My very first awakening to the power of brand, more importantly the power of a nation’s brand, came when I was six years old.
I remember it as clearly as if it was yesterday. I grew up on a sheep farming property up the Rakaia Gorge in Canterbury, in one the most picturesque, pristine places on the planet.
Three times a week a mailbag arrived with all our mail and anything that had been ordered from the big faraway city of Christchurch.
This particular day out of the bag tumbled a tiny shoe box, the shoes inside for me to wear to a very special wedding.
My mother opened the box, took out a pair of the most beautiful pair of shiny red shoes, I had ever seen, and turned them over. On the bottom of the shoes was printed three words “Made in England”. That means they are good quality she said.
Obviously nearly half a century later things have changed. The reality is a country is a brand, and that brand has a value – positive or negative, and creates or destroys value on every output from that country.
My vision for brand New Zealand is that ‘from New Zealand’, ‘made in New Zealand’, or simply ‘of New Zealand’ instinctively means to someone on the other side of the world that this product or service originates in a country which leads the world in environmental, social and cultural best practice delivered in a context of inspiring design values. We are uniquely placed to really earn this set of country brand values, and to deliver something with values that money can’t buy from anywhere else on the planet.
These brand values touch deep into the soul of the new global consumer.
This new global consumer has a growing desire to re-invest their lives with a sense of value and spiritual worth.
This consumer is more thoughtful.
This new consumer movement is a mindset, not driven by the ability to pay.
This new consumer movement is driven by consumers no longer wanting to buy things they do not need. It is driven by wanting to feel good and be inspired about each purchase, shopping with an ethical, social, civic and eco conscience for emotional, spiritual and personal wellbeing.
This consumer will reward ethical brands and penalise errant ones – including national brands.
It is now 2035, our new consumer has selected a New Zealand product or service. Its design and delivery is inspiring and they know that the quality of life in New Zealand is inspirational.
They know that to visit New Zealand they’ll have to pay a little at the border, but once there they can enjoy the cleanest, most unpolluted outdoor environments and urban centres; stunning facilities; the country is safe with high employment right across population sectors – and that the food they eat will be alive and bursting with goodness. They can see New Zealanders long ago stopped saying why it can’t be done, and have come up with a raft of supposedly ‘impossible’ outcomes for a country of its population and resources. Impossible in the same way that solutions in Curitiba, Brazil implemented were ‘impossible’, addressing infrastructure issues as transportation, the information highway, waste, energy and green space. New Zealand has, for example, invested in getting cyclists safely away from vehicles on roads finding, that children and commuters are now cycling to school and work reducing road congestion and improving health and wellbeing, and ultimately the balancing of the books too.
Our new consumer knows that in New Zealand it is no longer cool to drive when you can ride or use efficient mass transit services. They know New Zealand is developing sound practical policy based on all the information now freely available as information technology becomes ever more efficient. Our new consumer, knows already they would find most importantly a country that has recognised the value in investing in education in its most comprehensive sense.
They know that this is a country that has discovered the secret to success is to never forget the heart…that to dwell in the head for too long dries out the spirit, that their country will only ever be as good as their people. They know there is an acceptance that the human spirit demands stimulation in order to grow and that competition still remains the best mode of achieving that end. Competition has been reintroduced into school life in New Zealand coupled with the drive to find the good and the strengths in every individual and celebrate these.
Our new consumer knows young people in New Zealand are motivated and have extraordinary levels of self worth, both attributes worryingly diminishing decades earlier. They know it is a country that has embraced new ways to access learning in different types of learners. They know it is a country that understands that when one embraces competition the innate qualities that every human has begin to come to the fore – effort, focus, determination, passion, love, imagination, strength immediately start to surface. Call it survival, call it a desire to win or simply call it a desire to feel great….it all adds up to energy. If one does not work with the above qualities one cannot possibly have energy…and without energy, success at what an individual or a country wishes to achieve becomes impossible. New Zealand has as a result become a hotbed of innovation and successful innovative business.
This is why New Zealand has risen to the top of the OECD in hard economic terms and has the highest Gross Happiness Index (GHI) In the past there was almost always an inverse correlation between GDP and GHI. New Zealand delivers the most exciting compelling products and services to the world in a way the planet can sustain and thrive on.
This is why New Zealand has the most aspirational country brand there is.
This is why it is a joy to travel about the world as a New Zealander, and live beyond New Zealand but retain ones connection with New Zealand.
But back to 2010. New Zealand has a chance to put substance behind its already positive brand and to make this vision for our brand real, but we need courage, commitment and speed. Have we got all of that? If not, can we get it?
History shows us we undoubtedly have the courage. The commitment is what groups among the KEA network can support in generating – and if the commitment is strong enough the speed will come.
Jaime Lerner, Mayor of Curitiba for twelve years, said:
“There is no endeavour more noble than the attempt to achieve a collective dream. When a city (or country) accepts as a mandate its quality of life; when it respects the people who live in it; when it respects the environment; when it prepares for future generations, the people share the responsibility for that mandate, and this shared cause is the only way to achieve that collective dream.”
He also said that as long as we are prepared to say we couldn’t do what Curitiba did, “because….”, we are leaving undone a great opportunity to make positive change, that it simply needs us to say ‘yes’ we will make it happen.
The new consumer is here now.
There is no time to lose. But it is not too late.