By Brian Sweeney,
Founder and Producer NZEDGE.COM
Keywords | Nation Branding | Objectives | Ownership | Silver Fern Logo | Audiences | Content | Global News | News Policy | Legends | Other Content | Advertising | Retailing | Backstory of a Metaphor | Site Builders | Photography | Further Reading
New Zealand narrative; nation branding; contemporary history and identity; reportage; meme and metaphor pertaining to edge competitive advantage; storytelling; Diaspora; celebration; curated; reportage; international news digest; archive; global mapping of New Zealand culture, innovation and achievement; common purpose – “Winning the World from the Edge”.
A country’s reputation is arguably its most important international asset. The integrity of a state underpins everything from the currency, trade and tourism, to the personal opportunities of citizens to travel and make a contribution in the world. Nation branding is a formal discipline that can be practiced by governments, companies and organizations, and individuals. Wikipedia has an excellent overview of the discipline. Simon Anholt is the leading world researcher in the field. Think tanks, diplomats and academics have a natural interest in the subject. Nation branding is critical for tourism marketing – 100% Pure is the official tourism brand. Media like Monocle delve into contemporary expressions of nationhood through design, mobility and commerce. Every country has brands that are tied to national identity. Books have been written – David Ausebel’s The Fern and the Tiki (1977) is key reading in the New Zealand literature, and for something contemporary, try How to Be Danish by Patrick Kingsley.
NZEDGE.COM is my personal nation branding campaign undertaken partly out of the love of a good story, but also to support our own company’s international business expansion and communication. Last week in New York a senior producer – who knows New Zealand and has shot here – casually referenced the country as “an archipelago of sheep” – and I bristled for a moment, wanting to lay the contemporary story out on his desk. Globally, most people do not think of New Zealand and Innovation in the same sentence. This site aims to put them together, wrapped in the Edge metaphor which positions New Zealand’s role to be “world-changers”. “World Class” is good but it is a model pursued by lots of people in lots of countries and many out-perform us. As the filmmaker Gaylene Preston said a few years back, “We need a better set of myths.”
The New Zealand Edge is a new way of thinking about our identity, people, stories, achievements and place in the world. We wish to:
- Introduce metaphors and contemporary frameworks to articulate who we are as New Zealanders living and making business in a globalized world
- Build a global brand for New Zealand by re-framing an identity based on high achievement in a diversity of disciplines – creative, technological and social
- Stimulate an international attitude and outreach by New Zealanders to help enable a fully-fledged export economy
- Offer a positive media environment focused on achievement and innovation
- Build emotional connections with the global community of New Zealanders (Aotearoa whanau whanui kite ao nui).
NZEDGE.COM was launched in July 1999 and is owned by SweeneyVesty, a communications company I co-founded in 1987. The views I express on this site are mine personally.
The Silver Fern was the logo of NZEDGE.COM when we first launched in 1999. I believed – backed by some compelling research data – that the Silver Fern is the most internationally recognizable symbol of New Zealand. In 2005 we upgraded our fern design with the one commissioned by the late, great patriot Lloyd Morrison who campaigned for a change in the New Zealand flag. A full outline of the case for the Silver Fern can be found at www.nzflag.com including an essay I wrote Eight Reasons to Change the New Zealand Flag. Lloyd and I had many conversations about our respective efforts to reframe the New Zealand story, and I am proud to carry his design on NZEDGE.COM.
New Zealanders living globally are a core audience. In 1998 we identified that a million New Zealanders live outside our shores (this figure came from demographic research, some strategic rounding and an eye for a compelling headline). Viewing many of our best and brightest through the narrow lens of expats and brain drain gave rise to the need to build emotional outreaches to suggest a global community of New Zealanders. We initially called them/us/you NEONZ – the network of overseas New Zealanders. In effect we defined a Diaspora and hoped to encourage the capital, creative and community flows between our ‘on-island’ and ‘off-island’ populations. We encouraged people to join our website for newsletter updates and over time we have logged site registrations from 1,000+ international cities and towns (in addition to 200+ cities and towns in New Zealand). There are some obvious points of concentration eg Sydney/Melbourne/London/New York and Auckland/Wellington/Christchurch – but the geographic spread is significant.
