Monday, 4 June 2007

New Zealand Visibility in the USA

One of the reasons Scandinavian countries have been much more successful economically than New Zealand is their creation of great global brands. Nokia. Volvo. Ikea. Absolut. Saab. Ericsson. Abba. Lego. Bang & Olufsen. These countries have many parallels to New Zealand in terms of population size and distance to market, yet they could be described as idea-driven countries. New Zealand has shown many ways in which it can be world-changing, but this seems an individualistic occurrence rather than a result of any national determination or encouragement. "Winning the World from the Edge" is not yet tattooed on our foreheads.

Domestically, we are principally lifestyle-seekers, content rather than competitive (except for sport, where we are glorious.) With inspirational leadership by individuals and institutions, we can break out of this mental rut. Many are doing it; many more are needed. I was driving through New Jersey on US Memorial Day a week ago and spotted this Fisher & Paykel distribution center. “Yoh,” I thought, “more of this please!” New Zealand touchpoints are steadily emergent in the USA. At a birthday party tonight at the Russian Tea Room on 57th St the sommelier had an intimate knowledge of New Zealand wine, and his dream vacation is mapped around the vineyards of Central Otago and Malborough. My local liquor store, Kesslers on 28 St, has a very well presented Whitehaven Pinot Noir. All the wine stores in Manhattan have good to excellent nz wine (though not yet the signage, we're usually slotted unmarked somewhere between Chile, South Africa and Australia).

Food & Beverage is a big way to go. Two weeks ago 42 Below won the top print award at the US Clios for a Saatchi & Saatchi New York-created campaign (NYNZ at work again). Public, the Gordon/Hansen/ Farmerie creation on Grand St is the best public face for New Zealand food and wine you could hope for. Nelson Blue is a gastro-pub just opened in lower Manhattan at the Seaport. Down Under Bakery Pies, Brooklyn, is what it says. Josh Emmett is the Chef de Cuisine at Gordon Ramsay's London on 54th St. On the West Coast, at Costa Mesa, Noel Turner welcomes Californians to his acclaimed Turner New Zealand restaurant. A decade ago in San Francisco I invited a team of journalists who had been covering the State of the World Forum to The Moa Room, a beautiful restaurant run by a chef from Gisborne Jan Gardner.

Design-led companies (as per the Scandinavian way) have strong opportunities in the USA, as Bendon, Icebreaker, Karen Walker, Trelise Cooper and many are showing in Fashion & Apparel. Rebecca Taylor, Wellington/NY fashion designer-come international star, has her store in Mott St in lower Manhattan's Nolita. Phil&Ted's sports buggies and baby transporters are about the city. Architect and long–time NYNZer David Howell featured on the front page of Sunday's New York Times' avidly-read real estate section. Smart digital/web/search/mobile companies like Hyperfactory (with six international locations) and FirstLightERA have operations in New York. Film is an obvious but that's another discussion.

Export is the only economic imperative we have. New Zealand companies of every shape and size need to ask the question: "how can I fill the world?" As both a push and a pull strategy, New Zealand desperately needs street presence in global markets; touchpoints; first moments of truth; pop-up stores; retail stores; cafes and restaurants; exhibitions and trade shows; "out of home" advertising; a stream of it. Even a billboard at LAX would be a start. I started my career in 1980 as a showbusiness entrepreneur - seven years of producing, selling and popularizing NZ, Australian and international artists who mostly no-one had previously experienced or heard of. Street visibility was everything - and in America, the only nation of scale that is culturally simpatico in many ways with New Zealand - we have a cloak of invisibility. Profile that we have is serendipitous, random, sporadic and/or accidental.

Basically put, there is no above-the-line marketing of New Zealand in America at all. Some 100%Pure activity, but like a dress on a rack, just one of a gazillion ads. We need much more volume. The billboards at LAX (and SF and JFK) are no joking matter, if only as a two-thumbs-up to nz exporters heading into vastness of America to sell. Most people travelling through airports are influencers in some way or other. Market visibility starts at airports, and it's a case of fanning out from there.

If the Minister of Finance is concerned about the inflationary pressures of spending too much of the Government surplus domestically, then there is no better place to spend it than overseas. This is Export Year/Decade, and in-market, on-the-street visibility is essential for building the vibe/ perception/ preference/ attractors for New Zealand in meta, macro and micro ways. It's basic business technique to promote, and New Zealand is incredibly underpromoted in a rational, methodical brand marketing way. It's more than a question of funding, it's one of basic economic development.

The Labour Government did absolutely the right thing when it first came into office by raising arts funding, which had been perennially starved at less than $10 mil a year, to about $70 mil, and we are a more creative country for this. The same magic wand needs to apply to our export marketing effort. Trade & Enterprise's Better By Design program is an excellent example of the programs that exist; I'm talking about the programs that don't yet exist. An integrated and backed-up US$50 mil spent advertising New Zealand in the world's business and consumer media would deliver a billion dollar return. 4 points to finish:

1. I heard an idea in May to do a reality-TV program on export, which I said was terrific and should be made. Call it "Extreme Export." Close-up on the language, adventure and cursing that occurs when negotiating international situations. Education is a critical factor in building an export culture, and seeing how it's done in-yer-face is essential for getting follow-on.

