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Is it time to rebrand New Zealand?

Is it time to rebrand New Zealand?

How do you know when it’s time to rebrand your business? For that matter, what is the purpose of a brand? It is a historic time for New Zealanders as the country is in the process of rebranding itself for the first time in over a century.

When the government first brought the flag change proposal to the public’s attention in 2014, it was met with total apathy. It was almost embarrassing how unpatriotic and uninterested kiwis were in the initiative. The only time people started voicing their opinion on the issue was when the government announced that the exercise would cost a hefty $26m. Then New Zealanders were up in arms as lobby groups tried to prevent the expensive exercise from going ahead.

The rest of us hoped that the investment would at least result in a great new design. You might think that with a $26m budget, the government would have commissioned the world’s top branding designers and artists, but no, in typical democratic Kiwi fashion every Tom, Dick and Harry was invited to submit their designs and suggestions to the flag-change panel. Irrespective of your design knowledge or credentials, you had the opportunity to rebrand New Zealand if you were up for it. Unsurprisingly, when the top 40 designs were revealed in August, many Kiwis weren’t impressed. The new designs simply didn’t resonate with most New Zealanders. When we looked at the designs, we didn’t feel a natural affinity with them, they didn’t speak to us.

According to marketing theory, branding is considered to be the “face” of a company. A logo is meant to be memorable and easily recognisable, and most importantly, reflect a company’s principles and philosophy. This idea may provide insight into why the new flag designs have not been well received by the public. Two of the final four designs feature an intricate silver fern pattern, which if we’re honest has really just become a pretty picture. The silver fern and Southern Cross symbolism do not communicate kiwi values or kiwi philosophy whatsoever. Therefore, they are not really suitable to feature on our national flag.

One logo that is undeniably strong and effective is Apple’s logo. The symbolism is powerful primarily because it depicts the company’s core philosophy. In 1977, the US was experiencing a technology revolution. Computers were slowly becoming part of people’s everyday lives and consumers were curious about what the future of computers would hold. When brand designer Rob Janoff was tasked with creating a logo for what would become the largest computer company in the world, he sought a symbol that would ultimately represent curiosity. He took inspiration from the story of Adam and Eve and the tree of knowledge. In this story, Adam and Eve were forbidden from eating an apple hanging from the tree of knowledge. However, they were overcome by their curiosity and temptations and ate the apple anyway. Janoff believed that an apple with a bite out of the side represented boldness and curiosity. Janoff’s considered design would represent a computer company that was always curious and wasn’t afraid to pursue new knowledge and understanding.  Rumour has it when Janoff presented his logo to Steve Jobs, he didn’t need to explain what the symbolism meant, Jobs knew straight away.

Like Apple, many companies rebrand themselves as a way of informing the market that they’re aware of the times and are ready to evolve with them. Rebranding also serves as a symbol that the company is growing and seizing the opportunity to invigorate the brand for both external and internal audiences. Another reason you might consider rebranding is if you wish to appeal to a different audience. For example, Telecom changed their name to Spark in 2014 as market research suggested that younger customers would be more interested in doing business with Spark than with Telecom.

Small branding changes can really make a world of difference if they’re implemented for the right reasons. I suppose the best way to know whether to rebrand your business is if you can stare at your logo and still feel inspired and energised. If you feel that your company’s logo no longer makes a significant impression on you or your customers or you feel that it does not convey your company’s philosophy, it might be time to update it.


Does advertising work?

Does advertising work?

One of my clients recently asked me, “Does advertising work?” I wasn’t sure why he asked me this. Our advertising had been extremely successful at raising his sales in recent months so I assumed he knew that it worked. So why the question? It turned out that he was wondering if there was a perfect way to measure the effectiveness of advertising. There’s no perfect way to measure anything but I thought I’d take a look at three key points that may help my client, and you, make more balanced decisions around your ad spend.

Does the size of your advertising budget contribute to your advertising’s success?

Does money influence brand value through advertising?

No. Money isn’t a guarantee of success in any industry. In 2013, Microsoft spent $2.6 billion on advertising, while Apple spent $1.1 billion. Did Microsoft’s bigger budget make them a bigger brand?

The answer is no. According to a 2013 report in Forbes, Apple is the world’s most valuable brand, worth a staggering $105 billion, while the Microsoft brand is only valued at $57 billion. Proof then that having deeper pockets doesn’t make you more successful. Perhaps it’s far easier to advertise, and in turn sell, better brands that are worth more than the sum of their parts? Everyone knows Apple is an awesome brand that makes amazing products, while Microsoft is a lot less remarkable.

But what would happen if you had to advertise a more ordinary product, like cheese or cat food? Well there should be no difference as to how effective your budget is, regardless of whether you’re spending $150k a year or $2 billion a year. You have to ensure that the basics are done right, that your creative execution is smack bang on brief, and that your media buying is as effective as possible. While I’ve never worked for Apple, I’m sure their basic advertising processes are similar to Microsoft’s. The same can be said for Toyota and Ford.

Does the size of your advertising agency contribute to your success?

David Ogilvy wrote in his autobiography, “Confessions of an Advertising Man”, that size wasn’t necessarily relevant unless you wanted it to be. He wrote about the time the head of a mammoth advertising agency solicited the Camel Cigarette account and promised to assign 30 copywriters to it, but the head of R.J. Reynolds simply replied, “Why can’t you just give us one good one?” Makes sense to me.

However, if you’re the kind of person who needs to delegate everything, then 30 people working on your advertising is what you need. If you’d prefer to be more hands on and in touch, then perhaps you only need two people working on your advertising. In some cases the very business model that you’re trying to advertise might be so flawed that no amount of people can fix it. Take as an example the recent demise of The Good Guys. Could a huge number of advertising folk have saved them? No. The Good Guys were about being cheap and boring but in New Zealand, you don’t get anything cheaper or more boring than Harvey Norman. The boring slot was already taken and no amount of advertising or money could change that or save The Good Guys.

Caveat emptor - “Let the Buyer Beware”

What is the most important contributing factor to the success of your advertising? It’s you. Think of your advertising in the same way as if you were buying a new car. You can try out as many different brands and variations as you’d like until you’re happy, but how much you pay for it, what marque you buy, what colour it is, how many extras you get – these are all decisions that you make. Sure the salesman and the brochure may sway your thinking, but you, and only you, get to say yes or no to the final purchasing decision. This responsibility carries on throughout your ownership, as all the decisions you make as the owner are yours and yours alone.

Let’s face it – you’re the one making the decisions when it comes to your advertising. Whether you choose a campaign that’s going to challenge the status quo or whether you wimp out and go for something mundane that pleases the board of directors, you made those decisions, you gave the instructions and approved whatever it was that lead to the end result that the advertising delivered. The success of any advertising will always rest with the person who signed for it.