New Zealand as a global emotion —

6.45am. London’s daily commuters pour underground in the grey half-light, snatching brief glimpses of news stand headlines wearily reporting Iraq's political quagmire or the looming threat of a global bird flu epidemic.

In large cities the world over, the settings may differ but the conditioning and the constant pressures are uncomfortably familiar. A mildly fearful but resigned ambivalence to horrific events. Urbanites hooked on the excitement of the race, yet yearning for some relief from anxiety and more breathing room for self-expression. 

In the midst of the morning bustle and in stark contrast to the gloomy news stands, a large billboard portrays a faraway place of extreme natural beauty and freedom. An almost mythical Shangri-La. New Zealand. 100% Pure.

As a global emotion, New Zealand has never been in a better position to capitalise on the urban anxieties felt in the big cities. As the world gets faster and more crowded, we offer a natural and unique counterpoint in this region with few rivals. Regrettably, as people of New Zealand, our short-term view of our country and culture often fails to act on this significant opportunity. We seem at times to be ambivalent about ourselves, without a clear united story about our identity and a far-reaching voice into the future.

When positioning New Zealand and its products and services to overseas markets, we must consider our point of difference and capture this New Zealand emotion in all that we do. Intensifying our spirit in our exports and offshore businesses is the only way we can protect and sustain our privileged way of life.

In the postwar era, the French very successfully exported the romance of their culture through the medium of their products, tourist experiences, and their local way of life. They continue to maintain the strength and clarity of their cultural voice in today’s modern world. What are the ingredients of their success?

A strong sense of national identity, an undying belief and faith in themselves, and a special and fierce regional pride in uniting the sum of many colourful parts is the basis that continues to make the French such a rich cultural nation. For well over 50 years they have exploited a romantic notion which has provided a significant "psychic" premium for their economy.

As New Zealanders, we must learn from strong cultural self-promoters such as the French who have managed to maintain their strong culture and voice amidst a noisy, crowded world of choice. Because we are a young new-world country, we have to work that much harder to communicate our point of difference.

Rather than adopting all things new and becoming a derivative of American culture and other strong influences at a loss of our own difference, or resorting to tokenist Maori and Pacific Island stories and artifacts of the past without reference to today, we must continue to promote our distinct qualities through positive emotive representation in a modern context. 

We need to package the unique richness of our spirit, values, and the stories of our people and landscapes in everything we do and say off-shore, as well as in our local experience.

This way, we will continue to maintain and collectively grow our strong culture and obtain the premiums for our goods and services that they deserve. Now, more than ever, we must recognise and celebrate our multicultural society, bask in the layers of our past stories and bloodlines and stand together in unity as New Zealanders and shout it at the world. The unique intellectual property we have here, when we harness the emotive spirit of New Zealand in our brands, provides us with real competitive advantage and long lasting results. One of Brian R Richards’ client brands ‘Icebreaker’ provides a current example of the powerful emotive pull that New Zealand has on the rest of the world when correctly delivered.

The Icebreaker range of lifestyle apparel has succeeded in creating a significant following worldwide and has provided significant return and growth in a short time. Strongly nationalistic, the Icebreaker brand romances the high-country region of New Zealand and the story of the Merino sheep, the regions people and their kinship with nature. The company has integrity in respect of its use of natural Merino wool fibres and sustainable principles. As a result, the Icebreaker brand has struck a strong chord with a worldwide contemporary audience and successfully captured New Zealand as a global emotion.