2. There needs to be a meeting about NZ international brand marketing, or a bunch of video stories from exporters who are cutting/working/linking their NZ/world relationships. Knowing the language, seeing the tactics, the interrogation of the detail, the micro-management of these situations, could direct a generation whose only fix on export is leaving the country. The TED/7X7 format would be ideal, Ben Kepes from Waipara wrote me about invoking these formats in order to get stories/actions flowing. I didn't know what to answer him at the time, but I do now: the theme is "Extreme Export" - stories about achievements/ideas about selling nz-created stuff globally. You could mix the wisdom of some of the former DairyBoard's legendary traders with the chutzpah of BroTown's Elizabeth Mitchell. And so on. Call the meet/series Swarm.

3. NZ's greatest export is its people, and our relationship with our overseas multitude is at best embryonic. Victoria University did a great thing last week or so, and awarded an Honorary Doctorate to Wade Thompson, founder of Thor Industries, a VUW graduate who created the world's largest recreation vehicle and the largest manufacturer of mid-sized buses in the US (85 models). The Jackson Ohio company has 9,000 employees in 29 plants in North America and sales of US$3 billion+. Thor grew principally through acquisition, including the iconic Airstream which is now in the Museum of Modern Art's design section. There is a great story/myth heard 14th hand about a breakthrough Airstream achieved; during a delayed launch of a critical NASA space flight from Cape Canaveral the camera and commentators needed something to talk about, and their attention wandered to a beautiful caravan in the edge of the picture, and they waxed about its shape and classic lines and utility...and thus America experienced a new idea. Sometimes luck is on your side. Cheers Wade Thompson.

4. New Zealand Export can mean many things today, and we should explore and celebrate every one of them. In toto, to me it means connectedness and international value-creation wherever New Zealanders are, home and away. In indigenous nz showbiz in the 1980s the phrase "internationally-acclaimed" was a sure-fire winner, and in 2007 we should be acclaiming our international salespeople and dealmakers. Banish murder, drunkenness and other lousy behaviors from our front pages (start a "Page 13" for all the nasty stuff) and tag-along with the extreme exporters for inspirational stories. Purpose follows passion.

All from one drive-by photo. Thanks Fisher & Paykel. I have several of your appliances, the short-cycle dishwasher at Raumati being the best.

68 degrees in NYC and a 40% chance of rain tomorrow.


Anonymous said...

Brian - thanks for the mention and all good stuff but now the challenge lies in the execution. I'm still keen to further the concepts we talked about as are many around me. How 'bout it?

Dean Jagusch said...


I'm now in my ninth year here in the US I have realized more and more what a large role being a Kiwi plays in my day to day approach to life and business. A lot of the comments and comparisons you draw are similar to feelings I have had throughout my life here.

Comparing NZ to the successful export Scandinavian countries is a different approach than the way I have viewed our role as an export nation. The major difference I see is that Kiwis are really a bunch of individual entrepreneurs. Thus far the majority of New Zealand companies that have been successful here have taken the plunge and blazed the pioneer trail as opposed to the companies that you specifically mentioned. All of these brands have created a global culture that harkens back to their clean, green, fresh, friendly (I could go on….) roots. This is certainly a huge market that NZ could stand to be well positioned in.

As an individual here in the East Coast/Mid-Atlantic business market I am well aware that my “new zealandish” helps me out in many ways that could easily be mimicked by any New Zealand exporter wanting to enter the USA market. You hit the nail on the head though, unless the street visibility is there to tweak and maintain the interest and create the NZ brand we will forever be haphazard and accidental in our exposure here.

I am extremely eager to see what kind of results will be achieved as we work into this Decade of Export. It would be great as a Kiwi in the US to see my country build an export foot hold and create a powerful market share.

I will follow this with keen interest.

Keep up your great work with NZ Edge,

Ka kite,

Dean Jagusch

Project Manager/Estimator

Jason Kemp said...

Hi Brian,

Here are a couple of ideas for NZEdge and ways that contant could be used offline for study etc.

Perhaps some content could be republished on CD or DVD. This works well for TED content where there is some great video content.

TED promotes limited reuse of their content for schools and other uses see What You can do.

For example here are 3 of the ideas they suggest.

3. Host a TED session at work. Some of the talks on this site might be of interest to your colleagues. Try hosting a TED talk for 30 minutes during a lunch break. It's easy.
- Invite some colleagues
- Show one talk that might inspire out-of-the-box thinking
- Follow it with a conversation

4. Host a TED salon at home. This might be a great way to connect with friends and neighbors.
- Invite half a dozen people around for an evening
- Plan a series of three talks from a theme that interests you
- Curate the conversation that follows, to encourage genuine discussion as opposed to insistent opinion

5. If you're a teacher, consider incorporating TEDTalks into your classes. They are distributed under a Creative Commons license, and are freely available for such use, so long as you credit the source and do not distort the speakers' intended meaning.