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Focus on people, not the flag

View through cafe door of barista and customer

Our data also shows a high correlation between being a Kiwi brand and brand love.

As we shift alert levels and are encouraged to buy local, what does that mean for brands, both local and global?

In a nutshell

  1. Even prior to the current crisis, three quarters of Kiwis told us they prefer to buy New Zealand products and nearly half actively try to buy NZ brands - but that doesn't mean they won't buy from global brands. 
  2. The good news is that churn is unlikely. With so much uncertainty, people aren’t looking to amplify the changes that this pandemic had already forced upon them.
  3. No matter if you're a global or local brand, leveraging your Kiwiness is important right now - without being nationalistic. 

Global vs local dynamic 

Our natural flight or fight response to COVID-19 has led us to retreat to our cave for safety, endorsed by a national lockdown. And, our fight response had been directed toward our natural national border in a defensive strategy that keeps the virus out. 

How this plays out for brands is multi-tiered. We are emotionally attached to what is local and rationally supportive of local business – their success translates to success for us all, as a means of rebooting the economy. Even prior to the current crisis, three quarters of Kiwis told us they prefer to buy New Zealand products and nearly half actively try to buy NZ brands. 

Our data also shows a high correlation between being a Kiwi brand and brand love, plus Kiwi brands perform better against all six of the Kiwi Codes that we measure and monitor. So as we step down through the alert levels and we are encouraged to buy local, what does that mean for brands, both local and global?

Whereas we intuitively want to buy local, a burger or a piece of fried chicken isn’t fungible. If it was, everyone would be happily eating home prepared meat patties in buns instead of rushing to get a branded take away. 

On day one of Level 3, a TV journalist commented on the queue outside McDonald’s saying “shouldn’t we be buying local rather than from a global company?” It was at best a naïve comment and at worst somewhat insulting to all the Kiwi owned franchise owners running fast food restaurants, the Kiwi staff desperate to get back to work and the numerous Kiwi businesses in the supply chain. It also raises the question about the role of brand at this time.

  1. Loyalty hasn’t disappeared over night. Brands occupy a place in our lives that is largely emotional and metaphorical. Memories of that first bucket of fried chicken/burger/pizza, or the flashback to regular Friday takeaways with family, friends or colleagues are lying just below the surface, itching to be reignited.
  2. Global brands leverage their power through icons (arches, colonels etc.) acting as shortcuts to our expectations about the brand experience - product and customer experience. These are powerful tools and global brands are draconian in the restrictions they place on local business in how they are deployed – and rightly so, because of their ability to trigger and surface positive associations.
  3. Global brands do exist in a local context however, and this is what they need to leverage now. The brand is the drawcard but how it turns up and behaves can be the difference between customers feeling like you’re part of our united recovery or merely a beneficiary.

Churn isn’t on the agenda

Beyond the first wave of Level 3 buying binges, there is good news for businesses that have ongoing and contractual relationships. For the most part, people have little appetite for churn. Less than 10% of people across a nationally representative sample say they will change supplier post COVID-19 lockdown for services (power, insurance, broadband, mobile).

People are uncertain about the future and these services are the scaffolding of BAU life so they aren’t looking to amplify the changes that this pandemic had already forced upon them. Many of these service providers are New Zealand companies and the local vs global brand has less significance.

Kiwiness not nationalist

One warning note about leveraging Kiwiness is that this is not nationalistic play. Kiwis have an Outward World View. They are not inherently protectionist and closing our borders is a challenging act, both emotionally and economically. So, tread carefully and make the conversation about local Kiwis doing great things – your staff or suppliers for example – and avoid anything that could be construed as jingoism or ‘flag waving’. Talk instead about connecting Kiwis and the things they love.

It's never been more important to make information-based decisions. Because although the country is in lockdown, organisations still have to make choices that will guide their actions and determine the success of what they do.

So, in this series, we’re sharing what TRA knows about New Zealanders to help inform better decision making, so that our companies can better serve people. 

Read the other articles in this series:

Kiwis or New Zealanders?
When progress is on pause, how should organisations behave?
A nation of independently minded rule-benders
When visions of a new life add uncertainty
What do Kiwis want brands to get behind?
Sex Matters.

Colleen Ryan
Partner at TRA

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