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100% Pure NZ Tag Hurts Our Economy

100% Pure NZ Tag Hurts Our Economy

Marketing Advisor Daniel Batten says 100% Pure NZ tag damaging our economy.

Imagine if Nike’s tagline was “we care for the world’s feet”. It would damage its brand. Why? Because it would invite scrutiny about whether this statement was true, if the feet in question belonged to someone in one of their factories in the developing world.

In the same way, our 100% Pure NZ tagline now damages our international reputation. It does still have a place: on the left hand side of a Tui’s billboard.

The only positive in the erosion of this brand is that it is forcing us to get real, and realize the huge economic cost of giving not enough importance to our environment.

In the past, whether you were a company or a country: you could hide a lot of information about what went on underneath the brand and rely on spin to carry the day. In a social media rich post-Internet age, this strategy falls over because, if you don’t live in China, it’s too easy to get the real information.

Today, for marketing to have currency with the market it must be adhere to the 3 C’s: clear, compelling and correct. Most companies in NZ are correct, but neither clear nor compelling. When too much old-style PR/marketing gets involved, a message becomes clear and compelling, but not correct. “100% Pure NZ” is an example of the latter.

Deborah Grey from Tourism NZ defends the 100% Pure slogan because “the landscape, people and activities is 100% unique to us”. Based on that argument, the Fukushima Nuclear Reactor and its people is 100% pure. Her argument has a name: “spin”. But spin is no longer a strategy that enhances a brand. You may remember a similar case of such spin when ASB Bank claimed to be “A kiwi bank” because it invested in the kiwi community and hired lots of kiwis. The message failed the “correct” criteria. People objected. The campaign was quickly pulled.

Until recently we could still use the 100% pure banner, because we said we had a commitment to clean up our act. The straw that broke that camel’s back was when the NZ Govt’s recently withdrew from making Doha Climate Change commitment. This action announced to the world “not only is our own backyard not pure, but we’re also cool with messing up the global backyard in the process”.

Successive NZ Govts have discovered the hard way that the days where a brand could bare no resemblance to values and actions are gone.

The good news is that we may yet compete again. It won’t be easy and it starts with stopping the BS and getting real. Kind of like the strategy of a certain cyclist who tainted his 100% pure brand. New Zealand’s solution follows a similar logic too.

1. Confess: “Sorry I lied – we are not clean and pure”
2. Find another brand that is clear, compelling and correct, while we set about doing what any good software company would do in this situation: fix the bugs. The bugs that soiled our pure image in the first place. Fix our waterways, reduce per capita greenhouse omissions and stop cyanide poisoning our bush and end deep sea drilling contracts off our not so 100% pure coastline is a good start.
3. Beg for forgiveness, acknowledge that pulling out of Doha showed flawed judgment, and show contrition.

If we start now this will take around 8 years. Then we may yet be able to compete under the 100% Pure NZ brand again. It’s not ideal. But alternative is far worse.


Daniel Batten is a consultant on authentic messaging and marketing. He is former-CEO of Biomatters, and is the principal of the consulting firm Beyond The Ceiling.


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