Readers of NZEDGE.COM are diverse, from a major core of professional and creative people working in business, government and .orgs to academics, through to marketers and digerati, promoters of New Zealand tourism, trade, investment, foreign policy, and entrepreneurs and local economic development leaders. An ‘occupations/ titles’ page is here with 1,500+ entries.
We see tremendous application for the site content in schools – primary, intermediate and secondary. I believe NZEDGE.COM makes New Zealand history interesting, inspirational, and international. We focus on ideas and innovation. “I” words. We have developed school curriculum lessons for Kate Sheppard, Alexander Aitken, Rewi Alley and Katherine Mansfield. We welcome interactions with and contributions from educators, teachers, parents and students. On occasions we help with homework!
The content on NZEDGE.COM has been developed for over a decade. It’s moved at the pace of the slow food movement.
There are several ways to interact with NZEDGE.COM. The most immediate is to dive into this website, it may take a week to read and view all the content on the site. We publish every day on the website, tweet three times daily during weekdays, update daily on Facebook, and publish a newsletter every week, please register here and see newsletter archives here.
There are two core bodies of content, Global News, and Legends stories.
The NZEDGE.COM News digest and archive is entirely framed in the context of international media. There are 12,000 stories from Y2000 to the current day reported in leading news titles and a wide variety of international online news and magazines. This is a unique collection of articles. The top five titles are The Guardian (1017 stories), Sydney Morning Herald (599), The New York Times (402), BBC (302), and The Telegraph (388). We link back to every original story (though a number of links in the early years are no longer live but we do hold an original print version). The subjects cover the full range of New Zealand activities and achievements as a nation especially including diaspora. The range of categories include Innovation (1604 articles), Arts (3922), Film (1476), Rugby & All Blacks (506), Obituaries (241), Style (1180), Nature (432), and Travel and Tourism (1082).
The NZEDGE.COM News page has been served by several editors in the formative stages of their excellent careers: founding and roving editor include Paul Stanley Ward; Anna Livesey; Clare Marshall; and Jane Nye, a New Zealand journalist living in Berlin. Emma Ward of SweeneyVesty Wellington is the news producer, publishing content daily on the website, Facebook and Twitter. Carla Hofler is web publisher and Sara Garcia Martin is web developer.
Please send story leads to firstname.lastname@example.org.
My intention is to seek out and publish positive news about New Zealand that is reported internationally. This is to build a radically optimistic framework for “the New Zealand Story” – not accidently or benignly or latently, but in an applied manner. Everyone is capable of being inspired, and without sugar-coating the pill too grandly, the objective of is to inspire action and achievement through the stories of fellow New Zealanders past and present, local and global.
NZEDGE.COM has significant coverage of major events that have signalled this country including medical research, agriculture, America’s Cup, Lord of the Rings, All Blacks, filmmakers and winemakers…this is not to say we don’t cover material issues that affect New Zealand and the international perception of the country, however we are not The National Enquirer.
I have sought to present a macro point of view on social issues afflicting New Zealand and point to the 50 essays we commissioned with Hawkes Bay social activist and entrepreneur Dennis O’Reilly under the heading Nga Kupu Aroha/Words of Love. I met Dennis in Hamilton in 1979 and our careers have converged over the years. He is a life member of Black Power, a “Ngati Pakeha”, a Baxterite, an interventionist in criminal justice and an inspirational player on the social edge of New Zealand. He talked to me in September 2004 about the methamphetamine epidemic that was sweeping the country and how he was determined to have an impact on diminishing both the demand and supply sides of this plague. His columns chart the fight he took on, and then a plethora of associated issues related to New Zealand’s underclass – Mokai Whanau Ora, or those who are alienated, disaffected, ostracized, impoverished, disenfranchised, and incarcerated. His beautiful and compassionate prose also takes us on a journey through Maori language, protocol and daily lives of struggle and celebration.
