I am the new Dunedin

Regional branding efforts and their associated tourism pushes often have a whiff of desperation about them. But there seems to have been a coming of age in New Zealand recently, with some solid and distinctly uncringeworthy new marketing initiatives from Wellington, Christchurch and, most recently, Dunedin, which has just launched its new brand with an outdoor and online campaign.

Back in January, Brand Dunedin, a rather scary collection of fairly conservative stakeholders like Allied Press, Dunedin City Council, Dunedin Venues, Otago Chamber of Commerce, Otago Polytechnic, Otago Southland Employers’ Association, Tourism Dunedin and the University of Otago, asked for agencies to pitch for the chance to establish the region’s new brand identity. 25 agencies from throughout the country applied for the gig, but BrandAid+ and Auckland based Projector Media Ltd, which is most widely known for its work with grabaseat, were chosen in July. And, in traditionally parochial fashion, both had strong Dunedin connections.

Luke Johnston is the owner and principal of BrandAid+, a design and brand development company based in Dunedin, and is born, bred, works and lives in Dunedin with his family. He is well-known for his creative work with the Otago Festival of the Arts, id Dunedin Fashion Week, University of Otago, Taylormade Media and Pacific Aerospace.

Projector’s managing director John Coghill attended Otago Boy’s High and the University of Otago and he says the local knowledge they both brought to the table helped them tap into the local psyche. In a similar fashion to the ‘There’s no Place like Australia’ campaign, locals were asked to tell their secrets, hint, tips and quirky stories on insidersdunedin.co.nz, with the best of the bunch going on to form part of the approximately $500,000 promotional campaign (for example, the fact that you can get a hot water bottle at popular whisky bar Albar in the Octagon or that Dunedin is actually an amazing surfing hub, something Coghill says isn’t widely known).

Coghill admits he was unsure how this collaboration from afar would work, but he feels it’s been a great success and, importantly, it has inspired some pride in the region from the locals and formed the basis for future marketing comms.

Previous branding had been done in-house by the council, including the classic slogans ‘It’s all right here’ (often exchanged for the more comical ‘It’s alright here’) and ‘I am Dunedin’. Wisely, a slogan was avoided and Dunedin is the brand (the logo, a trendy, more contemporary gothic script that embraces the town’s Scottish heritage, is inspired by Nom-D’s now famous ‘Dunedin’ t-shirts). At the same time, the campaign is also confronting some of the engrained—and perhaps negative—perceptions of the city head on with a bit of local chutzpah, rather than with the traditionally overblown and unbelievable regional cheese.

While the fairly twee University of Otago ‘take your place in the world‘ campaign is completely separate from this council initiative, Coghill hopes the campaign will eventually spill over into the other players’ marketing efforts and give them all some unified brand direction.

Christchurch has also got in on the act recently to try and lure domestic punters down for a holiday, and, although these efforts have obviously been hampered by the earthquake, the nostalgic creative it used was quite striking. The city’s biggest tourist event of the year, New Zealand Cup and Show Week, is just around the corner, so the ‘It’s All On‘ campaign is aiming to get Kiwis to head down and spend all their money on the neigh neighs (if you’re looking for a loophole, this seems close enough to charity to make the trip tax deductible).

Wellington is already popular with New Zealand travellers, who have voted it their favourite destination in three of the last four Fly Buys/Colmar Brunton Mood of the Traveller surveys. But there are lingering misconceptions about the capital across the Tasman. As such, Positively Wellington Tourism launched the ‘There’s no Place Like Wellington‘ campaign, a targeted marketing effort to lure more Australians to the region, which has helped increase Australian arrivals into the city during June and July by 14 percent compared to the same time last year (total Aussie visitors to New Zealand in July increased by just 1.7 percent).

Its most recent campaign initiative, the WLG pop-up restaurant in Sydney, which aimed to showcase the region’s culinary delights and was an extension of the Visa Wellington on a Plate event, was something of a PR/experiential masterstroke that sold out in record time and received a heap of mass media and blog coverage. And, while the Big Little City campaign has showcased Auckland as a cultural destination, whoever ends up in charge of the Supercity’s tourism strategy might want to take note of the pro-active, integrated regional efforts coming from some of its smaller urban counterparts.

  • Speaking of Dunedin, I couldn’t help but notice this ad in the Herald on Sunday for Bulmer’s ‘unashamedly English’ cider. It’s funny, but it’s inaccurate. And I only know this because I married a Sidey whose very Scottish family’s main claim to fame is that one of their forebears (and well-known Dunedin high-roller) claimed responsibility for bringing gorse to New Zealand.

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