By REBECCA SMITH
On behalf of Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT), we recently commissioned research to understand German perceptions of New Zealand. ‘A window into Germany: German Perceptions Research’ was conducted in Berlin and Munich and reveals a rich vein of affection for our values, culture and commitment to sustainability. They see us as friendly, natural, ingenious, open-minded, intrepid, agricultural and laid back.
One thing that surprised us was the high awareness and appreciation of Māori among those surveyed. “There is endless intrigue from the German people to hear more about Māori culture and history,” says the report.
This is great news for exporters and anyone who wants to build relationships in Germany. New Zealand holds an almost mystical appeal and is being invited to increase its presence in Germany.
But not all the perceptions were positive. On the downside New Zealand is perceived as small, far away, behind the times, less connected and less committed.
Distance is a problem: it’s hard for New Zealand to be top of mind when countries closer to Germany are bigger, compete for attention and have similar attributes of purity, naturalness and ingenuity.
And our famous laid-back lifestyle appears to be a double-edged sword. While Germans envy our lifestyle we are also seen as too casual. The perception is that “we don’t always take life seriously enough. It raises questions around our dedication to what we’re doing and because of that, the quality of what we create.”
To win in the German market, we need to create a vision of New Zealand that appeals to what they already know and appreciate –ingenuity, Māori culture, liberal democracy, quality products and services. But we need to meet them on what they value: being reliable, sustainable, observant of rules and scrupulous in backing any claims with research science.
That squares with the experience of David Boyd, whose company Foot Science International has been exporting to Germany for 25 years. “It’s actually a relief to see research backing up what we’ve saying for years,” says David. “Germany is a unique market and what succeeds in, say, the USA or Australia does not necessarily work in Germany.
“You must lead with the evidence first, prove your product is what you claim. They are naturally quite cautious so will demand proof. The report recommends using clean green imagery to support your message – and that’s correct but I’d hate for someone to mistake that to mean all you need is images of mountains and lakes. They absolutely love our clean green but in the first place you must earn their trust through evidence, proof and longevity in the market.”