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Maori branding sells New Zealand overseas

Maori branding sells New Zealand overseas

7 December 2005: Using Maori culture and branding to sell New Zealand’s uniqueness in crowded global markets is on the increase, an article in the latest Bright magazine reports, but New Zealand Trade and Enterprise is urging businesses and tourism operators to be selective with the strategy.

Philip Klap, Maori Business Relationship Manager for national economic development agency NZTE, says while indigenous branding can be a big plus in the United States and some European countries, like Germany, it’s not a winning formula everywhere.

“There is spiralling worldwide interest in things indigenous especially in tourism and in upmarket food stores where people can spend more and will take the time to look at the branding and ask what it means. On the other hand many supermarket shoppers buy on price alone and some companies have found that using Maori place names in the marketplace is a negative if people can’t pronounce them.”

Tourism New Zealand Chief Executive, George Hickton, says while Maori imagery has been fundamental to marketing tourism for well over 100 years, a more sophisticated export environment is bringing new challenges.

"What’s changing is the demand for authenticity. Increasingly tourists are looking to purchase an experience not a product. We are presenting our country and our culture together – it’s who we are and what we are,” says Mr Hickton.

Early findings from a four-year, Maori-led research project examining how Maori businesses can apply traditional principles to increase export sales confirm that some markets are receptive to the use of Maori branding while also stressing the need for authenticity.

Funded by the Foundation for Research, Science and Technology and involving a range of collaborators, the project aims to deliver a return of at least $NZ75 million in new Maori export earnings within 10 years of its completion.

Project Leader, Buddy Mikaere, says markets where Maori branding holds currency include rugby playing nations where the haka is well recognised, European countries where young people connect with Maori warrior ethic and admire tattoo designs, such as the one Robbie Williams has, and places like Greece and Italy which share the Maori emphasis on the importance of families.

However, he says, there is a global tendency to associate indigenous branding with developing economies.

“Applying traditional Maori values and knowledge delivers valuable and authentic products and services which we want to market at the high end of the spectrum. An education and marketing programme will be vital to establish the quality of goods and the cultural heritage underpinning them.”

“If overseas buyers purchase products because they support the values inherent in the Maori branding, and are keen to support an indigenous community, they don’t want to find out the goods have actually been made in China,” he says.

Mr Klap says while a growing number of businesses are using Maori branding to fuel interest in their products, including a Maori dimension is only part of the story behind success.

“Relative veterans in this space, like Marlborough’s Tohu Wines, know that top quality is what matters first and foremost. Once they have passed that test then having a brand that stands out on the shelf and has unique cultural values, adds another layer to their marketing.”

The newly formed New Zealand Maori Tourism Council, set up a year ago to collectively market the activities of Maori tourism operators from the grass roots up, is another organisation relying on Maori culture and branding to broaden the experience tourists enjoy in New Zealand.

Chief Executive, Johnny Edmonds, says part of the Council’s job is to educate other stakeholders in New Zealand about what a Maori tourism brand means.

“Only Maori can fully articulate that,” he says. “It is our point of difference and our unique marketing strength. Our first mission is to sell New Zealand but drawing on Maori concepts and culture as defined by Maori.”


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