In June 2007 Education New Zealand, the peak industry body for institutions involved in the sale of education to foreign students in New Zealand, launched a new national brand. The New Zealand Educated brand (from which the images in this entry are sourced) is designed to represent and to lead a new phase of development in the sale of educational products to foreign students. The Brand is far more than simply a logo or a coherent message for developing promotional materials. It is based upon and expresses the strategic logic of industry development generated at a national level under the auspices of Education New Zealand over the last three years. Similarly, whilst much of such material is directed at foreign students studying in New Zealand, the new brand represents an imaginary of a far wider and more expansive international education industry. Narrowly, the brand will be used in all offshore promotional and marketing collateral designed to attract students to New Zealand to study. More widely it is the front end of a strategic reassessment of offshore trade shows and other commercial events promoted by Education New Zealand, its domestic public relations, its website, and its relationships with both the New Zealand government and off-shore institutional partners in education programmes.
Three points may be of particular interest to readers of GlobalHigherEd. First, the national branding of international education activities by New Zealand operators is a feature of the New Zealand case. Education New Zealand has in the last decade been transformed into an efficient and professional peak body. Now funded by a marketing levy against all operators, it has taken advantage of the crisis prompted by the slump in sales to Chinese students and subsequent rationalisation and reprofessionalisation of activities among its members to emphasise and accentuate their mutual interests in Brand New Zealand. By working strategically in changing conditions Education New Zealand has sought to marginalise sectoral differences among its members and build a more coherent and integrated national product. It has now branded that product.
In this rebranding, Education New Zealand has placed international education firmly within the family of product/industry specific ‘Brand New Zealand’ so creatively symbolised by the erection of a giant rugby-ball-shaped trade stand in the shadow of the Eiffel Tower for 18 days during the recent Rugby World Cup in France (photo courtesy of Kris Olds). Although somewhat deflated by New Zealand’s early exit from a contest that it was expected to win, the ball, labelled ‘100% Pure New Zealand’, reveals the extent of national branding and the political project of economic nationalism that underpins it. As one of New Zealand’s leading export earners and with powerful messages of youth, tourism and knowledge economy to sell Brand New Zealand international education featured prominently in the imaginary of the ball.
Second, in the design of the new brand, the brand makers have made a careful assessment of the tag-lines, messages and advantages of competitors as well as national strengths. That they chose to do so and the imaging that they discovered in doing so reveals the increasing deployment of brand expertise and logics in many places, and the increasing presence of nation branding. It is suggests a new moment in far more professionalised inter-national competition.
The third interest lies in precisely what new brand values are being attached to Brand New Zealand International Education. The new ‘New Zealand Educated’ brand rebrands international education in New Zealand. It displaces one half of the old logo ‘The New World Class: New Zealand Educated’, as well as the multiple and wordy tag lines of ‘warm and welcoming environments’, ‘world class institutions’, ‘high quality living conditions’, ‘world leading courses and degrees’, ‘association with fresh thinkers’, ‘recreation in paradise’, and ‘British based education system’. These messages, somewhat cumbersome and highly defensive, were targeted at a bulk market largely out of Asia that was undifferentiated and knew little about New Zealand. The target was imagined as much to be parents as students and the place of information gathering and purchase was imagined to be the trade fair.
A new set of taglines, again a family of seven, pushes similar messages about a modern, friendly, British-based, out-doors, and green New Zealand, but one that is far more vibrant, globally connected, youthful, and exciting. Crucially it appears to imagine students as savvy, active agents, with subjectivities already located in the new global class elite and seeking an international education that will allow them to perform their lives within this elite – as leisure/experience consumers as well as actual or prospective creative entrepreneurs and knowledge workers. Hence, the seven tag lines are now ‘connected’, ‘inventive’, trusted’, ‘personal’, ‘adventurous’, ‘lively’, and ‘welcoming’. The photographic images are of self-confident, sophisticated students. The expectation now appears to be that the market place is on-line and the purchaser the savvy student. The text behind the tag lines presumes and more subtly restates New Zealand’s global credentials.
The ‘New World Class’ was designed to secure a high volume supply chain in a emerging market for international students where New Zealand was positioned as a high-reputation, third-tier provider. In this market imaginary, the product was largely English language acquisition. New Zealand enjoyed certain key advantages from its safety, environmental reputation, national organisation, and British colonial history. The ‘New Zealand Educated’ brand recognises a much more sophisticated and competitive market place, but again one in which New Zealand enjoys similar advantages. However, these must be repackaged for a new local industry trajectory, a far more sophisticated and intermediated marketplace in which the expertise of branding is now being brought to bear, and new consumers.