Guest Blog: PRINZ CEO Panel – Communicating ‘Brand Wellington’

Grace Loftus, Communications Advisor at MBIE

CEO Panel – Communicating ‘Brand Wellington’ was a PRINZ evening event held on Tuesday 5 August 2014 in Wellington.

How do you go about creating a brand for Wellington that appeals to both tourists and businesses alike? What are the challenges of bringing along those organisations and suppliers that will make your brand come to life?

On 5 August the Wellington chapter of PRINZ held a panel discussion aimed at answering these questions, featuring David Perks – CEO Positively Wellington Tourism (PWT); Gerard Quinn – CEO Grow Wellington; Sarah Meikle – CEO Wellington Culinary Events Trust; and Kevin Lavery – CEO Wellington City Council. The event was well attended, with around 40 attendees in all.

Each speaker took to the floor for ten minutes to discuss how each of their organisations is working (often with each other) to promote Wellington as the cultural and migration destination of choice in New Zealand.

CEO Panel photoThe first of the panel to take the floor, David Perks’ key achievement as CEO of PWT to date has been the naming of Wellington as one of the top 10 cities in the world to visit in 2011 by Lonely Planet.

Wellington regularly bucks national trends of decline in guest nights and international visitor arrivals by being nimble, tactical, and innovative. While tourism marketing is our shop window, marketing a city and marketing a country are very different things. Auckland and Wellington are both good urban experiences beyond the New Zealand countryside. David explained that in order to be successful, Wellington needs to tell a believable story beyond a one day visit or a one-sided nature experience. Marketing Wellington’s values of “act like a city, love like a village” helps bridge the gap between overseas and domestic perceptions of Wellington.

Next to speak was Gerard Quinn – CEO Grow Wellington. Gerard leads the Grow Wellington team in its efforts to grow Wellington’s economy and attract businesses, skilled people, and investment to the region. According to Gerard, Wellington is the first region in New Zealand to take a ‘whole of’ approach to marketing.

Gerard also chairs Creative HQ, the region’s high tech start-up accelerator and as part of the high-tech capital project leverages off successful companies like Trade Me, Xero, and Fronde to attract talent and investment to the region. Social media has been a great tool for Grow Wellington. It has allowed Wellington’s tech community to get behind the initiative and has been instrumental in attracting international interest in Wellington from people like Rob Janoff, designer of the iconic Apple logo.

Gerard said developing a value proposition, conducting a competitive city audit, and developing a brand toolkit to share with businesses were part of Grow Wellington’s marketing strategy.

Sarah Meikle – CEO Wellington Culinary Events Trust, also spoke about the need to bring the Wellington brand to life. She revealed how, when she worked for David at PWT, they turned Lonely Planet’s 2011 Capital of Cool declaration into a full-scale campaign in just four days.

She referred to Seth Godin’s definition of brand as: “the set of expectations, memories, stories and relationships that, taken together, account for a consumer’s decision to choose one product or service over another. If the consumer (whether it’s a business, a buyer, a voter or a donor) doesn’t pay a premium, make a selection or spread the word, then no brand value exists for that consumer.”

A brand is not a logo; strategy is key – supported by research; and you need to look at what your competitors are doing. For Sarah there is only one Wellington.

Sarah finished with a question for the audience to ponder – “How do we work with exporters such as Whittakers, Matakina, etc to tell the Wellington story?”

Last to speak was Kevin Lavery – CEO Wellington City Council. Kevin reiterated what David and Gerard had mentioned about the challenge facing New Zealand in balancing the international image of the Kiwi great outdoors with the reality of New Zealand’s urban populations. The reality is 80% of New Zealand’s GDP is generated by cities; 80% of Kiwi jobs are in cities; and 3 out of 4 New Zealanders live in urban areas.

Kevin, together with Mayor Celia Wade-Brown, is currently working on ‘8 Big Ideas’ for Wellington and was eager to communicate five key messages behind these ideas:

  1. Have an authentic and honest brand
  2. Your brand needs to be an integral part of a wider plan and delivery mechanisms
  3. Time is of the essence
  4. Have plenty of swag, confidence, and edginess
  5. Aim to be the best.

To be the best Wellington has to look beyond these shores to how the biggest cities in the world have successfully created and marketed their iconic brands. New York, Barcelona, and Glasgow were some standouts for him.

The panel session concluded with each panellist offering a vision for what they envisioned as a ‘job well done’:

David – “When other people write about Wellington as being ‘cool’, from sectors other than travel and tourism”
Gerard – “When an increasing number of businesses, talented people, international students and investors choose Wellington over another NZ and international cities”
Sarah – “When Wellington businesses tell Wellington’s story”
Kevin – “Well done is better than well said”

An interesting and insightful session on ‘Brand Wellington’ which provided the audience with plenty of material for questions and thoughts to take away from the night.


To see future events coming up in Wellington, Auckland, Hamilton and Christchurch, view the 2014 Events Calendar on the PRINZ website.

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