Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland is calling

entered by Auckland Tourism, Events and Economic Development, (Credit: Destination Think)


For years, Auckland stakeholders expressed the need for an authentic Auckland story. While “brand New Zealand” resonates globally, Auckland – the country’s largest city and economic hub – is less well known. The inability to clearly articulate distinctiveness was a problem. Previous unsuccessful attempts to create an Auckland identity resulted in caution – with ‘brand’ perceived as a logo or strapline, and expensive. The solution was to incorporate the development of a “positioning and narrative” into a new Destination AKL 2025 Strategy, created with an Industry Leaders Group, and ratified by the Mayor.


Creating the Auckland Place Brand Playbook

Delivery partner, Destination Think, synthesised desk research with resident research, workshops and stakeholder engagement, to co-create the Place DNA™. International research identified what the world thought of Auckland and the team examined how ‘Auckland’ talked to the world via multiple digital channels. This research revealed that Auckland has a high rational, but lower emotional appeal, impacting its reputation. The team needed to enhance emotional appeal by telling stories, focused on Māori culture and urban-ness, and created the Tāmaki Makaurau He Aratohu Auckland Playbook.

The research was turned into four brand pillars to help build emotional connection, and close the narrative gaps. 

A Place of Mana –The world is used to seeing indigenous cultures in museums but Auckland’s Māori identity is unique and part of everyday life.
Urban Oasis – Auckland is a thriving urban hub. It's New Zealand’s is largest city, set in spectacular surroundings, but the world doesn’t know about the urban experience.
Collective Worlds – One in three Aucklanders were born elsewhere so the city is a melting pot of cultures.
Playground for Ideas – Auckland’s entrepreneurial spirit drives the city to great things.

Employees and leadership were advocates, ensuring Auckland’s brand underpinned the wide-ranging work delivered across Destination and Economic Development. With brand buy-in, the team were able to seize opportunities to create assets. With a bank of great content, a playbook and passionate staff, the brand was starting to come to life. All briefs generated had to align with the brand, including the big one for 2021.


Preparing for 2021 - and adapting to manage the crisis of 2020

2021 was poised to be an incredible year for Auckland, bookended by the America’s Cup and APEC Leaders Week. Filled with world-class events, the year would be leveraged to the maximum to tell the Auckland story, with an exciting multi-year, multi-event campaign 100% originating from the Auckland brand. 

Then – in March 2020 – the world changed. 

A recovery strategy was shared with leadership to ensure that the brand work was not displaced by more tactical recovery priorities. Despite the abrupt end to the next major tranche of workshops, lectures and tutorials, the team were able to leverage the investment in the brand and secure funding to further develop online assets.

The creation of the Tāmaki Makaurau He Aratohu Auckland Playbook took the work from being “ATEED’s research project” to a sharable, meaningful, evidence-based narrative for Auckland. Engagement was wide, deep, and consistent and incorporated key agencies such as Tourism NZ and NZ Story. Grounded in research, the authentic brand story resonated with all who saw the work, and they in turn wanted to share it. The work underpinned the “2021 A Year Like No Other is Calling - Auckland is Calling” campaign which the team started developing in earnest.

Despite all public investment being under intense scrutiny, the confidence in the brand work meant funds were released to continue developing assets. This was a big strategic ‘win’ in the current conditions. With stunning on-brand footage in the bank, and a deep understanding of the brand, ‘Papātuānuku is Breathing’ was created in homes, in lockdown. This video captured the beauty of the region and captured hearts and minds across the globe. 

Finally, after many years, a research-based, authentic story of Auckland, co-created with the owners of the brand, our residents, was delivered. The Tāmaki Makaurau He Aratohu Auckland Playbook was embraced by the wide-ranging Aucklanders it was shared with. The strategy has laid the foundations for funds released in lockdown to contribute towards the brand recovery strategy.


The 2021 City Nation Place Awards finalists have been announced! Find out more here.


Related reading:

Papatūānuku is Breathing: how Māori values underpin Auckland's sustainable destination management

Five ideas everyone should take away from the City Nation Place World Congress

14 steps to nation branding: a practical guide

Three key concepts as we rethink, retool, and reinvent

Accelerating FDI through the strategic power of collaboration

Investing in reputational capital 101: utilising data for informed decision making

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