By MICHAEL SMYTHE*
We are proud of our country and everything it has achieved. If you, too, are a staunch and true New Zealander, you have the right to wear the Black Heart ... Home is where the heart is, and ours is Black ... This summer we're putting our hearts right behind our boat, New Zealand. Show them your pride, and show the world your Black Heart."
These are extracts from BlackHeart's mission statement on www.blackheart.co.nz. Why do we feel like someone farted in church?
New Zealand is in the midst of a Government-championed economic transformation. We are moving from a commodity-producing price-taker on the back foot to a high-quality, creative price-maker on the front foot.
Team New Zealand and The Lord of the Rings are among the most internationally recognised role models.
One of the tenets of an innovative culture is a tolerance of mistakes. Mistakes are essential points on the learning curve of the knowledge wave. One such point was made last weekend when the bold BlackHeart campaign to support Team New Zealand was launched.
Judging by Susan Devoy's awkward attempt to support it on television, the ambivalence of sports journalists and condemnation in the letters columns of this newspaper, it was a big mistake.
We want to be part of a campaign that supports Team New Zealand but in our heart of hearts we know that the BlackHeart campaign is fatally flawed. The best use we can make of this mistake is to understand why it is not working.
First, it is reactive, not creative. Their hearts are in the right place but the promoters of BlackHeart have allowed negative feelings to drive their (re)actions.
They are fixated on their emotional response to the waka jumpers or, more cynically, they think they can manipulate our reactions.
But as the letters to the editor have shown, we got over the betrayal ages ago.
Our creative response was to recognise the desertion of Russell Coutts, Brad Butterworth and Laurie Davidson as: Creating opportunities for younger, hungrier talent to prove itself; creating a real competition that will lift the performance of all participants and make for a genuinely exciting contest; and expunging the complacency virus. Imagine how hard it would be to improve performance and generate support if the same old winning team were still in place.
Secondly, the BlackHeart campaign is focused on the foe. One would think that Michelle Boag, who is reported to be involved in the campaign, might have learned that terms such as "deadwood" stick to the brand from which you try to remove it.
Everybody knows - nudge-nudge, wink-wink - that BlackHeart really refers to the dark deeds of those who sold their souls to the highest bidder. But its promoters want us to adopt it as our identity. Sorry, it just does not work.
Thirdly, it blackens our brand. This is not just an unfortunate mistake or a glorious failure. It is downright dangerous. After generations of spontaneous, grassroots brand-building - the All Blacks, Black Caps, Tall Blacks, Black Magic and so on - this team of professional promoters have indulged in over-edginess.
Black makes Kiwis proud. Heart is the source of our passion. But put them together and it sends all the wrong messages. Black arts? Blackguards? It does not express who we are. And it does not express how we feel about our best and brightest when they seek fame and fortune abroad.
The stakeholders of brand New Zealand, as represented by letter-writers, have driven their positive, proactive point deep into the BlackHeart concept.
Fourthly, the campaign has picked the wrong paradigm. BlackHeart was conceived in a PR-advertising paradigm. Its aim was to stir emotions, get us angry and then offer a way to get even by putting our hands in our pockets.
Well, it worked for Winston Peters, sort of - he is still a minority party. But it is not working for George W. Bush. The emotional response to September 11 has not translated into a sabre-rattling desire for more invasion, violence and bloodshed.
Alan Sefton is quoted in Peak Performance: Business Lessons From the World's Top Sports Organisations: "The America's Cup is a design contest as much as a sailing contest..."
The regatta may have its gladiatorial and conspiratorial aspects but it is distinguished from most other sporting contests by operating in a design paradigm. It is driven by a continuous state of dissatisfaction with the status quo and a creative commitment to continuous improvement.
Team New Zealand's take on the paradigm has been to move from the designer-driven near-miss campaigns of 1987 and 1992 to the successful team-led campaigns of 1995 and 2000.
The process is relentlessly positive, continuously creative and both inspirationally and incrementally innovative. It could be described as 100 per cent pure. Would-be supporters of Team New Zealand must climb aboard the paradigm and participate in the process.
Understanding how Team New Zealand works, and why it will win again, will significantly contribute to the transformation of our economy. As well as being an expression of the best of Kiwi spirit, Team New Zealand exemplifies the potential we have to team up and take on the world and win by winning rather than by making our opponents lose.
And, having reconnected with our Kiwi spirit, maybe we can find it in our big, generous Blake hearts to forgive those who made the BlackHeart mistake. We should thank them for waking us up to what makes us winning New Zealanders.
* Michael Smythe is a partner at Creationz Consultants, a design management, visual arts and cultural strategy consultancy.
By MICHAEL SMYTHE*