As the World Reopens, How Do Key Trading Nations Perceive Aotearoa?

New global research released by New Zealand Story, the government agency helping businesses tell their story to the world, has revealed key shifts in how the country’s trading partners perceive New Zealand in 2021 compared to 12 months ago – with some positives, and some alarm bells.

The research, conducted by One Picture1 in August and September 2021, shows that New Zealand continues to be perceived as progressive, inclusive and decisive by the majority of key international markets including Australia, China and the US. However, some markets including Germany, Dubai and Japan are forming perceptions that New Zealand is isolated, unfamiliar, unprepared and closed.

Recently-appointed New Zealand Story CEO David Downs noted that there is huge opportunity to leverage the positive attributes the world sees in New Zealand. However, businesses need to address and combat some hard truths starting to emerge in select markets.

“Being closed in a pre-vaccine world earned us respect, however, with the world starting to re-open, vaccination rates and re-opening strategies are becoming the new measures of success,” said Downs.

David Downs

“It’s the perfect time for New Zealand’s largest sectors to show the world we’re still open for business. They can leverage the evidence that the world cares about who we are, how we live, and how we treat others. We can see from this research that global perceptions continue to evolve and widen.

“To combat any negative perceptions, we need to highlight the positives of our COVID-19 response, and how that demonstrates the core values others admire in us; our care for people, and our willingness to make tough decisions to do the right thing.”

The research highlights the need for New Zealand to share its stories in order to make the country stand out as a trading partner, ensuring New Zealand is front of mind. Tailored messages to international audiences is important, so that when the time is right, the country can welcome back the tourists, traders and students.

New associations with New Zealand are positive, with consumers noting the qualities of integrity, ingenuity, care and respect that makes New Zealand stand out. While the values of community, fairness, and a place for premium products continues to hold true.

As part of its services to support New Zealand businesses and organisations telling their stories, New Zealand Story is expanding its consultancy offering. It will support groups focused on an international audience with insight-led advice, working closely with New Zealand Trade and Enterprise (NZTE), to leverage the positive perceptions consumers and buyers hold of New Zealand.

“Now more than ever, the world needs to see and hear the right stories to aid our recovery when New Zealand re-opens. To support New Zealand businesses with this, we’re welcoming conversations with organisations focussed internationally. Let’s remind the world what we’re great at. Keeping this awareness up is absolutely critical in this transition phase,” continued Downs.

“The research findings are a timely reminder to our team of six million Kiwis, here and globally, that we need to be proud of New Zealand’s values and what we offer the world – even when it’s difficult.”

Global perception market shifts from 2020 to 2021

  • United Kingdom: For the UK, the strengths of who we are have come into sharper focus than the distance of our location. As the UK looks to rebuild its own nation, there is a sense that our size and location have made us an easy country to manage COVID-19, but our approach has still stood out as globally more competent.
  • Australia: Australia had to deal with the resentment of their own loss of freedom, and so New Zealand has become more aspirational. It has moved from a place to visit, to a strong country they admire. As they struggle with their own leadership and COVID-19 response, their respect towards New Zealand, our people and leadership has grown.
  • US: As they regain confidence, Americans judge success against both protection of people and economic stimulation. They admire us from the outside but question New Zealand’s logistical challenges and economic uncertainties related to our closed borders – preferring to see more pragmatism.
  • Germany: There is a subtle shift from outward to inward that may extend to those close by, but alienate those who are further away. We’re perceived as beautiful, friendly, but not open and still too far away, with some questions of our COVID-19 response.
  • China: China’s confidence in themselves and their government is greater than ever, and they perceive New Zealand as a ‘lesson’ in social equality, inclusiveness and harmony. We are seen as more socially progressive, safe and inclusive than Europe and the USA. China looks up to our social structure. We are one of the few western countries they are looking up to.
  • Japan: Their confidence in their own nation is severely shaken. New Zealand is admired for its beauty and laid-back nature but in some ways behind the times. We need to be seen and heard from – they want more than our scenery and negative lockdown connotations.
  • Dubai: Dubai has great self-confidence in their place and COVID-19 status compared to the world. New Zealand is perceived as a self-contained oasis that needs to be louder and more integrated with the world. The pandemic has reinforced our image as an isolated yet self-sufficient nation, but our approach feels unsustainable in the long run. Our lack of visibility is often pushing us to the back of the mind.
  • India: India perceives us as a highly desirable place, but often out of reach. While New Zealand displays qualities that make our destination and products desirable, so do most other western countries. Our challenge is convincing India that we are worth the price premium.
  • Brazil: Brazilians view New Zealand as a small but progressive nation that handled COVID-19 well. Our protection drove admiration, and there is continued respect towards our government and people for putting human lives before the economy.

To access the Global Perception research pack, please register for New Zealand Story’s Toolkit and download here: toolkit.nzstory.govt.nz

New Zealand businesses looking for support to integrate the benefits of their New Zealand heritage can visit nzstory.govt.nz