Reforming Paradise

Speakers at the 2010 Environmental Defence Society (EDS) conference in Auckland this week included TIA Advocacy Manager Geoff Ensor. The theme of the conference was reform in paradise. It included robust sessions exploring the adoption of  ‘100% Pure’ as a marketing tagline for all sectors of the country and the implications of rural, coastal and urban reform. Geoff talked about decision-making at a local level, the role of central government in those decisions and some thoughts about a clear vision for the future. “New Zealand is the brand and our unique environment is integral to the strength enjoyed by the brand. It’s critical that central and local government regard protection and enhancement of the environment as core business, to do otherwise is to risk our international reputation and the quality of life for future generations,” he said.

M&C Saatchi’s Tom Dery recalls the birth of 100% Pure New Zealand

Given a crystal clear brief (quite rare these days), we marshalled the team from around the M and C Saatchi world to respond…Creative leadership was provided by my partner, Tom McFarlane who not only provided an exciting environment for all our teams but actually authored the idea of 100% Pure New Zealand. From the outset he wanted to develop a campaign which could compare to “I love (heart symbol) New York”; one which would provide flexibility to show different product features but with a strong glue to bind as a consistent campaign into the future.

When Tourism New Zealand launched its 100% Pure New Zealand campaign, it was ground-breaking in terms of global country branding.

In 1999, having a single country brand, centrally managed, was a first. It was a strategy that has given New Zealand an identity and reach well beyond its size and it has served New Zealand well. These days, many other countries have followed New Zealand’s lead, marketing under a single country banner.

says George Hickton, former Chief Executive of Tourism New Zealand.

The United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) released a handbook on nation branding in 2009, using New Zealand as a key case study in “how to do it right”. Lonely Planet co-founder Tony Wheeler says:

It’s obvious that New Zealand’s 100% Pure New Zealand campaign has been a great success simply because it’s been imitated by others!

Professional nation brander, Wally Olin, said

New Zealand has been very, very clever. It has turned its disadvantages into advantages.

Stephen Cheliotis, CEO of CoolBrands, that voted New Zealand top country in 2006, says that the brand has undoubtedly been a success, and has helped to make New Zealand one of the most highly sought after tourist destinations and one that is high on people’s “must do” lists.

100% Pure New Zealand perfectly sums up the unique natural and cultural environment of New Zealand and its isolation from the mayhem people experience in their home countries.

A report by InterBrand in 2005 analysed 100% Pure in comparison to other global corporate and consumer brands. I dragged InterBrand’s Australian MD around the streets of Singapore and Beijing as part of that exercise, talking to hotel owners, airlines, and travel agents. InterBrand calculated the brand as being worth around US$13,600 million ranking it 21st in the world – just behind Samsung and ahead of Dell at the time.

The discipline of saying “no” that is required by a single-minded proposition has paid off. In the 2008 Country Brand index, New Zealand topped the category for “natural beauty”. (43) The Tourism sector’s strong commercial performance over the decade of the 100% Pure New Zealand campaign has been well documented. International visitors to New Zealand have leaped almost by one million per annum, an increase of nearly 50%. To be sure, there are many factors that have influenced that, including increased wealth in our markets. And The Lord of the Rings contribution is not to be underestimated. But the result can undoubtedly also thank the quality of the tourism marketing.

Tourism New Zealand’s visionary Chairman who drove the initial development of 100% Pure New Zealand, Peter Allport, has recently noted

Some thought the campaign presented an environmental message. What these people failed to hear or appreciate was that 100% Pure was never ever an environmental statement; rather, as backed by extensive research, simply refers to the metaphysical and emotional quality of the experience of visiting New Zealand – it is about dreams realised and memories created; it is about the warmth and friendliness of our people and the growing confidence of our young society.

Well yes it’s true that “100% Pure New Zealand” is grammatically not in any way claiming that New Zealand is 100% Pure. But Victoria University resident futurologist Dr Ian Yeoman asks

So, why should we stick with 100% Pure New Zealand? Apart from helping the planet, it’s a brilliant brand, it attracts the right type of tourists. Around the world, being eco-conscious has become a status symbol for consumers, partly replacing traditional status symbols that are now associated with pollution, waste and excess. 100%Pure New Zealand has eco status and is eco iconic. It has successful green brands, it tells a fantastic story about New Zealand’s attitude to the world and is recognizable by the world.

Yeoman continues

An eco iconic brand has at its heart, a status and credentials that many of our competitors want. Why would Norway advertise itself as a destination “not as far as New Zealand” to the UK market unless we were doing something right? An eco iconic destination has cultural capital. 100% Pure has a distinct appearance and story to tell the world.

Yeoman believes the campaign provides a focal point for people relaxing in pubs and bars to relate their New Zealand experiences.

Sydney-based Pacific Asia Travel Association’s Chris Flynn claims

The 100% Pure New Zealand brand campaign has …led the way in positioning the environment as something to be treasured and nurtured and not just another commodity to be taken for granted. In doing so it managed to capture the imagination of the industry which now understands the importance of protecting their greatest asset.

100% Pure New Zealand has been strongly associated from the word Go with our natural dimension. And it is a natural extension and elegant expression of the clean and green space we have long occupied in the minds of global consumers. Even if people heard wrong in terms of an environmental message, perception is reality, especially in marketing. It’s what they think they heard that counts. The Green Genie is well and truly out of the bottle. So let yourself go. Now we have three wishes.