Thanks to the dedication and passion of a small District Council marketing team, Horowhenua is awakening to its potential as a local travel destination of choice.
When Lisa Campbell, Strategic Communications Manager at the Horowhenua District Council rang me to share the story of her team’s latest marketing campaign re-positioning Horowhenua as a worthy travel destination, she was absolutely fizzing with delight. I could hear in her voice just how enthralled she was by what a small marketing team from an off-the-track territory on the West Coast of the North Island could achieve through grit, determination and a love for their home.
In October 2022, Lisa and her team successfully launched a destination brand, website and marketing campaign that she says “has us all proud as punch”. What’s more, it’s delivered thousands more visitors
from across the country to the destination portal.
She tells me that between 2016-2019 Horowhenua outstripped the rest of New Zealand for visitor expenditure per capita. This was largely organic growth, but had since plateaued, leading to a review of Horowhenua as a travel destination – and a new strategic direction for the council.
“A consultant was brought in to deliver a destination management and development plan. One of the key actions was that a refresh of the Horowhenua identity was needed. After only a couple of months in my first public servant job, I was given the opportunity to develop the brand and see where it could go,” Lisa explains.
So, as any good marketer would do, she created a brief, went out for expressions of interest and had three agencies respond with a proposal. Two Wellington-based and one Palmerston North agency.
“All three didn’t end up working out. Largely for the Wellington agencies the challenge was exciting but the available budget not enough. Both pulled out. The Palmerston North agency just didn’t have what we were after.”
Unsure of how best to proceed, Lisa approached Regan Savage, Head of Marketing & Engagement at Southern Cross Health Insurance for advice. “Explaining the complex and sensitive nature of our Iwi context (being pre-settlement) and the lofty almost unrealistic goal of developing and promoting a mana-enhancing, transformative brand narrative that celebrates the unique strengths of Horowhenua, he suggested I speak with Jo Stafford.”
Jo, a brand Strategist, Iwi liaison, cancer-survivor, leader in health and proud father of twin boys, and Lisa immediately clicked. “He could see the vision, he knew that we were on a mission greater than just a tourism brand, but one that brought to the fore the stories of our local Iwi, that only some years ago were at risk of being lost. Jo was in.”
Lisa then hunted for the best destination website on the market and couldn’t go past Taranaki.co.nz – the work of Taranaki-based agency SmokeyLemon. “I rung Mandy McGregor Director of SmokeyLemon and laid our cards on the table. She was excited at the opportunity, but our budget was still relatively underwhelming for the work we wanted to deliver. We agreed that if my team did all the heavy lifting, all the content development, the image curation and creation and the content uploading, and undertook a collaborative website build, we would be able to pull it off within budget.”
It was the District Council’s marketing team’s mission to develop a transformative brand narrative
that celebrates Horowhenua’s unique strengths.
“We interviewed the Chief Executives of Muaūpoko Tribal Authority, Rangitāne, Ngāti Raukawa
Ki te Tonga, and from there began to learn about what makes Horowhenua so unique.
“We invited local businesses, community and interest groups, iwi/hapū, rangatahi, Elected Members and tourist operators to participate in a brand workshop. Exploring the proposition – only in the Horowhenua will you find – it was evident that our uniqueness comes from the whenua and its relationship to its people.”
It is no coincidence that Horowhenua has the shortest distance in Aotearoa from the maunga to the moana and that this unique microcosm has provided for its people and inevitably enabled them to thrive and prosper, whether that be tangata whenua, early settlers, market gardeners or the many producers, businesses and people that call Horowhenua their home today.
“The idea that the whenua embraces and nourishes its people, whether they choose to live or visit, led to our tono – or call to action.”
It was a natural fit that the Horowhenua district brand and design elements reflect the enduring and enriching natural elements of the whenua. “It was our aim that the new Horowhenua design visually represent the Horo aspect of our rohe name – the majestic Tararua Range and the many puna, wetlands and varying
types of wai – be that lakes, rivers, streams or ocean.
“That it speaks to our rohe having significant linking places and that the design is closer to the shape of a coastline rather than just a river or stream, reflecting Horowhenua’s place – on the West Coast of the Lower North Island, New Zealand.”
Reflecting on a successful project, Lisa and her team have launched the website, the campaign is in market and alongside the triage that’s necessary after such a large project, they’re all thinking about what’s next. “Along the way there were several times where I had conversations with my GM and CEO about ‘building the plane as we were flying it’ and it feels like that may just be the modus operandi for a little council comms team, who now happens to be in the business of destination management too.
“We’ve still got heaps to do, including developing a video that helps explain our journey, getting the newly developed visitor guide to print and setting up all of our Google ads and GA tagging, but below is the script we’re recording for the video. It talks about our journey, tono and design choices. So, I’d encourage all Kiwis to take a peep at our new website – www.horowhenuanz.co.nz. We’re pretty stoked that it has API’s into NZ Tourism, Eventfinda and soon there will be more to come, so watch, and be sure to visit this beautiful place, our home,” says Lisa.
Come find yourself: Huraina tō mata
And for those already living here,
Ko tēnei whenua, tokū kainga,
This land, my home.