Skip to main content

How well do brands demonstrate the Kiwi Codes?

people playing in the ocean

Back in 2017 we carried out a project with True in which we uncovered a set of six Kiwi Codes that capture the essence of what it means to be a New Zealander.

In a nutshell

  1. TRA have done work to gain a deeper understanding of the six Kiwi Codes and assess how well brands demonstrate them. 
  2. There is a renewed sense of pride in the 'Kiwi' moniker, with most New Zealanders wanting to be known as Kiwi rather than New Zealanders. People are also keen to support Kiwi brands, with seven out of ten saying they mostly buy, or try to buy, New Zealand products and services.
  3. Of the six codes, Outward World View and Humour are demonstrated well by brands overall. Two of the codes, Individuality & Self-determination and Belief in Social Equivalence, are not demonstrated well at all. 
  4. There are plenty of opportunities for brands to better demonstrate the Kiwi Codes and align with the hearts and minds of New Zealanders. 

Now we’ve gone a step further to get a deeper understanding of these codes and quantitatively assess how well brands operating in New Zealand align to them.

Renewed pride in being Kiwi

What became very clear is that there is a strong sense of Kiwi pride and confidence in New Zealand’s place in the world. There is renewed pride in the ‘Kiwi’ moniker with two-thirds of people wanting to be known as Kiwis rather than New Zealanders. And, the term ‘Kiwi’ comes with a new-found sense of our place in the world, which is felt particularly strongly amongst younger, aspirational groups.


Unsurprisingly, the brands who are cited as the best at demonstrating ‘Kiwiness’ are all New Zealand companies – brands like Whittakers, Air New Zealand, Pak’nSave, The Warehouse, Mainland, Kiwibank, Kapiti, Lotto, Anchor and Griffins.

chart 2

And it looks like people are keen to support Kiwi brands too, with more than seven out of ten saying they mostly buy, or try to buy, New Zealand products and services. International brands no longer seem to be the benchmark of quality, with local brands being seen to have increased desirability and cache. Not least, perhaps, because international brands do not demonstrate the six Kiwi Codes as well as New Zealand companies do. However, international brands that do own a code are embraced as local brands by New Zealanders.

chart 3

So where do brands perform well?

Of the six codes, two stand out as being demonstrated well by brands overall. The first is Outward World View (24% very well demonstrated) which refers to Kiwis’ sense of pride in our place in the world and how the world sees us. This is a space where New Zealand’s large organisations and infrastructure companies in particular can play, as Kiwis want to see our companies holding their own against global brands.

The second is Humour (26% very well demonstrated) which is often used as a device to help us talk about difficult issues and poke fun at ourselves. Kiwi brands get it right a lot of the time, particularly in their advertising – see our research with ThinkTV into the Top10 TVCs to see examples of ads that successfully use humour to speak to Kiwis.

When looking at our third code, Connection to Nature, an interesting anomaly is that people believe that brands generally demonstrate the code well (21%), but when asked to evaluate individual brands against this code they often don’t perform as well. The natural environment is important to Kiwis – when asked what they enjoy doing, nearly half said ‘doing things in the outdoors’ – so this is a significant space for brands to get right, yet it seems they are not succeeding.

Fairness is not a space brands are doing well in

"While Outward World View, Humour and Connection to Nature are codes that speak to connection, the final three codes are centred around fairness and it’s clear that this is a more difficult space for brands to align with."

While Outward World View, Humour and Connection to Nature are codes that speak to connection, the final three codes are centred around fairness and it’s clear that this is a more difficult space for brands to align with.

The Earned Success code recognises that Kiwis are now more willing to celebrate their wins, but how you handle success is what you’re judged by. Earned Success was found to be one of the two key drivers of brand love, but only 16% of people think organisations demonstrate it very well. Gone are the days of feting those who coble it together and hope for the best – Kiwis respect businesses that have a clear plan and ambition for success, just as long as that success is seen to be well-deserved.

The other key driver of brand love is our Individuality and Self-Determination code. While retailers demonstrate this code quite well, overall companies are not seen to be championing difference and progress (15% very well demonstrated). It is an area many brands don’t want to attach themselves to for fear of getting it wrong.

The code which is least well demonstrated by brands is Belief in Social Equivalence (13% very well demonstrated) which refers to the tension around our desire for a fair, moral and non-hierarchical society and the sense that we could be doing better. While challenging for a brand to be a strong voice in this space, 8 in 10 people believe that it is important that brands do this well.

It may seem like a daunting space to play in, but there are plenty of opportunities to claim the hearts and minds of New Zealanders for those organisations who can demonstrate the Kiwi Codes well – whether you decide to focus on one code that’s especially well-aligned to your business, or you choose to speak to several codes.

About the Kiwi Codes:
The Kiwi Codes were developed in 2018 as a collaborative project between TRA and True to define what it means to be a New Zealander heading into the 2020s. In 2019, a representative sample of 2,500 Kiwis were surveyed to quantify the initial findings and assess how well 20 brands align to the Kiwi Codes.

Claire Tutill
Marketing Manager at TRA

Understand the forces of culture and shape radical ideas

back to top

Discover more content

Stay in touch!

Sign up to receive our latest thinking straight to your inbox each month.