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Educating the Old World

It’s time to add another dimension to Brand Enzed

Hamish Edwards

[Offshore]

Recently I had a business dinner in a building that was built in 1683. Which prompted one of my fellow diners to observe: “This building is older than your country.”

Okay, so he was a bit sketchy on a few centuries of pre-European settlement, but he had a point. Britain is an old country. It’s been doing its own thing for a long time now—with a fair measure of success.

It’s not just buildings. Some brands here are much older than the Treaty of Waitangi. Schweppes has been around since the 1790s. The Times first rolled off the presses in 1785.

So while things change here, they don’t change as quickly as they do in younger countries like New Zealand. And there is more of a cultural default to stick with what is familiar and proven over time, than to be habitually on the look out for the ‘next big thing’.

All of which makes marketing here a challenge for innovative small companies from a former colony situated well over the horizon.

The good news is that ‘Brand New Zealand’ is viewed positively in Britain. The Brits know about New Zealand and like us. Most people I’ve met have either visited New Zealand or have friends and relatives there. They love our wine, which scores well for good quality and price. People are fascinated by Maori culture—many watch an All Blacks test just to see the haka. New Zealand is seen as a fresh, safe, clean country that does the right thing on the world stage. It’s a kind of English-speaking, South Seas Scandinavia.
It’s a nice story, but it hasn’t done me any favours. The picture of a pure, unspoiled New Zealand has served our tourism industry well over the past few years, and it helps us sell our primary produce—lamb, wine, dairy products. But does it help us sell knowledge economy goods and services in the UK? No. In fact, if you’re in my shoes, selling a technology product in the financial services sector, then the New Zealand part of your story is something you might be better off playing down.

My challenge in the UK is to establish Xero, which requires tapping into quite a different aspect of Brand Enzed that is less well defined but potentially far more powerful: New Zealanders’ reputation for ingenuity.

The picture of a pure, unspoiled New Zealand has served our tourism industry well and it helps sell our lamb, wine and dairy products. But does it help us sell knowledge economy goods and services? No. In fact, if you’re in my shoes, the New Zealand part of your story is something you might be better off playing down

Kiwis have a huge work ethic and an inventive get-it-done approach that the Brits love. We’re more natural entrepreneurs and creative thinkers. The UK is littered with brilliant Kiwis working in creative businesses that have inventiveness as their core value. When Brits come into contact with hard-working inventive Kiwis, they start to lose their view of us as hicks from a beautiful backwater and to see us as the creative, inventive nation we are. It’s a story of a small nation at the edge of the world that, for its entire history, has produced a constant stream of inventions and innovations. It’s a story that thrusts the ‘New’ in our name to the heart of our brand. It’s a story of a small nation at the edge of the world that, for its entire history, has produced a constant stream of inventions and innovations.

New Zealand Trade & Enterprise’s ‘New Zealand New Thinking’ brand also captures many of our positive attributes, but it hasn’t yet gained traction in overseas markets.

Inventive New Zealand is a story that complements the Pure New Zealand story, and potentially could be just as powerful.

Tourism has become our largest export earner, but the economy we’ve based on the clean green myth is struggling to keep our place in the pecking order of wealthy nations. To build a high-value economy we need a national brand story that incorporates the extra dimensions of clever, inventive New Zealand.

No, we don’t have many old buildings. But as I told my dinner companion the other evening, that’s a good thing. We’re new, we’re fresh, we find it easy to challenge orthodoxies and think differently. If we’re serious about building an economy that’s based on more than primary produce and tourism, then maybe we should be telling the same story to the rest of the world. It would certainly help me.