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Brand upon the brain – protecting New Zealand’s global reputation

Posted by Ann Webster | Governance and accountability | May 11, 2017

It’s not every day that a conversation about how we all can protect, and create advantage from, New Zealand’s global reputation leaves a group of people animated and full of pride – but it should be.

kiwi fruit

At the May Transparency International Leaders Integrity Forum, Janine Smith (Chair of AsureQuality’s Board of Directors) and Rebecca Smith (Director, New Zealand Story Group) spoke about why our integrity matters on the world stage, how a state-owned enterprise helps to protect it, and the importance of standing up for good. New Zealand’s reputation is a powerful international asset and, they told us, ours to lose.

Rebecca talked about the effect of soft power on exports, with one researcher suggesting that a 1% net increase in perceived positive influence can increase exports by about 0.8%. She outlined research showing that people are more likely to visit, recommend, and do business with a ‘country brand’. Yes, that’s right – in a world of logos, multi-national co-operations, and consumer brand consciousness, research shows that a country’s strong international brand can be linked to economic performance. In this age of social media, where we can choose how we get our news, values are in fashion, freedom is everyone’s dream, and being good is in short supply. New Zealand is one of only 22 countries in the entire world classified as a ‘country brand’ and little old us are ranked fifth in our contribution to the good of the world.

So why is our reputation so strong in the export market? Because the world believes that we take care to do things well and, when things do go wrong, we act transparently and quickly to put them right, a message similar to that shared by John Shewan in his presentation at the March forum.

It’s no wonder then that Janine and everyone at AsureQuality see their job as helping to reinforce New Zealand’s reputation for exporting safe and high-quality food, thus supporting and contributing to the success of our economy. AsureQuality provides specialist food assurance services in New Zealand and other locations with an end-to-end focus on the food supply chain. Janine says that it is only with the benefit of her wide governance and management experience (for example, as Chief Executive of Arnott’s New Zealand) that she realises that being effective as a company relies not just on AsureQuality’s own brand, but also on the strength of the NZ Inc brand.

How much does this brand matter? Unsurprisingly, a lot! Janine says that 80% of New Zealand’s products are exported. So extensive is our exporting activity that she recalls some of her earlier experience in other companies, describing it as New Zealanders going into the world to compete against each other, with the result that they drove each other to the bottom of the competition. Janine says New Zealand exporters now look more for what she described as ‘co-opetition’: competition at home but co-operation in overseas markets.

AsureQuality is itself a global brand that is known and trusted by both its New Zealand customers and international companies. It benefits both from New Zealand’s strong global reputation and from being a government-owned company. This means it can more easily operate in other countries, getting access to their regulators and others above other food quality assurance providers. An example of how AsureQuality contributed to protecting New Zealand’s reputation was its response to the infant milk formula tampering scare. AsureQuality was trusted by Chinese officials to develop and release a test for 1080 poison for use in China. This response gave confidence to consumers and international customers that New Zealand was acting with care and integrity in the face of a major threat.

So even though some people might not be able to locate us on a world map (that is, if we haven’t been erroneously forgotten), our global brand and reputation is known far and wide. There’s a lot that can be done to ensure that we maintain and build upon that reputation for many years to come to benefit all New Zealanders.

Read our previous blog posts about the Transparency International Leaders Integrity Forum:

Sarah
Sarah says:
Mar 16, 2017 09:55 PM
Good point on timeliness, absolutely critical in many situations.
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