Culture club: the brands that backed Maori language week

This year marked the 40th year of Māori Language Week, which celebrates New Zealand’s indigenous language. We look at the brands that got on board, as well as whether companies should be making more of an effort to be a part of it.

The majority of us Kiwis get ridiculously excited when the All Blacks launch into their haka, occasionally drop a “kia ora” or “tumeke” into conversation and can expertly quote “bro, you know I can’t grab your ghost chips”, accent and all.

Yet aside from the customs and words that have become mainstream, just 11 percent of the New Zealand population can speak Māori well, a survey by Statistics NZ found in 2013. As a business, is it worth jumping on board with Māori Language Week? Or more aptly – is it important to? Should businesses have a social responsibility to do so?

Ecommerce site Mighty Ape thinks it’s important. It was a keen promoter of the week and sprinkled various Māori words into tweets (while also tapping into an emerging trend of adult colouring books).

When asked why the company decided to get on board with it, Mighty Ape social media manager Che Kamariera says it’s because it’s unique to New Zealand.

“Te Reo Māori is special and something unique to Aotearoa,” says Kamariera.

“Using some kupu in our tweets and Facebook posts was a simple and fun way to take part in Te Wiki o Te Reo Māori. It was our way to tautoko the kaupapa.”

It’s also worth considering the idea that promoting the language opens the doors to an opportunity for businesses. According to New Zealand Trade and Enterprise, the Māori economy asset base is worth $42 billion. In retail, the Māori asset base is valued at $758 million (2.1 percent).

BNZ obviously saw the value in this.

Earlier this year in April, the bank rolled out an eight-person Māori banking team to provide dedicated support to Māori individuals, businesses and iwi groups.

Head of Māori business Pierre Tohe says by accommodating its business services to Māori, BNZ has seen a greater demand from Māori and iwi groups for specialised banking.

Tohe wrote a post for Māori Language Week saying why the language is important to him, which was promoted by BNZ.

He says the language is special because it distinguishes New Zealand from every other country and international company in the world.

“Because of its importance to Māori, any authentic effort to speak and understand Māori is appreciated by Māori. A little bit of effort goes a long way to show Māori that you respect the Māori language and therefore Māori culture.”

BNZ is also set to launch a company tohu, designed by Derek Lardelli.

This follows on from other companies like Air New Zealand and Sealord that incorporate tikanga into how they brand themselves.

BNZ’s competitor, ANZ, also previously launched a Māori-designed ATM earlier this year for Matariki.  Progressive Food’s Fresh Choice and SuperValue supermarkets also promoted the week through involvement with their local communities.

SuperValue supermarkets had educational colouring pages for kids to fill out, in store Māori audio tracks and in store art.

Fresh Choice also had the educational colouring pages, in store chalkboard displays with Māori words and even signage showing the Māori and English words for fruit and veges.
The supermarkets have been receiving a lot of positive feedback on their Facebook pages for their initiatives.

New Zealand’s national cricket team, the Black Caps, also participated in the week. 

Our Te Reo word of the day is close to our hearts. We’re marking the last day of New Zealand’s Maori Language Week with…

Posted by BLACKCAPS on Saturday, August 1, 2015

Their shirts were emblazoned with “Aotearoa” in their game against Zimbabwe on Sunday.

NZC chief executive David White says the overall intent was to improve Māori communities’ access to cricket.

“NZC want to extend cricket’s reach and make it more welcoming to communities not always closely aligned with the game,” White says.

“It’s something we haven’t done particularly well in the past,” he says.

“We’ve been too one-dimensional in our approach and especially in regard to addressing under-representation in certain communities.

“But we have to start somewhere.”

Other high profile sports teams and broadcasters also made an effort to promote te reo Māori.

We are one Nation. Aotearoa.Te Wiki o Te Reo Māori, Māori Language Week#WeLiveThisGame

Posted by Silver Ferns on Saturday, August 1, 2015

The Vodafone Warriors posted videos of team members saying how they’ll use te reo Māori on Twitter, while the Silver Ferns posted a photo promoting a Māori word relevant to netball each day.

TV3 and TVNZ also incorporated Māori words into their news and weather broadcasts to mark the week.

And Lightbox imagined if its shows were te reo and spread the results on social. 

Māori language commissioner Dr Wayne Ngata says there’s been incredible support from both the public and private sectors this year.

He says getting different companies on board with promoting the week helps to protect New Zealand’s indigenous language.

“Normalising the language into everyday affairs and activities is key and is increasingly becoming a priority for New Zealanders,” Ngata says.

  • Did we miss any? Let us know in the comments below. 
  • This story originally appeared on The Register

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