Brian Rudman is a NZ Herald feature writer and columnist.

Brian Rudman: What Auckland doesn't need - a brand-new brand

Now we're in for another round of rebranding. Illustration / Peter Bromhead
Now we're in for another round of rebranding. Illustration / Peter Bromhead

In the jungle, the dominant male asserts his dominance, by peeing and rubbing his backside on a tree trunks at the outer fringes of his domain. In Auckland, our political masters assert their authority by calling for a new brand.

New Mayor Phil Goff, is already mocking his predecessor's "the world's most liveable city," saying he wants to stamp his own mark on the city.

But former Mayor Len Brown might have the last laugh.

Over the past two years, Auckland Council's marketing and promotion arm, Ateed, has spent $527,000 (that's as of June 31, 2016) on Global Auckland, a major rebranding project.

All the usual suspects have been involved, such as advertising agency Colenso and brand gurus, DNA, plus a Noah's Ark of advisors including Ngarimu Blair from Ngati Whatua;

Heather Shotter, Committee for Auckland; Dr Sudhvir Singh, Generation Zero; Michael Barnett, Chamber of Commerce; Viv Beck, Heart of the City and Jane Hastings, former CEO of Herald owner, NZME.

Ateed's statement of intent claims that "every great city has a great global brand and positioning".

We're told they'll be unveiling the new brand to mayor and councillors any day now, but do give a broad hint in their statement of intent, revealing that the new brand "capitalises on Auckland's Maori identity as a point of difference in the world".

Now if I were Rotorua's mayor, I'd be a little miffed. The giant metropolis to the north, trying to filch the identity the little tourist town has very successfully built for itself over the last century or more. Still, if recent history is anything to go by, the Rotoruians shouldn't worry too much.

When it comes to branding and slogans and the like, we Aucklanders pick them up and discard them as quickly as our plastic shopping bags.

You only have to ask Michael Barnett, who is on the expert panel hatching the latest plan.

He's an old hand at it. Back in 2008, as leader of something called the Metro Project, he unveiled a big fat, "lava" coloured letter A. He disliked the old "City of Sails" branding and said the Big orange A brand "will establish Auckland's reputation as a destination to visit, work, invest, study and do business".

The idea that a perfect brand, will magically make citizens feel great, and suck tourists and businessmen down to this remote corner of the world, to shower us with their hard earned dollars, seems rather silly.

The exercise cost ratepayers and taxpayers $174,147 and did none of the above, failing to catch on.

It wasn't the first attempt at branding. The current mania kicked off in 1982, when an advertising agency persuaded the old Auckland City Council to add the slogan "Auckland City Council, Caring for Your City" to its 70-year-old coat of arms. Three years later, this was changed to the more warm and fuzzy, "Auckland City, Caring for You."

In 1989, after the isthmus councils were merged into one, a public contest came up with the slogan "City of Sails" complete with a logo of two triangular sails against a Rangitoto profile. Ten years later, under Mayor Christine Fletcher, the slogan was changed to "First City of the Pacific."

In 2002, the new John Banks-led council was presented with a $3 million rebranding proposal by bureaucrats. They wanted to restore the old "City of Sails" slogan.

Banks said he didn't want to waste ratepayers money on "silly slogans." The end result was all slogans were dropped, but the old sails logo was retained.

In 2007, on the eve of the royal commission into the restructuring of Auckland's local government, bureaucrats at both the regional and city councils, independently decided to spend more than a $1 million redesigning the logos of both the, soon to be abolished, entities.

Embarrassingly for Auckland City, its expensive new logo turned out to be a near facsimile of local Triangle TV's badge.

In early 2010, a public contest for a logo for the new Super City came up with a stylised pohutukawa flower. There were red faces all round when the "unique" new symbol turned out to be very similarlar to the badges worn by the old regional council rangers!

Now we're in for another round of rebranding.

I confess I'm with John Banks on this one. The idea that a perfect brand, will magically make citizens feel great, and suck tourists and businessmen down to this remote corner of the world, to shower us with their hard earned dollars, seems rather silly.

- NZ Herald

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Brian Rudman is a NZ Herald feature writer and columnist.

Brian Rudman's first news story was for Auckland University student paper Outspoke, exposing an SIS spy on campus during the heady days of the Vietnam War. It resulted in a Commission of Inquiry and an award for student journalist of the year. A stint editing the Labour Party's start-up Auckland newspaper NZ Statesman followed. Rudman decided journalism was the career for him, but the NZ Herald and Auckland Star thought otherwise when he came job-hunting. After a year on the "hippy trail" overland to London, he spent four years on Fleet St with various British provincial papers. He then joined the Auckland Star, winning the Dulux Journalist of the Year award for coverage of the 1976 Dawn Raids against Polynesian overstayers. He has also worked on the NZ Listener, Auckland Sun, and since 1996, for the NZ Herald as feature writer and columnist. He has a BA in History and Politics.

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