More than two million New Zealanders live outside Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch, and more are packing up for the regions each day.
A relaxing lifestyle, lower cost of living and strong sense of community are luring professionals from all fields, and strengthening the creative, collaborative and connected communities that cover our islands.
Dunedin has a unique culture, there’s no arguing it.
Luke Johnston and his team at BrandAid, a marketing firm in the city, spent a lot time pondering exactly what that is as they developed the current Dunedin brand.
The conclusion: “It ultimately comes back to the people and the way they are”.
“They are down to earth, straight talking with a self-depricating humour that we enjoy projecting through the Dunedin brand tone of voice.
“The size of the city means that people know each other and help each other out. When you walk down the street people look you in the eye as there is a high probability they might know you, whereas in bigger cities people never make eye contact.”
He says the straight-talking, no-bullshit kind of attitude is reflected in the approach local clients take, and clients from further afield find the approach refreshing – especially if they have moved to BrandAid from a big agency.
“There is also a real collaborative approach to business down here, people share information and help each other out.
“A lot of our work comes from referrals, we don’t do any advertising.”
Johnston says more and more creatives are setting up shop in Dunedin, often for the lifestyle of the regions.
BrandAid brings in creatives on a contract basis, meaning the team handpicks people right for the job. Johnston says they often have people from around New Zealand and Australia working on projects, but they will always try to use someone local if they can.
Having a diverse range of clients in different industries keeps things interesting he says.
“We work with everyone from large national companies to two local builder brothers who have decided to start making peanut butter – which is bloody good by the way.
“We often end up pitching against the big agencies for work on larger clients, being perceived as the underdog is always a challenge we’re happy to overcome.”
Johnston says large brands tend to do less advertising in the Dunedin region, and there are also a lot less billboard and outdoor opportunities than the other main centres which could be a factor.
“It’s kind of nice not getting bombarded by my advertising messages every time you turn a corner though.”
A third of the South Island’s population read three or more newspapers a week, making them 25 percent more than likely to do so than the rest of the population. More than 20 percent read more six magazines in an issue period and a quarter of the population listen to more than 20 hours of radio a week.
Johnston says the Otago Daily Times continues to enjoy a good level of readership and has far less readership decline than most newspapers in the country and puts that down to its connection with locals.
Between 2016 and 2017, the paper’s readership grew from 88,000 (Q1-Q4 2016) to 92,000 (Q1-Q4 2017).
Johnston says there is a strong sense of community in the area and that leads to locals being really engaged with local news, meaning the print and online versions of the ODT reach plenty of eyeballs and remain an effective way of communicating with a wide variety of people.
“If your personal or business culture aligns with the way we do things down here then it will work, simple really.”
As liveability in some of the country’s larger cities declines, more and more are flocking to the regions such as Dunedin, and Johnston says he hears the same thing from them.
“When they get here they always say ‘why didn’t I do this 10 years ago?’”
Grant Hyland, the managing director of Queenstown based firm KBR Digital, agrees the south breeds a different culture, saying the Queenstown Lakes district would be one of the more unique in the country.
Having such a large volume of tourists in the region – with the population level swelling by 400 percent some months – can create challenges for people joining our community as their new home, he says.
“It can be tough to find the pockets of locals, however, our sense of community is strong once you find your way in.
“We celebrate everything – winter is here, we have a festival, autumn is here, that’s right another festival, and the local schools do fundraising like I have never seen.”
Hyland says over the last five years the local population and investment in infrastructure have grown immensely.
“Once upon a time you couldn’t live outside the main mets, this isn’t true anymore.
“People are looking to reprioritise their lives in ways big cities just can’t cater to.”
He says the strong community approach and desire to live a balanced life manifests in local advertising in a unique way. Given the economy’s emphasis on tourism, 90 percent of businesses are geared towards attracting international money and this means advertising is often geared to an international audience, Hyland says.
He says radio is the most predominant local media option, and location targeting for digital publications is helping boost local media options.
“The majority of businesses are looking for international audiences but irrespective, I think smaller towns will generally try and support local businesses so it’s important that agencies or marketing businesses appreciate this dynamic if trying to enter smaller towns.”
And quite simply, he says, living in the regions and New Zealand’s smaller towns will grant you more time and diversity, giving you more to focus on than financial gains.
The Regional Rundown series will explore the Waikato, Bay of Plenty, Hawke’s Bay/Wairarapa, Nelson/Marlborough, and Otago regions. To read the profiles, click here.