Cashing in on being kiwi

David Vaassen - Friday, January 29, 2016

Why Blunt Umbrellas is talking up its New Zealand origins


Blunt Umbrellas took New Zealand by storm when it re-imagined the humble umbrella into a more engineered, durable, high-end product. The company then expanded its horizons into Japan and four years on, Blunt Umbrellas are sold in 30-plus countries.

Inventor Greig Brebner says visitors to international trade shows praised its clean design and German-like engineering. “We thought, that’s a real compliment, we’ll keep going down that route because obviously Germany does products so well.”

As Blunt expanded its range to satisfy requests from its distributors, Brebner says the focus was solely on refining and perfecting the design. But at one of Blunt’s annual international distributor meetings, it was, ironically, the company’s German distributor who suggested talk ing up Blunt’s New Zealand origins. The other distributors agreed.

“Up until then, pushing the whole New Zealand thing wasn’t front of our mind,” he says. “We always felt New Zealand and umbrellas didn’t really fit, so we didn’t think to use being from New Zealand to promote ourselves."

“But the perception seems to be that any product reaching international markets from New Zealand is good. So we then had to talk about how much we’d focus on the Kiwi-made aspect. Do we make it part of the brand, like Blunt NZ? We ended up incorporating it into the branding, not as ‘made in New Zealand’ – because it’s not – but ‘made by New Zealand’. It says that the elements, testing, people, innovation and everything that’s gone into it is the essence of New Zealand. We took a different angle and I think it definitely helped.”

Blunt redesigned its tube packaging two years ago to incorporate a Made by New Zealand tag on the packaging and product. It’s now a key message. The company also uses a Kiwi PR company to manage its brand messages and the New Zealand story is definitely part of that, says Brebner. “We get such varied feedback from people. Some love it for the gadget side; others love the colours. It’s liked for so many different reasons and that makes it really hard to focus on a single message.”

“In the early days, Blunt used imagery of moody South Island landscapes, with a Lord of the Rings feel. But some of our distributors wanted to see more people and lifestyle shots, particularly in the US”

While the business start-up story has created interest in the Kiwi market, it’s not a special story internationally. Instead, Blunt focuses more on the product’s design features, its performance, and the sustainability angle. “It’s about the fact that you’re buying just one Blunt, instead of throwing away 20 broken umbrellas that will go into landfill,” says Brebner. “That’s a big one for us.”

As New Zealand Story has uncovered, using our natural landscapes in marketing can be a balancing act. In the early days, Blunt used imagery of moody South Island landscapes with a Lord of The Rings feel. “It really fits in with our testing of the Blunt in gale-force winds, but some of our distributors wanted to see more people and lifestyle shots, particularly those in the United States, where they’re very influenced by ‘day in the life’ type marketing videos that companies like Apple do. For us it was always about showing New Zealand and our environment. We didn’t want to be clichéd.”


The message from Japan, however, has been “don’t try to be the answer to everything. Be New Zealand and be special”. It is a message that Blunt is embracing.

New Zealand companies like Blunt are using the NZ Story Business Toolkit to tell their own New Zealand Story.

The NZ Story toolkit is a bespoke online Digital Asset Management system and resource library, developed and operated by e-see® for Trade and Enterprise New Zealand.

If you're a New Zealand exporter, you can download free images, video and infographic resources to enable to tell your own New Zealand story, just like Blunt.

Access free resources at NZ Story here.

Curated from The NZ Story blog

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