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New Zealand Story: 'Open For Business'

Brand Finance
02 March 2023

New Zealand is ranked twenty-sixth in the Brand Finance Global Soft Power Index 2023. This is a five-position fall in the ranking. As the world, and New Zealand, begins to return to post-pandemic normality, New Zealand's Soft Power score has the potential to bounce back going forward.

Interview with New Zealand Story

David Downs, CEO,
New Zealand Story

New Zealand has reopened after the COVID-19 pandemic. What challenges are you facing after a period of limited ability to engage with your key audiences around the world? What are you doing to put the national brand in front of them and stimulate interest in New Zealand once again? 

Yes, New Zealand has absolutely re-emerged from a period of concentrating on caring for our vulnerable internal population, to a period of reconnecting with the world. In fact, this happened nearly a year ago – which points to the challenge. While the global media are quick to spread a story of a country like New Zealand closing our borders, it has been much harder to get the message out there that we are again ‘open for business’. When New Zealand opened its borders in 2022, we re-welcomed visitors, trade partners, students, and others. It has been delightful to hear accents and phrases from foreign lands again, and we look forward to welcoming more. One unexpected challenge of reopening has been labour shortages in some key industries, meaning that we have not always been able to extend the same welcome (‘manaaki’ in our language) that we would like to. New Zealand Story has been engaged to help with this challenge, and to firstly promote the fact that New Zealand is open, and also that we are a fantastic place to come and work, live, and play. We look forward to seeing even more connections! 

New Zealand Story is among nation brand organisations actively using the data and insight coming from the Global Soft Power Index 2023. How do you leverage the Index findings in particular and perceptions research more broadly in planning and executing your nation brand strategy? 

We find the data from the Global Soft Power Index insightful and key to unlocking another layer of depth in our strategic brand positioning. The sample size ensures a valid set of inputs and the key drivers give us good insight into the levers we need to look to in order to further enhance the brand. For New Zealand, we are lucky to enjoy a strongly positive perception from global audiences, and the insights from the GSPI give us clues as to which attributes we need to further highlight. For example, the GSPI shows us that the world does not perceive New Zealand as having a consistently strong business environment – and yet we are objectively one of the easiest places to do business, least corrupt, most transparent, with strong government and private institutions. That feedback show us it is not enough to be good; you have to demonstrate it, and promote your positives. We feed insights like that into our content and story work. 

Jacinda Ardern was a great ambassador of the New Zealand nation brand. What does her resignation mean to the reputation and influence of New Zealand around the world? 

Absolutely, our recent Prime Minister was a fantastic brand ambassador – empathetic and driven, compassionate and yet strong. I was able to work closely with her, and I saw up close her ability to connect with diverse audiences, and she really personally bought into the concepts of country branding, and genuinely used the values and messages we crafted in her narrative. However, the brand of a country is not the brand of an individual, and we know that, while Prime Minister Ardern was an exemplar, the brand of the country transcends an individual person. Research and feedback shows that the values of the country, the consistency of behaviour and the work of thousands of ‘brand ambassadors’ will have the largest enduring impact over time. New Zealand is lucky in that the people of the country live the values every day, and the stories we can tell of past, present, and future, reinforce the key message: no matter who is in the hot seat, we are a country that cares about people and place. 

About the Author

Brand Finance is the world’s leading independent brand valuation and strategy consultancy. Headquartered in the City of London, we are present in over 20 countries.

For almost 30 years we have helped companies and organisations of all types to connect their brands to the bottom line.