Tourism and Pure NZ puffery
This first appeared in an Australian business mag that has since gone under before paying me. I do hope the appearence of this limp puff piece and the demise of the rag are not linked.
I have two or three gold stories, of getting in a fight, appearing in a dating show(!) and perhaps the tale of the music video-making, to be posted later this week, so do excuse my using this as a recycling bin.
The Australian government have just released the Tourism White Paper that allocates $235 million to market ‘Brand Australia’ internationally over the next four years. Australia’s trans-Tasman occasional adversary New Zealand has had such an over-arching approach in place since 1999 under the auspices of Tourism New Zealand; their approach and results are of especial interest.
Before George Hickton was appointed CEO for Tourism New Zealand in 1999 he had worked as a manager in a number of Government Departments, and, immediately prior, as Chief Executive of the TAB, New Zealand’s betting agency. Which was appropriate, as in one of his first moves with the Board he put all of their chips on just one project.
Before the introduction of the 100% Pure NZ campaign five years ago Tourism New Zealand had funded many different campaigns in many different markets. Each campaign was devised and administered in conjunction with an agency based within the Country targeted. Although this allowed for a great level of specificity, it also led to excessive duplication of costs and a severely fractured message. It quickly became apparent that this sending of mixed-messages could not be sustained in an age of increasing globalisation and utilisation of the Internet as a marketing tool.
So taking into account these twin international trends the need was identified for a campaign that could span markets around the world and provide a unique internet presence; or, as George Hickton concisely says “a consistent positioning campaign.”
Now all creative work is done in New Zealand through M&C Saatchi on the basis of exhaustive market research, both of those who have visited or intend to, and of the wider public in their many target markets.
This attempt to cut down the clutter led the Board to a single, unifying idea – 100% Pure NZ. The decision was made not to market the culture of the cities because the research clearly identified that visitors came for the landscapes. The customer research continually turned up the same themes; scenery, environment, authenticity, purity. The choice was simple - people felt that their greatest experience – the feeling they were left with - was the purity of the landscape, and so a campaign was devised around this theme.
To add to the universality of the campaign it has been, and is now, primarily image driven, with landscapes playing a much larger role than activities. In certain markets, those that respond well, elements of Maori culture are stressed. Maori culture features to a larger or lesser extent in all campaigns as it is so vital to the experience, essence and perception of the country. Purity and authenticity are closely related concepts.
New Zealand was recently provided with an unparalleled opportunity to increase its international profile as a tourist destination on the back of the success of the Lord of the Rings Trilogy. The films were shot in the Country, with the scenery playing a significant supporting role. Interest generated by the films was such that a guidebook to locations used in the film, written by Wanaka author Ian Brodie, has sold over 200,000 copies worldwide. While Air New Zealand, the national carrier, was quick to brand itself as the ‘Official Air-Line to Middle Earth’ the Tourism board saw it as a chance to turn the increased profile into increased recognition of the Pure NZ brand. George Hickton explains, “with something like LOTR it may raise our profile, but the role of the tourism board is to capitalise upon it. So in a time of heightened awareness we have to push our core messages harder.”
The relationship between the Pure NZ campaign and the National carrier is important. Air New Zealand is the natural partner in many things, but, as in the case of the divergence over branding in the case of the Film Trilogy, it is vital that the two retain differences. To this end Pure NZ and Air New Zealand share strategy and ensure that their separate advertising schedules, where possible, complement each other. The overriding focus for Pure NZ is to keep promotions as simple as possible so all players in the tourism industry can rally behind the banner. Throwing their lot in too heavily with one group, even such a significant one, would alienate other parties and undermine the efforts to have an all-encompassing brand associated with the country.
In order to maintain a single-vision rallying-standard approach the Pure NZ campaign is entirely Government funded, a project of Tourism New Zealand. The organisation, set up in 1901, is the oldest state-funded board in the world. CEO George Hickton believes that it is crucial for the industry’s success that such a body is operating. “The tourism industry is different to any other. If you do not position your country appropriately you will simply be advertised as an airplane destination and a hotel room.” Without an overall branding in place he believes you miss the opportunity to attract tourists as “people do not come for these reasons, they come here to see our landscape and our environment.”
Which comes back to that central theme identified by extensive research – it is the natural beauty, the environment that brings people to New Zealand. Even when faced with the international downturn in international travel following September 11 2001 the importance of keeping the message clear and simple was not compromised. No moves were made toward touting New Zealand’s isolation, stability and relative safety. Hickton made that choice and firmly states that it was the right decision. “The campaign was appropriate and we needed to stay focused. As a result, in the end, we recovered better than most other regions.”
Tourism New Zealand are very happy with the results of the approach. The official tourist information websites are attracting ever-growing numbers of visitors, exceeding the stringent targets set down as conditions of budget provision. They believe that the current campaign, already five years advanced, has a further three to five years to run before significant changes have to be introduced. It is assessed continuously, always being refined and refreshed, but George Hickton and the Board are determined not to mess with success. “What normally happens is that marketers get sick of a campaign before the customer. All the people we work with offshore say ‘just don’t change this’ – people understand it now and associate it with New Zealand.”