The Prime Minister's 'virtuous' brand is being trashed but at the Australia New Zealand Leadership forum dinner on Thursday her international star power was on display as business people lined up for selfies.
Many, many selfies which – like one of her predecessors John Key – she happily posed for and later indulged in the usual trans Tasman sledging over sport as well as making some serious points.
Ardern wasn't present during yesterday's forum.
But her ears would have been burning (happily) as tributes were paid to her personality – "warm, unaffected but very focused."
"A true leader and seen as that" said one well-placed Australian keynote speaker who spoke under the Chatham House rule. "When Christchurch happened for Australians looking across at that it was quite remarkable the leadership of the Prime Minister together with the Muslim community.
"It reminded me of Bob Hawke – combining with business, labour and civil society to advance the nation."
Ardern's international cachet remains high – as will become clear when we reveal the Herald's 2019 Mood of the Boardroom CEO survey on Tuesday September 24.
But within New Zealand it is now a more complex matter in the wake of the Labour Party's and her own office's mishandling of allegations of sexual assault by one of Labour's staff against young party volunteers.
That Ardern was able to perform in such a light-hearted fashion on Thursday, after such a rugged week which saw both Labour Party president Nigel Haworth and the staffer in question resign, is a sign of her staying power.
But looking from the outside in it all looks rather like the usual hive politics.
The kind where the bees must at all costs protect their Queen when danger threatens. Rather than take a principled approach to employment issues.
This is cynical. But it makes sense as Ardern is Labour's greatest asset.
It was her ascension to the leadership of the Labour Party which made the party a contender at the 2017 election.
Her brand has also worked to help the Labour Party maintain rankings in political opinion polls. But if her brand becomes permanently diminished that will impact on Labour's ability to garner votes at next year's election.
Particularly, given the Government's failure to execute competently in some key areas like housing people.
It may not be well known but Ardern's brand has been measured.
Brand Alpha which tracks the authenticity of brands right across the Asia Pacific region did something different and included Ardern in their research this year.
Ardern's brand was measured one week after the Christchurch massacre.
"If one accepts the premise that the PM is a brand, Ardern performs consistently strongly across all NZ generations. Kiwis, from centennials through to Pre-WW2's, considered her a 'top five brand'. It is worth bearing in mind that because the study was fielded shortly after the Christchurch tragedy, her rankings were likely inflated above the normal levels. It's still worth exploring how Kiwis responded to Ardern as a brand," said Principals.
Brand Alpha asks consumers to rank brands based on four key pillars: virtue, vitality, visibility and value.
Principals, which undertakes the research, says it is Ardern's performance on Virtue and Vitality dimensions that explain her transcendent appeal.
"Whether one agrees or disagrees with her political views, she is seen as a refreshingly straightforward and sincere communicator with a warm, open and honest style that breaks with the public's expectations of politicians who drone, deflect and hide their true selves".
Intriguingly, it is Boomers and pre world war two cohorts who were Ardern's greatest fans on this survey.
Her vulnerability comes from time-pressured and financially-squeezed Gen Xers (35-to-54-year olds) who are her toughest audience. "Gen X is the least optimistic generation when asked about their futures and feel less practically and emotionally supported than all other generations. So they have particular expectations of all politicians. The challenge for Ardern with this generation is in on policy substance, not just style."
And that is where Ardern is vulnerable.
She is seen as a masterful manager of her own message.
But there is now a credibility gap which she will have to bridge ahead of next year's election.