Last week I got to put on a silver fern branded polo shirt for the first time in almost two decades. If you’re not a Kiwi, if you’ve never represented a country or even your province, and you’re not that into sport, bare with me on this story, because the marketer in me believes it demonstrates a powerful marketing lesson, sporting tales and poeticism aside. And that is the sheer power of a well respected, and well-loved brand.
A bit of context…
Many moons ago I represented my country, New Zealand, in the sport of water polo. Whilst I like to keep fit, I’d very much considered my water polo days over until 10 weeks ago when I received a Facebook message asking me if I would like to join some old mates to play in the Pan Pacific Masters Games on the Gold Coast.
My initial reaction was ‘no way!’ ‘I’m too old!’ ‘I’m not fit enough!’ and ‘I’ll die’. And all in quick succession I might add.
And then I read the team list, over half of whom I knew. And I thought about the ‘good old days’. The memories. The funny caps with the holes in the ears. The tight togs so you couldn’t get them ripped off you in a game. The mouthguards that made you look hard core. But most of all the camaraderie. I don’t think I’ve ever felt the same camaraderie in my life since. It’s a truly special feeling and if you ever experience it in life, you are truly blessed.
The team list also conveniently listed the ages of each of the confirmed players, and it dawned on me that though I am well into my 30s, I would actually be the youngest player. The optimist in me took over.
‘If they can do this, you can do this’. ‘C’mon it’ll be fun’. ‘Man it’s been a long time since I’ve seen some of those girls.’ ‘It would be so nice for our kids to meet each other’.
So I said yes. And then wondered what on earth I’d done.
Pre cursor to the 2017 Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast
The reality of the event was over 14,000 competitors, 41 sports and 21 countries. With the light rail lines recently opened, the Gold Coast is ready to show it has what it takes for three years time when it plays host to the Commonwealth Games.
So here was little old me. Almost two decades on from my last game of serious water polo. Hoping, no make that praying I’d been keeping fit enough to not completely die, and gingerly donning a full team uniform ready to head of to my first water polo game in a very long time.
And the point of my whole blog? The shirt, the togs, the swimming cap and cap all featured my home country’s emblem. A silver fern. A brand with some of the most… brand loyalty,… brand personality,
brand awareness and brand positioning in the world.
To any body who has travelled…
New Zealanders must be one of the most well travelled nationalities around. No matter which country you travel to (and believe me I’ve traversed quite a few), Kiwis are there! I’ve bumped into them in Embassy’s in Acapulco, in the streets of Bangkok, on escalators in London and on volcano walks in Costa Rica. You simply can’t get away from them.
Ever since our indigenous forefathers jumped in a bunch of wakas (canoes) and paddled to the Land of the Long White Cloud from the mystical Hawaiki, and our European forefathers made took shilling fares bound for the colonies, the wind has been in our hair and travel has been in our blood.
But take a Kiwi out of New Zealand and they’re as parochial as they come. Quite possibly because there are only 4.2 million in the country, so the ones who are out of the country seem to feel the need to make up for our small population.
The power of the All Black brand
Over the same weekend as the Pan Pacific Masters Games were held, the All Blacks played a showpiece match against USA in Chicago. My Facebook feed was awash with people either at the live game, or guffawing at the funny American commentary.
But the one comment that was made, which no Kiwi around the world would have disagreed upon was: ‘the All Black brand is THE MOST recognisable jersey in the world’.
Sitting there watching the game, that comment really struck me.
THE MOST recognisable jersey in the world.
It’s a marketers dream brand.
A big comment, from a big nation.
And a huge compliment to New Zealand.
What a brand means to a marketer
Branding specialists and marketers around the world thrash branding strategies around in boardrooms for hours on end talking about brand positioning, brand personality, brand experience, brand management and so on, whilst getting paid many thousands and even millions of dollars to come up with winning branding formulas. And there is so much more to branding a business, person, product or event than those who are not in marketing will ever know.
Everyone in the industry has their views on what makes a good brand, but most will agree that a brand is most definitely not just a logo, a colour selection, a font, a letter or a symbol.
A brand has a story, and that story bank has to be built up over time.
People need to be introduced to a brand. Get familiar with a brand. Then feel a connection to a brand. To have what is known as a ‘brand experience’. And then to associate the brand with a good experience of some shape or form.
When people want to be part of the brand..
So here we were, walking down Broadbeach, Gold Coast as a team, off to a restaurant for dinner, and I can feel the eyes on us. Heads are turning in restaurants. People are quickening their pace to walk near us and strike up conversations. And I don’t think it is because of our dashing good looks as a team, but I truly believe it was because we were wearing a silver fern. A brand. And, if the comments by the American commentator are anything to go by, one of the most recognised brands in the world.
I’d forgotten what it felt like to be wearing the black and white silver fern brand. It’s such a simple brand image, but one which conveys so much emotion. Want to know more about what makes a good brand? Read this blog too!
What is the brand you feel the most emotion towards and why? Is it a sports team jersey or a company you just REALLY like. How does it make you feel? Why do you think it makes you feel this way? Ask yourself these questions, and you are well on your way to thinking like a marketer! Comment in the section below…