet or premium even though they command a big share in grocery. Twinings Tea has always been like this to me. The brand is at home in a small deli but sells widely in the supermarket. For me, Lindt chocolate is the same. 

The sausage sizzle has done a lot to make Bunnings feel community-minded, local and ‘small’ but so has its authentic advertising which uses a human, uncomplicated and non-pretentious style that draws us closer and creates intimacy with real, human Aussies.

Ultimately, Bunnings captures the Australian spirit like few other brands. It speaks to a blue-collar national identity around the tradie and his ute. It leans on practicality and resourceful DIY which is woven into our historical story. 

When Australia was colonised, the English farmed with few resources. A term evolved called ‘stringy barks’ to describe men who could build a house without any nails. Being a jack of all trades and making something in a practical and creative way is something that lingers in the national psyche. Bunnings has become the store that owns our resilient stringy barks selves.

Bunnings speaks to the archetypes of the creative doer. This is not a dreaming, imaginative energy, but one of the practical making of useful things. It is a utilitarian, everyman type of creativity that I believe Australians admire. 

The statistics we have uncovered in the Brand Alpha study suggest Bunnings has that practical Australian energy of having a go – trying and failing and trying again while sticking to its knitting and having an open, transparent purpose. Despite its size, it has energy. There is always something new at Bunnings.

And of course, it owns home and the weekend, two great pillars of suburban wellbeing. While owning your quarter of an acre is becoming a dying Australian dream, it is still something we aspire to. And in urban, corporate roles, we may be left with limited creativity and aspire to get out at the weekend and simply make something. Many of us could walk around Bunnings and think of a plan or aspire to something in the future. There is nothing quite so soothing as imagining a better personal world. There is optimism in every aisle at Bunnings.

And in Covid, we have all become even more home-focused. The psychology of home teaches us that home iso much more than bricks and mortar. It is the place where we feel most safe, loved and often the most free from expectations, roles and demands. It is a place of leisure and self-expression. What a great thing to own if you can.

While there is a deep enduring soul to Bunnings, there is also something that hits the mark in the ever-changing world of now.

 

Mary Winter is the Insights Director at branding agency Principals.

This article first appeared on Inside Retail.