Brands need to dial up kiwi flair after COVID-19

Businesses should focus on what makes them unique and local according to research. Supplied image.

Brands that want to engage their customers need to tap into their ‘New Zelandness’ according to a new study.

Kantar New Zealand has been studying the evolving values and behaviours of Kiwis in relation to the COVID-19 pandemic, conducting weekly surveys since March and has identified the trends to help brand strategists and customer experience managers answer this question.

Kantar executive director Jason Cate says the pandemic has also created a sense of ‘all being in it together’ - a sense of shared connection and purpose as a result of a shared experience and there is a mutual concern for things ‘beyond myself’ that comes from that.

The shared connection and mutual concern are playing out with New Zealanders wanting to support local brands and businesses, he says.

"A well-articulated and crafted brand will have an emotional core, but it is possible to ‘dial up’ and ‘dial down’ attributes within that.

"The implication is that brand strategists need to tap into their brands’ ‘New Zealandness’ at a time when supporting local businesses and, by extension, ‘New Zealandness’ as an economic concept is increasingly important."

In addition to the values, Kantar’s research identified three behaviours that emerged or strengthened during COVID-19 and are likely to stick - flexible working, local purchasing and online shopping among a minority of consumers. Customer experience is an increasingly important part of brand management that also must be taken into account.

"New Zealand has changed and brand managers and customer experience managers need to keep up with the values that are most important to us right now and our evolving behaviours to stay relevant."

Jason says the research provides guidance and insight for companies kick starting their marketing again post COVID.

"Plenty of brands want to action things sooner than later, and brand owners need reassurance they have not lost relevance or connection.

"Any brand that seeks to understand or evoke New Zealandness has to stay in touch with consumer changes because what we value and how we behave is dynamic. There is a clear need for brands to identify how New Zealandness resonates with their customers and dial up or dial down their messaging accordingly."

Another key finding is that COVID-19 has been a catalyst for Kiwis to re-connect with a number of basic cultural values, most notably their sense of humour, practicality, inclusivity and fairness, and connection to the environment, says Jason.

"Our sense of humour was a coping mechanism during the lockdown. Sense of humour comes up when people have been through a tough time. It’s a natural response. We have seen typical Kiwi self-deprecation, and humour relating to things not being as bad as they could have been.

"Practicality is something we pride ourselves on. It was on full display during lockdown. Our attitude has been ‘This is a challenging situation - let’s get on with it.

"The environmental dimension however is not straightforward. Lockdown was a period of conflicted sustainability. A lot of people took sustainability shortcuts during lockdown but there were other dimensions of sustainability like traffic and air pollution reductions which people felt good about. Also, consumers’ sustainability concerns have shifted towards doing good for people and the community in response to the economic pressure of the moment."

Kantar chief executive officer Jason Shoebridge says, "This research has provided excellent insight into the behaviours and attitudes of New Zealanders as we moved through the various alert levels and now under level 1.

“The challenge for all marketers in New Zealand is now how they adapt to the ongoing changes in these attitudes and behaviours as they develop strategies for their organisations to recover."

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