Experiential Marketing: NZ Tourism

Experiential Marketing: NZ Tourism

Being a Kiwi, I have a natural bias towards all things New Zealand. It is the land of the big white cloud (Aotearoa), the land of green and clean, and also the land where small ideas take shape into world-leading innovations and businesses.

In New Zealand, it is known as the ‘Number 8 Wire’ approach, as in making things work till they reach scale and scope, but doing it on the tiniest almost non-existent budget; and using all the resources (mostly free) to bring it to fruition. It is single-handedly the driving factor behind the success in agriculture, sports, fitness, marine and forestry, and all of the other areas you can think of. This is what helped Munroe create the ‘Indian’ legend which was made into a successful movie “The Indian”.

Speaking of movies, it is the land where the movie genius Peter Jackson was born, and not only did he create one of the most successful movie series, The Lord of the Rings, and then The Hobbit, but he has create Weta Workshops which is the leading studio for all things to do with green screen, facial recognition and body mapping for all modern animations and graphics.

I will go back to the more ‘smarter’ partnership of Peter Jackson with Tourism New Zealand, where he used his movies to showcase the natural beauty of his country, and used stunning locations as backdrops to many memorable scenes. These not only attracted foreigners to New Zealand in massive numbers but also built a sustainable model of social entrepreneurship for all the hundreds of small businesses linked with tourism and travel.

Last week on my trip to Matamata, I noticed the Hobbiton hut placed smartly in the middle of this small agricultural town. It was the Information Centre and served as the bus stop for the tours to Hobbiton – the town of hobbits, which is basically the movie set, which was left as is, and is maintained in collaboration with the local council, and the tourism operators in the region. Even on a quiet winter afternoon, in the middle of the week, the place was packed with tourists, and they all seemed to enjoy the experience.

This ability of New Zealanders to recognise economic potential in this movie-led opportunity has helped the town of Matamata increase its revenue, provide additional income to hundreds of people living there, and integrated well with the other tourist spots such as Taupo, Rotorua and Auckland to bring ‘live’ experiences for fans of these movies, and characters.

The attention to detail in the marketing of these attractions is also worth commenting on. From the livery on the buses to the town signs to the road signs pointing to the right location, to the online-offline search options on Google using Geo-location, as well as the real-life sets converted into information booths, and bus stops are really amazing. My wife who is not from New Zealand, on seeing this was super happy to be able to live the experience of the movies in her own time. This is what turns passersby into fans and fans into brand ambassadors.

The messaging is on point and the universality of the message is maintained by being brand-centric and having the right colours, logos and designs integrated cleverly everywhere. I couldn’t find any errors in how well they incorporated the branding into the marketing to generate interest, leads and sales for tours. It is a case study to be taught in universities as to how a movie concept can be shaped into living experiences, similar to what Disney has done with Disneyland, and bringing many movies into park rides.

The only difference is that though the movies were produced by Hollywood, it has retained the Kiwi spirit by being not-so-pushy and more laid-back in how everything is operated. It is not over-priced and over-sold to the audience, and this appeals to the locals and the Asian community best who don’t like being sold to. There are many other locations scattered throughout New Zealand offering the locals an opportunity to share their stories with visitors and find new ways of earning an income, without destroying or damaging the environment.

As a marketing student and professional, it has taught me invaluable lessons through observation in a limited time as to how to build a brand, nurture it with community involvement, and then gift it back to the people to let them grow it. There are multi-lingual tour guides to cater to the non-English, mainly Chinese tourists who can’t get enough of New Zealand.

Hats off to Peter Jackson, to the council of Matamata, and to New Zealand tourism for enabling the experience of Hobbiton, and other locations for movie-travel lovers.

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