BRAND AOTEAROA : INTRODUCTION
Perception of New Zealand as product origin is green in more ways than one, with a perceptual bias of ecological integrity and supposed attention to social and environmental sustainability and conservation values.
However, some contend that this ‘green’ image may be entirely prejudicial in nature, resulting from a ‘halo effect’ (affect heuristic) and not based on actual fact – this is cause for concern in a media-savvy world in which examples of Darwinian ‘self-selection’ for brand catastrophe do not fade, but are kept alive on myriad electronic sites likely to endure over decades to come.
By all accounts, in a profusion of recent self-criticism (see Literature Review) New Zealand has -either cleverly, ‘passively’ or more likely by some combination of the two – gained an almost ludicrously effective national brand reputation as a ‘green land’ distant and (not coincidentally) untrammelled by more pedestrian forces of urban sprawl and the environmental impacts of historically haphazard industrialisation, from which other ‘New World’ locations (e.g. the New England states of the US) have only recently and by degree come to emerge, according to such indicators as tree cover and water quality.
However, due in part to somewhat antiquated regulatory frameworks regarding land use (e.g. the environmental impacts of dairy operations, and downstream effects on fisheries) and agricultural chemicals in particular, a discrepancy has grown in recent years between the great success of the ‘clean and green’ national brand and known realities on the ground, leading to increasing cynicism (at least internally) as regards the legitimacy – and possibly the future credibility and relevance – of the brand. This gap between ‘brand hype’ and basis in fact is rather neatly (if sadly) exemplified by the rise in global rank to 4th position based on the perceived value of the ‘100% Pure’ national brand (FutureBrand 2009), while at the same the global rank of the country has distinctly fallen (to 15th place) in terms of actual environmental performance (Emerson et al. 2010).
In order to disaggregate brand characteristics, ‘Brand New Zealand’ will refer to a destination focused travel and outdoors markets, while ‘Brand Aotearoa’ will refer to product origin, called ‘Country of Origin Image’ (COI).
‘By taking the best natural resources from our clean, pure environment and improving them, New Zealand is recognised around the world for its world-leading produce. New Zealand is today fusing leading technologies and research to create premium specialty goods – all the while installing systems to protect the environment and sustain resources for longevity’ (New Zealand Trade and Enterprise 2010).
Fortunately, there is a developing national dialogue emerging, both at governmental levels and within the private sector, which seeks to revalidate and re-legitimise the purity and long-term credibility of the ‘clean and green’ national brand – a task necessarily demanding of voluntary cohesion and collective action sustained over time by a wide diversity of committed individuals and enterprises.
In this spirit, we seek to bring together key stakeholders of the ‘Clean and Green’ Brand New Zealand in an open and constructive forum, working together to define and address key issues, and to display and critically examine examples of ‘deep origin’ clean and green branding.
Working with an informal team of specialist consultants, Brand Aotearoa provides technical support to green branding of a variety of products of New Zealand origin, based on traceability and transparency in production systems, and lively visual representation of ‘clean and green’ brand attributes.
It is hoped that the Brand Aotearoa initiative will make a small contribution toward this important and challenging process of revalidation, renewal and revivification of the New Zealand national brand.