Jacinda and Clarke’s baby touches so many cultural issues.
In a nutshell
- Companies are in danger of being caught heads down controlling their rising fear of technological disruption, and missing the threats and opportunities that cultural disruption poses.
- The Kiwi cultural DNA around individualism provides a very fertile place for brands to play, specifically because there are tensions meaning we can create frission that breaks through the sameness of many categories.
- Because individualism in New Zealand is coupled with the idea of self-determination (meaning that I am a unique individual but also that I am actively selecting and forging my own way), the fertile ground is about how the brand speaks to that ‘doing it my way’ mentality. Vogel's is an example of a brand speaking to this code.
Feminism, parenting, our political structure (a deputy PM we didn’t elect), trends in baby names and so much more. There are some interesting tensions in the nation’s response which reflect our deep-seated belief in the right to self-determination and the value we place on individualism.
While all of this was happening, across the Pacific a different face of self-determination was paraded by Melania Trump and her “I really don’t care” jacket. A fast response by clothing company Wildfang saw them produce their jacket: “I really care, don’t you”, selling out within an hour. This is cultural disruption played out on a very public stage and is palpable evidence of a cultural tilt that at the very least rivals technological disruption, if not exceeding it in regard to its impact on brands.
It is stark warning for companies who are in danger of being caught heads down controlling their rising fear of technological disruptions, and missing the threats and opportunities that cultural disruption poses. It’s good to see Wildfang are heads up, looking out of the window and thinking how cultural and social disruption of tsunami like proportions might utterly change customer behaviour.
Having a baby while in the highest public office and wearing clothing that says what you feel (even if it is unconscious in the latter case) are both acts of self-determination and individualism. What’s more, they shine a light on what makes our respective national cultural codes very different. In New Zealand self-determination is coupled with “don’t make a song and dance about it”, “don’t rock the boat” and “support the collective good”. Currently Brand Jacinda’s personality is largely achieving that, though whether it will continue longer term when her baby becomes one of her distinctive assets is yet to be seen.
I’ll do me, you do you – but let’s not do sameness
What the Kiwi cultural DNA around self-determination and individualism does tell us is that this is a very fertile place for brands to play, specifically because there are tensions meaning we can create frission that breaks through the sameness of many categories.
But, for example, the climate of frictionless design seems to run counter this. The frictionless world that the ‘wind tunnel’ approach to UX design (which is why every car marque has a near identical looking car in the same model band) produces is not where we will find the edginess of self-determination that runs deep in the Kiwi psyche.
Nor will we find it by celebrating sameness. We have an increasingly diverse population in every sense – gender and ethnicity for example, plus different value structures as Millennials and Gen Z work out what kind of life they are aspiring to both personally and for society in general. And as regards value structures, many new immigrant New Zealanders come from societies where collectivism rather than individualism is the core belief. So our uniquely Kiwi version of individualism that combines with a belief in the importance of the collective makes for harmony but also creative opportunity.