There are 45 commissioned essays on world-changing New Zealanders (200,000 words total). Some of these people are household names (Ernest Rutherford, Edmund Hillary, Katherine Mansfield, Jean Batten); many are names you will be hearing possibly for the first time (Colin Murdoch, Harold Williams, Ettie Rout, William Hudson and Te Ruki Kawiti). Every story bears a repeat read for their record of achievement and inspiration. These biographies were written by NZEDGE.COM writers mostly between 1999 and 2005: Paul Stanley Ward, Jacqueline Owens, Craig J Williams, Dr John Campbell, Damien Wilkins, Ingrid Horrocks, May-Ana Tirikatene-Sullivan, Costa Botes, David Passey, Donald Reid, Richard Campbell, and I. This was a pre-Wikipedia initiative and while at the time most of these stories ranked #1-3 on Google for the respective Legends, they have to an extent been eclipsed by Wikipedia. They remain in our view essential reading as they are contextualized as “New Zealand world-changers”.
There is also a listing of 100+ New Zealanders who we believe have changed the world in their own way. These stories include the aforesaid 45 plus links to 60 or so other ‘edge achievers’. There are many more people – stories – legends to add, you can nominate here. The Legends stories were called Heroes in our previous site, and while each of these people remain heroic, we like the terms Legends better today. More about inspiration than reverence. These stories are about virtual mentoring, role modelling, channelling, and dammit, hero-worshipping. To read anyone of these stories is to immediately feel inspired about being a New Zealander, or at least to reflect deeper. My personal favorites are Nancy Wake, Bruce McLaren, Tex Morton, Joseph Sinel and Keith Park. Get to know these folk. They are ordinary/extraordinary New Zealanders who found their Edge.
There are several supporting elements including:
- a curated selection of 1200 New Zealand YouTube videos
- an online gallery of 250 images if New Zealand and New York (NYNZ)
- 58 essays by social activist Denis O’Reilly on New Zealand’s social edge
- links to New Zealand Diaspora organizations in 30 countries and mediums
- links to important New Zealand government, economic, media, cultural and civic organizations as well as key attractions
- an international datebook of events
- indexes for fast access to content
- an archive of newsletters dating to 1999
We welcome enquiries email@example.com from prospective advertisers for the variety of advertising products and sponsored content we offer.
Over the past several years NZEDGE.COM has delivered products to 32 countries. Many of these orders have consisted of Burton Silver’s Golf Cross Golf Balls and Cookie Time Biscuits. Our shop is offline at present and we will reintroduce our retail offering in due course. For merchant enquiries please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
The metaphor of “New Zealand as Edge” was given to me in 1996 by Kevin Kelly, the founding editor of Wired, the San Francisco magazine that was the zeitgeist of the digital revolution, who had come to New Zealand to speak about the networks effects, mass collaboration, and the laws of the emerging internet. I had seen him speak earlier that year at TED in in Monterey; it was a pivotal year for the exponential unleashing of the web. Kevin Kelly is a neo-biologist and wrote a profound book Out of Control that essentially said that while physics determined digital transmission (Moore’s Law), biology was the relevant science for determining the exponential rise (and falls) of social connectedness(Metcalfe’s Law). I invited him to lunch, and then a drive, it being Sunday. We headed to Karekare and on the way he peppered me with questions about New Zealand and I made the statement that “I don’t know why but a disproportionate number of New Zealanders have changed the world in some way.” “That’s easy to explain,” he said, me not sure a four decade-old inquiry into national identity would be dealt to so quickly.
