New Zealanders, like most other nations revere their winners.  It has long been our practice to identify with our sporting heroes, such as Jack Lovelock, Peter Snell, Murray Halberg, John Walker etc.

As a nation we have had a long standing respect and expectation that our national psyche is best represented by the All Blacks.  They best personify how we would like to have others think of us.  Recent fluctuating fortunes have seen us as a nation embrace yachting as our symbol of excellence.  People like Peter Blake became a folk hero changing the way we dressed (red socks), before he tragically died.  Russell Coutts was our favorite son until he shifted allegiance to someone else and to a certain extent another country.  Look at the furore created when he was nominated for a Halberg award.  How dare he do that when he was no longer patriotic.  But the fact that one Halberg award went to Irene van Dyk – hardly your typical Kiwi lass – was irrelevant.

In short, Kiwis want winners who assume a profile and significance nationally.  As a nation we want acceptance and recognition on an international stage.

Ask any New Zealander to describe their country when overseas and they seldom start with a description of their sporting heroes.  Generally what is extolled are the virtues of the land.  Mountains, lakes, rivers, bush covered hills and valleys, sweeping tussock lands,  pristine views, golden beaches.  In short, clean and green in the world’s most beautiful package.

Most New Zealanders are extraordinarily proud of the physical features of their country, its beauty and its uncontaminated state,  often more wholesome in their minds eye than in reality.

CAN THIS VISION WE HAVE OF NEW ZEALAND BE USED AS A BRAND?

A number of commercial enterprises rely very much on this image for marketing.  The Pure New Zealand brand embraced by Tourism New Zealand has been an example of the success of this approach.  Meat and Wool New Zealand, Fonterra, and most primary produce processing companies attach themselves to a wholesome, clean New Zealand image.

Richmond’s Green Tick brand has committed suppliers to meeting an even higher standard which is promoted to a vigilant consumer public.  Other processing companies have similar programmes.

IS THERE A VALUE IN A PROMOTED BRAND OF EXCELLENCE?

There is a range of price advantage of such branding. Clearly most companies see it as a way of the future and are prepared to commit to it.

Two examples:

Forest Stewardship Council: The FSC branding is an internationally acknowledged and managed brand.  Several timber companies in New Zealand are accredited.  With exotics it is claimed to increase value by around 15 per cent.  With native timber it increases value by at least 50 per cent.  In many instances retailers will only stock FSC natives as they are an assurance of sustainable practice.

The New Zealand hoki industry has created a brand for their product.  Using the robustness of the quota management system, they have added some processing criteria and quality assurance measures. There is now increased interest in hoki as a fish against its competitors.  Hoki NZ comprises less than eight per cent of that particular type of fish on a global scale yet has increased demand and price over its competitors because of the brand of assurance and any retailer world wide committing to the product knows that it will be available year in and year out because New Zealand’s law requires the sustainable management of the fish stock.

HAVE THERE BEEN ANY EFFORTS TO CREATE A SEAMLESS NEW ZEALAND BRAND THAT CAN BE PROMOTED FOR ALL NEW ZEALAND PRODUCTS?

Some would argue that the name New Zealand is all we need. A number of attempts to enhance the name new Zealand have been attempted with a range of generic promotion activities.

In the mid-90s Simon Upton did some work on promoting a brand that could be accredited to those who met the prescribed standard.

It failed to get off the ground principally because:

  • The standard was set so high that many felt that they couldn’t comply.
  • Many companies who had already committed to a programme felt that they already had a jump on competitors.
  • To embrace a programme is a commitment of some effort, and the outcome is not guaranteed, the advantages not tangibly obvious.

WHAT STANDARDS WOULD NEED TO BE SET?

Clearly there is still some interest in this matter –  probably more now than when Simon Upton first broached the matter.  The number of companies continuing to develop their own standards shows that there is an increasing will to grapple with the issue.  It could be a good initiative for National to again pursue the matter.  There are a number of commercial operators with 10 years more experience.  There are a number of successful examples for scrutiny now that were not available a decade ago when the brand was more of a concept than a reality.  ISO (international standards organization), is more readily accepted with many NZ companies now accredited.

WHAT TANGIBLE ADVANTAGES?

New Zealand continues to sell its products in the top end of the market.  The consumers of high priced product are becoming more discerning on perceived health benefits and environment considerations.  There is considerable opportunity to achieve price advantage with an appropriate branding strategy.

One of the huge irritations in New Zealand business is complying with all the requirements of the Resource Management Act when involved in development that requires RMA approval.

If a New Zealand company or individual was accredited with the proposed brand, (say Pure NZ for want of a title), and that brand for example, required adherence to all New Zealand’s environmental law, triple bottom line reporting, and being ISO 14000 accredited, why should they have jump through all the hoops of the RMA that those who don’t have a brand or a name to protect now have to?

For those carrying the brand the RMA could be effects-based, with the incentive to protect the brand advantage they are unlikely to contravene RMA standards.  Penalty provisions for those that do would still apply.

This brand concept promotes the following:

  • A unified approach that would have more muscle and impact internationally.
  • A simplified route to development where RMA approvals are required.

It touches a nerve that most New Zealanders identify with, namely rewarding those who value our image and choose to recognize and promote our wholesome and clean green image.