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When people ask me where I am from and I say “New Zealand”, a look of awe comes across their face.  I am proud to promote my country and everything that comes from there and I am not alone.  In a recent survey of over 12,000 expats (by Kea and Colmar Brunton), 98% actively promote New Zealand (NZ) and recommend it as a destination to their overseas networks. The story of the New Zealand brand and their advocates holds lessons for other countries and companies.


The tourism New Zealand campaign of 100% pure has done a lot for the image of New Zealand as a clean, green and adventure filled country.  The Lord of Rings trilogy and the adventure tourism promotions add to this. What may have seemed like a difficult market, being as far away as possible from anywhere, many New Zealand companies are taking this image to their advantage as they launch themselves in international markets.

The story of a premium vodka from NZ


One company that pioneered a number of marketing initiatives (many controversial), was 42Below. Their quirky use of the New Zealand brand helped take their vodka global. At a time when New Zealand wine, fashion and movies were succeeding globally – vodka was not a product that came to mind when people thought of NZ. But Geoff Ross did not let that stop him, as he set out to create the purest vodka in the world – from the purest country in the world.  He understood that branding was what would differentiate his product from the established vodka brands and that the New Zealand brand would help him do that. Often described as “New Zealand in a bottle”, 42Below pitched itself as The premium vodka to the elite cocktail set. And it worked. 42Below became so popular that in 2006 it attracted an $138 million buyout from Bacardi.

World famous outside New Zealand


Kiwis have a saying – “World famous in New Zealand“. Now associated with the L&P advertising campaign (a drink only well known within NZ), the phrase is used to describe individual products and ideas that could be famous, but have only managed to make it big in NZ. A disadvantage of size and distance for NZ has meant that historically this was a common occurrence, but in the connected and networked world of today it no longer has to be that way. Now, you can be world famous outside New Zealand.

The New Zealand Story

In 2012 the New Zealand government commissioned three government agencies to develop “The New Zealand Story“.  This initiative was put together to help local companies compete in the global marketplace by providing a consistent New Zealand narrative, a narrative not exclusively tied to a tourism campaign. Presented in three chapters – open spaces, open hearts and open minds, The New Zealand Story provides assets and story kits to help New Zealanders talk about our unique attributes in a consistent and meaningful way.

What more could we do?

We could stop at helping create a consistent brand for New Zealand to take our products globally – but we could also be braver and go further. Recently I discovered a presentation by Derek Handley’s  from 2011. Listening to his Big Idea for how we could come together as a nation and do something that would benefit both New Zealand and the world.  How we could be brave and take a leap as a collective to change our world and at the same time provide a platform for talented kiwis to bring their talents back home. This coming together to contribute to a collective action, whether that be to free us of a dependance on oil or something else entirely, is something I know many New Zealanders across the world crave. This talented pool of individuals with a connection to home, want to contribute and want to be a part of this New Zealand Story.

We all know that it is not just visuals and values that make up brand New Zealand.  It is the pull that comes from being from a place you are proud of.  For 42Below, it was the expats who proudly bought out a bottle of vodka at a dinner party, for Derek’s idea it is bringing together the people who could make a difference towards a common goal. By bringing together this network of connected individuals to share a New Zealand story and spirit, we can impact a change that goes beyond the Pacific and throughout the world.

The easier it is for New Zealanders everywhere to connect with New Zealand and with each other, the more they can act in a purposeful way towards a common goal. You then make it possible to develop more stories like 42 below, or Big Ideas like Derek’s.  You make it possible to become world famous outside New Zealand from within New Zealand.