Monday, March 4, 2024

Exporters urged to go hard on soft power

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NZ Story survey picks up humanity and sustainability as qualities Kiwis are known for.
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While far from being a global powerhouse, New Zealand commands significant world attention with its softer powers of humanity and sustainability, providing grounds for some solid marketing stories.

So says the latest New Zealand Story market pulse consumer survey, conducted across five major markets and 150,000 consumers. 

It highlights NZ’s “soft power” attributes, where consumers see this country acting strongly in sustainability practices and on humanity’s behalf. 

The survey was conducted late last year among consumers in Australia, Singapore, China, the United States and United Kingdom. 

A similar survey among Indian consumers is scheduled for next month.

Survey presenter Joshua Thomas-Goodey pointed to NZ being perceived as a collectivist and progressive country that acts on behalf of the greater good when leadership is called for. Similarly, a connection to and responsibility for nature is also seen as a priority. 

Some of the surprise elements to consumers were that NZ’s space industry ranks the fourth largest in the world and that it has ambitious environmental goals.

“These leave us with a picture in peoples’ minds thinking that we have humanity, a collectivist approach, are creative and kind, values that are kind of lacking in the rest of the world at the moment,” Thomas-Goodey said.

Those strengths were even more embedded when combined with the Māori value of kaitiakitanga, looking after the environment.

“Our existing proposition strongly aligns with consumers’ expectations and perceptions. The opportunity is to improve perceptions of science, technology, innovation and space exploration,” he said.

NZ Story consultant Lucy Alborn said consumers the researchers spoke to were “gobsmacked” when they were shown examples of NZ’s innovation.

“There are some great examples, but we need to get these stories out.”

Underpinning those values is a solid, democratic economy with a diverse population and respected education system.

“We have a good platform to build on with our compassion, humanity, progressiveness and openminded, creative nature but we are lacking evidence about our ingenuity.”

Some perceptions of NZ remain in line with what was gauged in the post-covid 2022 survey. 

That includes being seen as a small remote country that is self-sufficient but also somewhat disconnected from the rest of the world. Natural beauty remains a solid foundation of perceptions, along with a laid-back approach to life and a largely agrarian culture.

NZ Story CEO David Downs said the work highlights the opportunity to take what consumers already know about NZ and extend it to areas they do not know about as much.

“A growth in perception leads to a growth in a willingness to pay,” he said.

He did not see the results as a reason for any shift from NZ’s core focus on food and fibre exports, rather as offering a chance to incorporate the respected values of sustainability in particular even further into the story.

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