The Marketing Bureau

Specialist Marketing & Communications Resourecs



More Than Just Sheep and All Blacks

By Brian H Meredith
First Published in NZ Business Magazine

It’s something of a shame that in the 21st Century, it is still very common to have people in other countries describe New Zealand as being “All about sheep and All Blacks”.

New Zealand, like every other nation, entity, organisation, business or individual in the world, is a Brand.

And like every Brand, the way in which it is perceived is the result of the sum total of every behaviour, however major or minor, in which it engages.

In terms of our nation’s Brand, there are a great many behaviours which contribute significantly and positively to the way in which the Brand is perceived – by visitors and potential visitors, by businesses throughout the world and by a huge range of other people and countries who, for one reason or another, have an interest, or potential interest in, New Zealand.

But we can still do better. From major to minor behaviours, in each and every aspect of a nation’s existence, there are behaviours that can significantly contribute to the nation’s Brand and/or reduce or remove negative impacts of those behaviours.

Take our Tourism Industry, for example. For many years, our international tourism advertising has centered around mountains, rivers, lakes and beaches. And yep, we have a bunch of those things. And so do a lot of other countries in the world. And for many potential visitors, they are a lot closer to home for them than New Zealand. So why promote them so extensively?

Not good for our Nation’s Brand.

But we have so many other things in Aoteroa that are truly unique to our Brand, to our nation. And we don’t seem to exploit them to their full potential. One of these is Maori Culture, a factor that has immense power in capturing the attention of and drawing in tourists from around the world. And yet the extent to which this is marketed by New Zealand is very minor indeed. We seem to leave it to Maori themselves to do it.

Not good for our Nation’s Brand.

We are a nation obsessed with sport. Can be quite challenging to have a conversation with someone that isn’t dominated by sport. As a regular reader of the NZ Herald online, I continue to be amazed at what the percentage of sports stories are in the Headlines Section. Often, it can be as high as 80% of total stories. Great if you love sport. Not so good if you are trying to build a Brand that attracts the attention of a much wider base of people and businesses.

Not good for our Nation’s Brand.

Ever been on a road trip in the South Island and noticed just how shabby our laybys are? Overflowing rubbish bins, old and damaged picnic tables and seats, rubbish scattered around the bush and foliage. Not a good look and certainly not consistent with the clean, green proposition which seems to increasingly be a fantasy.

Not good for our Nation’s Brand.

Another worrying set of behaviours that significantly impacts on our Brand is our broadcast news bulletins. The quality of broadcast news presenters and journalists is poor, the volume of mispronunciations is dreadful and the extent to which on-air journalists appear to understand what the heck they are talking about is not good.

Not good for our Nation’s Brand.

On a more serious note, I am increasingly concerned at the perceptions of our Brand’s Justice System. There are a wide range of factors that could and should be debated but the most visible in recent times has been the number of “Discharge Without Conviction” decisions. It seems we have a growing 2 Tier System which treats some groups quite differently from the rest of the population. The most recent was just yesterday when a young Auckland Blues Player was Discharged Without Conviction for a Drink Driving Offense because the Judge agreed that a conviction might damage his developing rugby career.

Not good for our Nation’s Brand.

And I am still somewhat dumbfounded that Auckland’s Mayor can behave so badly, get caught behaving so badly and yet not be held accountable in any way. Still Mayor today.

Not good for our Nation’s Brand.

And there is more. Much more.

Our Prison System is increasingly viewed as being one of the worst in the developed world. Our Mental Health Services are, without doubt, amongst the worst in the developed world. There are 20 District Health Boards in New Zealand – in a nation with a total population of less than half of that in London. And our MMP Political System is clearly (albeit arguably) completely hamstringing any ability on the part of any party to demonstrate Leadership.

None of this is good for our Nation’s Brand.

As a nation, we must recognise that behaviours in every aspect of this nation’s existence affect not only the NZ population but so many others well beyond our borders. And that matters. Really matters. It affects Tourism. It affects overseas investment. It affects overseas businesses doing business with NZ businesses. It affects the way the world sees and experiences us.

We need to take our Brand seriously and have a clear, compelling and actionable strategy across every aspect of our existence to both build our Brand as well as, of course, significantly improve the existence of those who live here.

It not, then it’s not good for our Brand. Or anything else.


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