New brand needed for New Zealand

01 October 2014
Professor Rod Brodie is head of the Department of Marketing at the University of Auckland Business School and lectures within the Graduate School of Management.

By Professor Rod Brodie

When you think of New Zealand's national brand, chances are you'll envisage majestic mountains and flowing rivers, pristine lakes and dramatic coastlines, lush virgin bush, green pastures and vast tundra peppered with hardy stock.

In other words, the 100% Pure branding that has forged our unique place in the world, most recently boosted by Peter Jackson and his JRR Tolkien obsession.

But we are bigger than that aging Tourism New Zealand tool; more complex and less one-dimensional. What about our innovation and resourcefulness, our unique Maori culture, integrity and warm welcomes? Those attributes don't immediately flow from the 100% Pure moniker, to our enduring branding detriment.

New Zealand's economy is heavily dependent on exports. In March of this year, merchandised exports amounted to $50 billion; we have exceeded 40 per cent of GNP. It will come as no surprise that the successful marketing and branding of New Zealand and its exports is essential to the nation's economy.

But beyond our romanticised pastoral heritage, New Zealand is in many ways invisible on the world business stage. Countries such as Germany, Italy, Switzerland and Japan have established international identities that give distinctive meanings to their export brands, but little had been done to establish a national umbrella brand for export marketing from New Zealand.

Until now.

The 'New Zealand Story', launched late last year, is a positive step towards being a new national brand independent of the old. It broadens the perception of New Zealand internationally and is available to all exporters wanting to tell a compelling but authentic story that will differentiate themselves - and the country - from all their competitors.

Don't get me wrong...the 100% Pure branding is still a remarkable success story that needs to be at the heart of our international tourism push. But there are three key concerns - New Zealand has a narrow identity, the emphasis is placed on 'pure', and internal understanding of our brand is weak.

Extensive input from leaders in the primary sector, manufacturing, wider government services, export education and Maori makes the 'New Zealand Story' invaluable. In fact, 200 people from 40 organisations here and overseas were consulted; the brand was tested in six key and emerging markets.

There's nothing fly-by-night about this new initiative, either. Using videos, key messages, photos, music and guidelines, it brings the story of New Zealand to life right across our export sectors - based on core values of warmth and friendliness, kaitiaki (care of people and place), integrity and resourcefulness. It showcases us as a country 'open to the new' and welcomes the world to a place of 'open spaces, open hearts and open minds'.

Yes, our current reputation scores well across these attributes already but we need to keep telling our story in order to fill the gap between people's understanding of New Zealand and the positioning required to ensure the world 'buys' visits/products/services/migration from us.

It's hard being a small fish in a big sea. When Kiwi exporters first go out into the world or visit a new market, they desperately need something that places our country and their business into context. And New Zealand needs to support its exporters in growing their businesses and increasing export earnings exceeding 40 per cent of GDP.

It is important we frame a harmonious and consistent brand that achieves synergies between the generic branding of New Zealand's identity and the initiatives undertaken by individual exports. The 'New Zealand Story' integrates with '100% Pure' to do just that, creating a key plank to the overall strategy.

Visit the New Zealand Story website.