In late 2013, I got talking to Al Brown about Auckland. Enthusiastically, he told me how great he was feeling about our city. He’s in the majority of Aucklanders who aren’t from here. I’m in the minority who are.
Neither of us had seen our city feel as good about itself, yet we both had trouble pinning down exactly what it was about this changing city that we were feeling so good about.
I left wanting to figure it out. I gave myself the project of talking to 50 leading Aucklanders. A selection of the business, political, creative, and thought leaders of our city. I wanted to know what they thought we were becoming. To create a shared understanding of our ‘New Auckland’.
Auckland has been through a staggering transformation in the last five years.
As Nat Cheshire (of Cheshire Architects) said to me: “What the fuck? This isn’t Auckland. How did this happen to my town so fast? Think about what this city was four years ago: no Wynyard Quarter, no Britomart, no Imperial Lane, no CityWorks Depot, no Auckland Art Gallery, no Q Theatre, no Fort Lane, no shared-space Elliot Street thing. So many things that define the city now just didn’t exist. So what did exist?”
This explosion of amenity underpins a feeling of excitement in what Auckland is becoming.
In 2014, our city is characterised by a zeitgeist of newfound optimism and confidence in the coming of age of a New Auckland.
Emerging from an adolescence of parochialism, self-consciousness, superficiality and mediocrity, Auckland has united as one city, and a new generation of Aucklanders is shaping a new definition of ‘Aucklandness’.
At once more ambitious and more at ease, this New Auckland identity is a source of hope and pride.
21 percent of Aucklanders say they feel less proud of Auckland than they did ten years ago. 32 percent say they feel as proud. And 47 percent, by far the largest group, say they feel more proud of our city.
And we’re not just drinking our own Kool-Aid about this. Monocle magazine were here this week doing extensive research on our city – from their exalted heights they agree that something profound and special is happening in Auckland.
So what does it all mean for marketers?
Well, firstly, Auckland is unique in that it’s populated by 33.4 percent of the country’s people. The rest of the world’s biggest cities come nowhere close. Sydney is 19.9 percent of Australia. London is 13.9 percent of Britain. New York is 6.3 percent of the USA. Shanghai is 1.2 percent of China. So cracking Auckland is critically important to businesses operating in New Zealand. An Auckland brand or marketing strategy based on where our city is going is essential to any larger New Zealand business.
As Peter Cooper (developer of Britomart) told me, “cities are becoming more important than countries.” And nowhere more so than Auckland.
The key finding of the AK2 report is that New Auckland’s identity can be characterised in six key ways:
1. We are emphatically multi-cultural
We are proud of our unique Pacific/Asian/European make-up and welcoming of our city being a destination for people of all nationalities. We enjoy taking part in a melting pot of cultures and anticipate further benefits as those cultures continue to integrate.
2. We are a ‘doing’ people
Auckland’s roots are not academic or political. At work, we value entrepreneurialism, ‘giving it a go’, ‘getting stuck in’ and ‘getting it done’. At play, we crave new experiences and our remarkable environment, and emerging food and events cultures, provide continuous ways to feed our insatiable appetite for these experiences.
3. Our style is one of ‘informal excellence’
At our best, our easy-going, informal way comes together with a passion for world-class quality. This is characterised by restaurants like Depot and precincts like Britomart but manifests in many other ways.
4. We have an ‘open-collar’ approach to work
Auckland has moved on from the ‘white-collar’ framework of putting on a tie and pursuing corporate ascendency with a single-minded focus on financial wealth. We value entrepreneurialism, look for purpose and fulfilment in our work and conduct business with an informal professionalism.
5. We have ‘indie’ sensibilities
We gravitate away from the superficial, the multi-national, the plastic and the faux. New Auckland seeks out and responds to things that have a sense of independence, integrity and authentic story.
6. We face out to the world
No longer comparing ourselves to other New Zealand cities, we have an outlook and ambition that is wholly international. We are becoming a global city and feel every right to aspire toward global level success.
Smart brands are already picking up on these characteristics and delivering in a way that’s resonating with Aucklanders.
Each characteristic provides clues to marketers around how to position and innovate in a way that will be embraced by New Aucklanders – from developing authentic story, to focusing on experience, to executing with excellence but in an informal way.
These are the key ways brands will prosper as we move through the coming of age of our New Auckland.
- James Hurman is principal of Auckland innovation consultancy Previously Unavailable, the publisher of the AK2 report.
- A sample of the AK2 report can be downloaded at ak2.co