Graham Reid | | 4 min read
Kevin Saatchi, CEO of the New York-based advertising and media company RobertsAndRoberts, said yesterday he was excited about his company being offered the contract to re-brand New Zealand for the 21st century.
The five-year contract for RobertsAndRoberts to rename and re-brand the country came at the invitation of the government which has expressed increasing frustration with issues over place names such as the recent Wanganui/Whanganui discussion, and the current debate over whether traditional Maori names should be used for the North and South islands.
“We went down this path many years ago with the whole Mt Egmont-Taranaki discussion,” said prime minister John Key yesterday when announcing the RobertsAndRoberts contract, believed to be worth $75 million: “We feel it is timely now to look at this whole area again.
“New Zealand needs to reposition itself in the global economy and a re-branding exercise allows us the opportunity to rethink the whole area. My government has every confidence that RobertsAndRoberts, with Kevin Saatchi‘s enthusiasm and expertise behind it, can achieve a good outcome for the country in the short and long terms.”
Mr Saatchi, speaking from his yacht in the Cayman Islands, said last night that the “21st century will belong to countries and companies which can adapt quickly to the new global marketplace and the strategic possibilities the internet is opening up”.
“Already we have had a meeting with some of our best thinkers and by looking with fresh eyes we think we have come up with some exciting ideas which will appeal to the go-ahead and thrusting young New Zealanders who will lead the country into this new millennium. We don’t want to wipe the slate clean so much as build a whole new slate -- more correctly a whole new ideas platform™.
“One early thought is that New Zealand be renamed Aro-A ™, which conjures up the Maori word for ‘love’, aroha -- a kind of ethnic Lovemark™ as it were -- but dispenses with that whole ‘should we have an “h” in there or not?’ debate.
“But more excitingly it allows us to take to domain name www.aro-a.aa™ and the symmetry of the three w’s and three a’s book-ending that are full of possibilities when it comes to logos and the like.
“We’re also very excited by the idea of renaming the North and South islands as Aro-Won™ and Aro-Too™ respectively because these names are snappy, memorable and have the same kind of forward-looking potential as iconic New Zealand brands such as Zespri and Fonterra.
“The ‘Aro‘ part of the name is a useful homonym which conjures up the speed and upward flight of an arrow -- but the use of “Won” is extremely positive. And of course “Too” coattails that upward, positive vibe. Both say ‘winner’.”
Mr Saatchi also noted the Maori word “aro” variously means to face forward or the front of a person and their mind, and “aroa” means understanding. These subtle nuances of te reo should appeal to forward-think Maori, he said.
“It‘s about packaging as much as it is about the package.
“New Zealand is a country of hard won gains, a land of creativity, energy, music, and enthusiasm. Few other countries have been so full of dreams of freedom, renewal, and evolution -- although to be fair I said that about South Africa last week so . . .
“But you get the idea. It’s a big idea and we need fresh and big ideas. And when it comes to re-branding New Zealand to Aro-A™, then I’m a radical optimist. If we say it can be done, it will be done. If we say it will be done, then it can be done.
“Start with the outcome not the problem. Get past the slogans and buzzwords and get to the heart of the issue, the nub of the problem, the core of the argument - then you can blue-sky an idea.
“These are the kinds of clear messages that I will be putting before a select group of like-minded people we’ve hand-picked to be in our focus group to convince ourselves that we together -- those three people and me -- can do this for the good of the country.
“And what’s good for the country is good for the market. Brand Aro-A™ is exciting, innovative, of the future and in the future. We just need people to get in behind it or get out of the way.
“Aro-A™ is like Jonah Lomu at his most powerful, coming right at you.”
Mr Key indicated that any re-branding should accommodate elements of the Maori language “although by taking advantage of the expertise of a company such as RobertsAndRoberts we can leverage the future and not be held back by the past”.
Mr Saatchi said last night that while no firm names have been decided on just yet he has been in discussion with the New Zealand Geographic Board and the Maori Party to hammer out a working document which will allow everyone to have their say, “but the final decision will ultimately be ours, that‘s in the nature of the contract”.
“Too often in discussions about the moving forward into the future we have people who seem to be held captive by the past, and it is our intention to . . Well, if not exactly forget the past, certainly not allow it to stop Aro-A™ to reach its full potential in the modern world.”
Mr Saatchi said that when he comes to the country next week he is looking forward to meeting with exporters and top executives from the advertising industry to talk more about the possibilities of not only renaming and re-branding New Zealand, but how to attract “forward-thinking, idea-friendly people with international experience to the country”.
“New Zealand as it is today will be forever trapped by the awkwardness of its image: a country in the South Pacific with a Dutch name and cities with archaic British or incomprehensible Maori nomenclature. Here is a once-in-a-lifetime chance to embrace the new era and boldly go where no other country has been before . . into the unknown. The last thing we want is for New Zealand to mistaken for Elsewhere.
“It is exciting and I would expect all forward-thinking people in the country to embrace the concept. We need to put these linguistic and cultural divisions behind us, and new names and concepts allow us to that. I think people will buy that.
“And if they don’t, it doesn’t matter. The contract is for five years and even if nothing comes of it at least we’ve all had a chance to Think Big™ and ride the Knowledge Wave™ for a little longer.
“But think about it, ‘Peace, Love and Aro-A™‘.