“New Zealand is the embodiment of punk eek,” he said. In 1972 the palaeontologists Stephen Jay Gould and Niles Eldredge proposed their theory of Punctuated Equilibrium. They held that evolution is not a smooth gradual engine but a series of long periods of statis punctuated by rapid change – and that change, when it does occur, comes from “peripheral isolated populations [that] exist at the outer edges of ecological tolerance” (Wikipedia). These “new” genes are not swamped or diluted by the “older” genes in the rest of the species’ populations.
Therefore, Kelly told me, New Zealand’s role in the cosmos is pre-determined by biology. The role of New Zealand is to be world-changing.
Telling this edge story is a natural thing for me. I have been publishing and producing since the age of 12 with a school newspaper at Morrinsville Intermediate School; then editor of the famous/infamous high school newspaper The Hillsdene Reflector at Tauranga Boys’ College in 1975; as editor in 1978 of the notorious student newspaper Nexus at the University of Waikato where I graduated with a BA in Politics; a seven year career in show business firstly with the New Zealand Students’ Arts Council as its Chairman and then as an impresario in my own agency with clients such as The Topp Twins and Sam Hunt. I presented indigenous voices and stories, produced short films and promoted theatre, comedy, opera, modern dance and rock music, blues and jazz. In 1987 Jane Vesty and I formed the strategic communications consultancy SweeneyVesty, undertaking complex transformational projects for large New Zealand companies and then for international companies. We have offices in New Zealand, AsiaPacific, Europe and the USA. I am largely based in New York, work with our New Zealand teams daily, and travel NY-NZ frequently.
I have developed this site with SweeneyVesty colleagues and partners who have been webmasters, web developers, designers, publishers, taggers, archivists and distributors. These people include Carla Hofler, Kirsten McConchie, Sara Garcia Martin, Sarah Tan, Paudie Fearon, Caleb Walsh, Emi Gordon, Michael Parker, Maitland Waters, John Moore, Jonathan Borrill, Matt Yee, Harry McKillen, Nic Maw, Sarah Connor, Roxanne Shaw, Hiro Ito, Joy Lake, Sophie Mills, Brent Peina, Humphrey Glennie and James Whale. Thanks to all.
If we have inadvertently used a photograph that requires permission, please email email@example.com to either confirm permission or for us to remove the image immediately. Brian Sweeney has posted approximately 200 photographs of his own personal axis, that of New Zealand and New York, for your personal use (screensavers, backgrounds, powerpoints). For commercial/high resolution use, please firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Kelly, K. (2005). Out of Control: The New Biology of Machines, Social Systems, & the Economic World. New York: Basic Books.
- Gould, S.J. and Eldredge, N (1993). Punctuated Equilibrium Comes of Age. London: Nature Publishing Group.
- Gould, S.J. (2007) Punctuated Equilibrium. Boston: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press
- Wacker, W. And Matthews, R. (2003). The Deviant’s Advantage: How Fringe Ideas Create Mass Markets. New York: Random House Business Books.
New Zealand Studies
- Anderton, J. (1999). Unsung Heroes- Portraits of inspiring New Zealanders. Auckland: Random House New Zealand.
- Ausubel, D. P. (1960). The Fern and the Tiki. Halstead Press: Angus and Robertson.
- Belich, J. (1997). Making Peoples: A History of the New Zealanders, from Polynesian Settlement to the End of the Nineteenth Century. Auckland: Penguin
- Belich, J. (2001). Paradise Reforged: A History of the New Zealanders from the 1880s to the Year 2000. University of Hawai’i Press
- Bell, C. (1996). Inventing New Zealand- Everyday Myths of Pakeha Identity. Auckland: Penguin Books New Zealand.
- Bridges, J. and Downes, D. (2000). No 8 Wire – The Best of Kiwi Ingenuity. Auckland: Hodder Moa Beckett
- Brown, J. (2001). Go Girl Go! Queenstown: JT Publishing Company Ltd.
