Thursday, June 29, 2006

NZ - a brandless country?

Being right now on vacation in New Zealand (Thank you Scott and Norman!) I experience the weird feeling of living in a society that seems pretty far away from the industrious hectic of big economies. Besides the normal differences of a small, still heavily agriculturally country with beautiful nature, there is one particularity that keeps me wondering: New Zealand has no internationally recognizable brand. And no one seems to care. The closest to having an international brand are: Air New Zealand (the national airline), The All Blacks (the national Rugby team), Katmandu (The REI of New Zealand). That’s it.

So, why do I care? I am trying to figure out the reasons for this lack of internationally well know New Zealand brands – is it the size of the country or something culturally different that hinders the design and building of an international brand? The size of the country alone does not persuade me since similar small countries like Switzerland developed world wide famous brands. After talking with several New Zealanders the lack of big brands seem to be a combination of the young age of the country (the westernization of New Zealand barely started 150 years ago), its small population (just over 4 million citizen), and the shadow of the big Australian brother which dominates significant parts of the New Zealand economy, and imports aggressively its own branded products.

But there is one big change in the brand and marketing world of New Zealand: the country itself is becoming the biggest New Zealand brand, especially with the unbelievable success of the “Lord of the Rings” and the long running campaign “100% pure” that portrays New Zealand as the tourist destination for ecologically minded individuals. Now, in the mind of millions of consumers anywhere in the world, New Zealand is merged as a mythical place of the different “Lord of the Ring” landscapes and a physical place of pure and untouched nature. When you arrive in New Zealand the tourist office hands you a map of the traditional physical roads and cities, and a map of the locations of the “Lord of the Rings” universe. Now, New Zealand is becoming the amalgam of the country of “Lord of the Rings” and the positive utopia of a “green” society.

It seems to me that there is a strong connection between the lack of international New Zealand brands and the just now slowly emerging brand “New Zealand”. Only a country that has gone through the branding of its own identity and physical and societal particularities has the strength (and arrogance) to develop global brands that stand for something relevant across the whole globe. Now, New Zealand is getting ready to start this journey of defining big, big brands. I am curious of discovering the first one.


Anonymous Scott Figenshow said...

Michael- and part of that 100% pure image is the use of renewable energy- check out the Contact Energy advert "a tour through your powerstation" which is a countryside with a windfarm. If you watch TV. . .

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Blogger Sandeep Giri said...

As a Nepalese, I am glad that Kathmandu gets to be a cool brand at least somewhere else outside of Nepal.

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