The PM has a strong brand that appeals to New Zealanders of all ages. So what can Kiwi businesses take away from this? Wayde Bull from Principals explains.

For more than a decade, Brand Alpha has tracked the authenticity of brands right across the Asia Pacific region. But in 2019, we chose to do something a little different and include New Zealand’s Prime Minister in the research.

Brand Alpha is a large scale study that asks consumers to rank brands based on four key pillars – Virtue, Vitality, Visibility and Value. Brands such as Ecostore and Whittaker’s are top performers but how would Jacinda rank by comparison?

We fielded this year’s study a week after the Christchurch tragedy and were mindful of Ardern’s remarkable international profile at the time. We were interested in including her in the study, treating the PM as an iconic Kiwi brand. And given the generational theme of this year’s study – for the first time we dug deep to establish which brands New Zealanders of all ages rate – we were also intrigued to explore the extent to which Ardern’s appeal transcended generations.

If one accepts the premise that the PM is a brand, Ardern performs consistently strongly across all NZ generations. Kiwis, from centennials through to Pre-WW2’s, considered her a ‘top five brand’. It is worth bearing in mind that because the study was fielded shortly after the Christchurch tragedy, her rankings were likely inflated above the normal levels. It’s still worth exploring how Kiwis responded to Ardern as a brand.

Digging into the V-factor data, unsurprisingly, Ardern enjoys very strong levels of Visibility. But it’s her performance on the Virtue and Vitality dimensions that explain her transcendent appeal. Whether one agrees or disagrees with her political views, she is seen as a refreshingly straightforward and sincere communicator with a warm, open and honest style that breaks with the public’s expectations of politicians who drone, deflect and hide their true selves.

You may be surprised to discover older Kiwis in the Boomer and Pre WW2 cohorts are Jacinda’s greatest fans. It’s the time-pressured and financially-squeezed Gen Xers (35-to-54-year olds) who are Jacinda’s toughest audience. Gen X is the least optimistic generation when asked about their futures and feel less practically and emotionally supported than all other generations. So they have particular expectations of all politicians. The challenge for Ardern with this generation is in on policy substance, not just style.

There’s plenty for brands to learn from Brand Jacinda. Ardern is a masterful manager of her message. She is seen to be authentic by speaking with refreshing clarity and directness, whether on matters of state or on what it means to be a Mum. She has a clear sense of herself, her values and priorities as well as clearly defined values and a simple narrative that she cleaves to all settings including social media. And she brings a determined sense of positivity to her everyday work.   

Few would argue that clarity, positivity and naturalness are traits that every brand should aspire to have. And in that respect, they can take a leaf out of Jacinda’s book. 

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