Branding countries is just as important as branding consumer products. Interbrand, the world's largest brand consultancy, values the brand Coca Cola at US$78 billion, Apple US$77 billion, Google US$70 billion, Microsoft at US$58 billion.
The list goes on and on.
Interbrand does not value countries, but it is safe to assume, if it did, the per capita value of the stand-alone brand name New Zealand would figure high on that list. It follows a country's sub-brands can be positioned to carry brand value. The popular tourist destination, Maui, with a population of 150,000 and an estimated 2.5 million tourists every year, is a very valuable island sub-brand for Hawaii.
A similar situation applies to the world famous stand-alone "Proper Name" Bali as it relates to Indonesia. Conversely, New Zealand's two island "sub-brands", known as compass point descriptions, have zilch stand-alone brand value.
Before, and during the recent process of public consultation "to Assign Alternative Official Geographic Names" for the North and South Islands, Te Ika-a-Maui for the North Island and Te Waipounamu for the South Island, there has been no discussion about the reasons why we should assign alternative brand names in the first place.
No one in our Government has explained the advantages or otherwise of alternative branding. Or indeed why we should continue to call our islands after compass points. No one has talked about the importance of maximising the dollar value of the brand New Zealand concomitantly with its sub-brands "North Island" and "South Island". No one has talked about brand name awareness, appeal, memorability and promotability and how stand-alone brand names supporting different images can help influence the quantum and value of international tourism export income.
No one has explained the advantages of positioning our two islands, via "Proper Names", as separate competitive international tourist destinations. No one has analysed the relevance of a brand's image on prospective inbound international tourists and how that can influence length of stay and whether or not to visit one island module then the other at a later date. No one has talked about how we could possibly double our income from international tourism and how that could benefit the health and wealth of all New Zealanders. No one has talked about duplicating the brand "Maui", which belongs to another country, and possibly using it as an alternative name for the North Island. And last but not least, no one in our Government has explained why our island "sub-brands", identified as compass point descriptions, have no brand value.
With New Zealand desperate for more international tourism dollars it is difficult to understand why the Government, via Land Information New Zealand, the New Zealand Geographic Board, the Ministry of Culture and Heritage or some other department did not commission and publish independent qualitative research so that everyone could have a greater understanding of the branding process and could make more informed decisions.
It also seems off-course that the Government has been calling for public submissions about alternative brand name preference for the North and South Islands when everyone knows the public is not the market. The market is international tourists who fork out $9.6 billion a year to keep us afloat, as well as all those professionals who are responsible for the marketing, branding, advertising and selling of our beautiful country. Those are the people and organisations who should be consulted. Those are the people and organisations who are directly involved and support a more educated and productive branding opinion.
If the Government had approached the "New Zealand/Aotearoa" branding concept more holistically and researched the actual target market in depth, there is little doubt the results would have confirmed that alternative names confuse, complicate and devalue brands.
The research would have explained only "Proper Names" carry brand value and would have recommended we dump the no-value compass point descriptions for our islands as well as end the Government's use of the informal, unofficial, unassigned name "Aotearoa", which was one of the early names for the North Island.
This would position the Government to proceed with a more professional methodology to select and introduce new stand-alone, memorable, easy to promote, value added, competitive "Proper Names" for our two islands.
One stand-alone name for the country and one new stand-alone Officially Assigned Geographic "Proper Name" for each of our islands. An uncomplicated, common sense, inclusive and productive branding strategy for New Zealand which sadly seems beyond the capabilities of our members of Parliament, the Prime Minister, various government departments and our political system.
How would the Prime Minister like it if he was lumbered with an alternative name? It could be John Key and say Joe Smith? And according to the New Zealand Geographic Board Amendment Bill 2011 he could exacerbate the communication confusion by using his alternative names "either separately or together in official documents".
The Government needs to start again.
Gavin de Malmanche is a retired advertising director. While living in Australia he was responsible for the NZ Tourist and Publicity advertising account.