Thursday, August 11, 2022

Opportunity for NZ as Aus world view softens

New appreciation across the Tasman for NZ’s embrace of its Māori culture, survey finds.
NZ Story chief executive David Downs welcomes Australians’ newfound acceptance of indigenous values and its respect for NZ’s identification with Māori culture. Photo: NZ Story

Aussie consumers have started to reveal a softer side to the usual “win at all costs” psyche – and New Zealand exporters  have opportunities to make the most of that.

Research commissioned by NZ Story found that since 2015 consumers in NZ’s second-largest export market have begun to see themselves as thinking more about what is best for their life balance, chasing less of a material existence and being less intolerant. 

They are also aligning themselves more closely with NZ’s more socialist approach to community and the economy, putting the once vaunted free-for-all United States economy on the back burner as something to aspire to. 

“Between 2015 to 2022 saw a change in narrative. There has probably never been a better time to tell our story to the Australians,” Alex Jones, managing director of research company One Picture, said.

The survey was part of NZ Story’s regular qualitative market assessment, for which it interviews consumers and businesses across the Tasman to gauge sentiment about themselves and towards their NZ cousins.

Underscoring the change, the usual Aussie traits of resilience and friendliness remain, alongside a recognition that Australia is still the lucky country, albeit one that is under more pressure than seven years ago.

For their part, Aussie consumers increasingly see NZ as a country they can learn from.

“We used to be a little cousin but are now starting to grow up more and they see us doing things differently, making them rethink,” said Jones.

Nowhere does this apply more than in NZ’s embrace of Te Reo and Māori culture as part of the country’s identity, reflecting a shift in Australia’s own appreciation of its native culture.

“That perception is really changing. In Anthony Albanese’s first press conference as PM the aboriginal flag was also in the background,” NZTE Sydney manager Gabrielle Purhas said.

But Jones urged NZ exporters to borrow something that still remains firmly embedded in the Australian consciousness, namely the brash confidence to put themselves out there and leverage this newfound aspiration in dealings with NZ.

“If we talk more about our success, then a lot of these shadows will dissipate,” he said.

These include a sense that NZ is somewhat boring, too reserved and too small.

The appreciation of NZ’s values carries through at a business level but comes with some practical caveats that exporters need to work harder on to make the most of an increasingly receptive market.

Read: Farming to maramataka, the Māori calendar

Kiwi exporters tend to take a “one container” approach to exporting, often neglecting in-market support. They risk being seen as order takers, not market developers. 

Also, this country’s artisan-craft image plays well with consumers but is less effective when it comes to playing in large outlets demanding greater scale.

“We are however regarded as hungry for success and more likely to give things a go, with less resources,” said Jones. 

Kiwis also receive the same level of trust from Australians as their Australian counterparts.

A downside that exporters don’t have as much control over is the costly stretch of Tasman Sea that can be more expensive to get goods across than if they were coming from China.

Kiwis have also tended to underplay the investment they need to make into the Australian market. 

“Talking to some of the business-to-business experts in the investment space, time and time again NZ businesses were often asking for too little when it came to expanding into the Australian market. Asking for $1.0 million, instead of $10m to do it properly,” Jones said.

NZ Story chief executive David Downs welcomed closer ties between the two countries, and said he firmly believes NZ’s use of Māori culture and language can be built on even further in telling our story to the Australians, and beyond.

“There is also a real desire from Australians to see authenticity because they are close to us. They do understand that authenticity can be a bit of a challenge so it is as visible in the Australian market as it is here.”

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