- Campbell-Hunt, C. (2001). World Famous in New Zealand- How New Zealand’s Leading Firms Became World-Class Competitors. Auckland: Auckland University Press.
- Condliffe, J. (1936). New Zealand in the Making. Great Britain: George Allen and Unwin Ltd.
- Condliffe, J. (1969). The economic outlook for New Zealand. Christchurch: Whitcomb & Tombs Ltd.
- Duff, A. (2000). Maori Heroes. Auckland: Random House New Zealand.
- Eisen, K. J. (1994). The New Zealand Book of Records. Auckland: The Auckland Institute of Technology Press.
- Ell, G. (2003). An A-Z of Kiwi Fact & Folklore. Auckland: New Holland Publishers.
- Ferguson, A. (2003). Stand up & Shout! Kiwi Success Unplugged. Auckland: Williamson Publishing.
- Grayland, E. (1972). More Famous New Zealanders.
- Hopkins, J. (1999). Inventions from the Shed. Auckland: Harper Collins Publishers (New Zealand) Ltd.
- Ingram, W. (1962). Legends in their Lifetime. Wellington: Reed Publishing.
- Janssen, P. (2012). 60 Million Gingernuts: A Book of New Zealand Records. Auckland: Hodder Moa.
- Jenkins, D. L. (2006). 40 legends of New Zealand design. Auckland: Random House New Zealand.
- King, J. (1998). Famous New Zealand Aviators. Wellington: Grantham House Publishing.
- Knox, R. (1979). Notable New Zealanders: The Pictorial Who’s Who. Auckland : Prestige Publishing.
- McGill, D. (2000). Good Old Kiwi Identities- The Folk who Put the Kiwi into Kiwiana. Wellington: Grantham House Publishing.
- McLauchlan, G. (1976). The Passionless People- New Zealanders in the 1970s. Christchurch: Cassell New Zealand.
- Mitchell, A. (1972). The Half-Gallon Quarter-Acre Pavlova Paradise. Christchurch: Whitcomb and Tombs Ltd.
- Mulgan, A. (1958). The Making of a New Zealander. Wellington: Reed Publishing.
- New Zealand Listener. (2004). People: Profiles from the pages of New Zealand Listener. Auckland: Random House New Zealand.
- Palenski, R. (2004). Kiwi Milestones. Auckland: Hodder Moa Beckett.
- Pearson, B. (1974). Fretful Sleepers and Other Essays. Auckland: Heinemann Education Books Ltd.
- Riley, B. (1995) Ingenuity: A Book of New Zealand Ideas and Inventions. Auckland: AIT Press
- Romanos, J. (2005). New Zealand’s Top 100 History-Makers. Wellington: Trio Books.
- Shadbolt, T. (1971). Bullshit & Jellybeans. Wellington: Alister Taylor.
- Sligo, A. (2012). Great Kiwi Firsts. Auckland: Allen & Unwin.
- Smith, M. (1964). Champion Blokes. Christchurch: Whitcombe & Tombs Ltd.
- Sutherland, T. (1959). The Silver Fern- A Journey in Search of New Zealand. Wellington: Reed Publishing.
- Taylor, M. (1994). High Flying Kiwis. Auckland: Pressgang.
- Thompson, C. (2008). Come on Shore and We Will Kill and Eat You All: A New Zealand Story. New York: Bloomsbury USA.
- Tonkin, K. (2003). Four Great New Zealand Inventors. Wellington: Gilt Edge Publishing.
- Tonkin, K. (2003). New Zealanders of Action in World War Two. Wellington: Gilt Edge Publishing.
- Williams, T. (2006). 101 Ingenious Kiwis- How New Zealanders changed the world. Auckland: Reed Publishing (NZ) Ltd.
- Williams, T. (2007). 101 Incredible Kiwis- How New Zealanders lead the world. Auckland: Reed Publishing (NZ) Ltd.