Are we black?

Emma and I went along to listen to Simon and Marie-Claire’s WONDERFUL seminar on branding. At one point things got contentious as we learned that 40% of ALL purchase decisions are made on country of origin.

We started talking about brand New Zealand… Which is generally agreed to be sub-par compared to what we COULD do and is starting to be discussed widely by branding people in NZ. Our national ‘brand’ currently focuses around:

“Clean and green”.

I am STRONGLY opposed to this. We were ok while no one in the world paid attention to what it actually takes to be clean and green, but now people are sitting up and taking notice, it takes about 5 minutes to realise the only possible way we manage to stay clean and green is because there are NO PEOPLE here.

Branding, as Simone so clearly put it, is about honesty, about understanding what you fundamentally are. And while we love to live in a country of wide open spaces and stunning scenery, we, as people, are not clean and green. The fact we promote ourselves as being so is something that WILL come back to bite us and in a very painful way.


We are. We’ve always been Britain’s testing ground for new ideas. We were the first to give women the vote, we were one of the leaders in getting rid of smoking in indoor areas, we basically make and sail every boat in the America’s Cup, we climbed Mt Everest first, we can do just about anything with a bit of number 8 wire.

But our major, major industries still export huge amounts of raw materials like wood and meat without doing ANYTHING to them. We let other countries take our stuff and brand it THEIR way. This is not innovative, this is a very old NZ philosophy of treating ourselves as Britain’s farm.

Strong, independent and proud

I’m not sure if this came up yesterday, but I think it is a key part of our brand. We are a tiny country that no one has really heard of. If your country wanted to invade us, they could and we would kind of just have to take it. But WE don’t view ourselves like that.

We said NO to nuclear and forbid US nuclear ships for entering our waters. Despite the fact this took diplomacy back numerous years, we stuck to our guns because we believed int he cause.

We said NO to whaling and put more pressure on Japan every year than any other country.

When we were the first to get a free trade agreement with China, the biggest backlash was because we know our brand so well, we know that free trade with a country that is openly occupying another country is not something that we should support.

We firmly, as a country, believe in equality. We may not be perfect but I’d say as far as race relations and gender equality go, we lead the pack.

But are we black?

Black is our national colour. From the almost magical spectical of the All Blacks roaring out the Haka, to the way most Wellingtonians dress, we embrace black with a passion.

Some people think black flies in the face of our brand. We are not black, we’re green and blue and bright and fresh and new and independent. We’re not corporate.

I think black IS who we are. We are innovative but simple, we are small but powerful, we are fun but serious. You may have never heard of us, but when you witness a blackwash, you will sit back in awe.

Which is funny because colours and graphics should come last but somehow we seem to have managed to stumble on the best colour for us before we could quite agree on what ‘us’ is… But brands are constantly evolving aren’t they?

3 thoughts on “Are we black?”

  1. Hmmm – are we even Black?

    I guess I am old enough to remember what life was like before Adidas, Nike etc started making replica sports jerseys. Back then the key reason why people supported black was because there were no colour TV’s and black seemed as good a colour as any other.

    I think we are still a country in its infancy and like a child it is difficult to say what our personality will be and therefore what we stand for. This national fervour of supporting black, the haka etc is a recent thing. It was not that long ago that we would see rugby players treating the haka almost as a little dance – I am quick to point out that it makes my skin crawl thinking back about it.

    Kevin Roberts sees us as an intriguing mix of passion, easy-going comradeship and intense loyalty, spiced with guts and creative eccentricity.

    Can we some this up with a colour?

  2. Black is a combination of all colours (I think, I’m not an artiste I’m afraid). So too are New Zealanders a combination of all peoples (or as many as have sought to immigrate here.

    Silver on black is our palette. An interesting perspective showing that we have high values, and are not afraid of breaking treditional norms (white on black, or even black on white – too tradition bound).

    I’d like to see a fernleaf, charactured as from silver #8 wire, on a black background as our country’s emblem and our national brand logo. I think it would stand out from the pack, just as we, as a country do, in all our endevours.

    Go well, you have made a great start.

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