About a month and a half ago, as winter was just setting in here in Wellington, I bought an Icebreaker merino undershirt. I’d heard a lot about Icebreaker stuff being incredibly warm, so thought I’d give it a go. A few weeks later, and I own everything from an Icebreaker coat to Icebreaker briefs. Their stuff is so warm, so comfortable, and so breathable that it doesn’t smell at all. It’s really even better than their advertising describes. Anyway, this post isn’t actually a pitch for Icebreaker – although I completely and utterly recommend you buy their stuff. I wanted to just talk about a fantastic Kiwi business success story, and touch on how they’ve successfully used New Zealand’s brand to help them sell their products internationally.
Icebreaker is now sold in pretty much every continent, and they’re incredibly well known for a Kiwi company still owned by its founders and original backers. 1999 was when they decided to do a test in Europe, and since then their growth has been simply astounding.
It’s funny how a couple of the most talked about New Zealand success stories in recent years have both been companies that have heavily used New Zealand’s brand to help sell their products. 42 Below, a New Zealand vodka company that was sold to Bacardi a few years back, also used “Pure New Zealand” as part of their marketing.
And that phrase – “Pure New Zealand” – should not be underestimated. A country’s brand is something very valuable (provided the country has a good brand) because it’s something people can relate to. More than a company’s brand, a country’s brand is in some ways tangible. People can actually walk around a country and therefore they gain a deeper understanding of what values and images are associated with that country. A company on the other hand isn’t a tangible object that people can walk around to better understand. In most cases their images are simply marketing strategies.
So Icebreaker, and other companies utilizing New Zealand’s good brand, are very smart about it. In some ways it’s a free marketing strategy that can’t easily be replicated any other way.
I’ve travelled quite a bit, and one thing that I notice no matter where I go is how responsive and positive people are to hearing “New Zealand” in response to asking where I’m from. I’ve never heard anything negative in response to me saying New Zealand, and usually the next comment is one involving a word such as “beautiful”, “stunning”, “clean”, or “safe”. When you have those kind of connotations to a brand, something is going right.
While some companies like Icebreaker are doing a fantastic job riding New Zealand’s image to achieve international growth, I think more could be doing it. And don’t get me wrong – by no means do I think every New Zealand company should use NZ’s brand. But I do think that a few more could at least use “New Zealand” in their tagline to conjure up images. We just have to be careful not to overuse it, and only let companies who truly can achieve huge international growth use it.
And on top of all the other benefits of using NZ’s brand internationally – it keeps us back home happy. We just get even more passionate about Icebreaker and our country!