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  • Writer's pictureSonny Ngatai

The Rise of Māori Marketing: Why Conventional Marketing isn't working

Updated: May 30, 2023

Scrolling on my phone, paranoia strikes as ads for July Bags harass my news feed "Don't miss, exclusive offer now!" I pause and ask, "Did Facebook hear my conversation about needing new luggage?"

Marketers trying to force engagement through cookie-cutter campaigns and campaigns bombarding my socials with generic calls to action that all seem to blend together "Join the conversation," "Share your story," - these phrases are tired and worn out.

I'm sure we can all agree, these types of posts don't pass the vibe check.

And it's because we're not listening to ads and campaigns like we used to. We want stories. Real stories, told by real people, and for extra engagement, real stories by my people.

I may be a fan of Chris Hemsworth because he plays my favorite hero Thor, but if you want me to kick the carbs, I need to hear it from my Uncle Bruce. Uncle Bruce loves carbs! So if you made Uncle Bruce a Sith Lord-micro influencer powered to destroy the fantasy of yummy carbohydrates and show me the dark side of no carbs, I'd change!

Today's best campaigns give us a sense of identity by bringing to life engaging stories. Engaging stories shared by real people who care.

Knock, knock - Oh, look, it's Māori-led social media campaigns!

These innovators are breaking the mold and revolutionising the way we think about marketing. The Te Wā Tuku Reo 'Maori Language Moment' campaign by Te Taura Whiri i te Reo Māori is a prime example of how a fresh approach can create a successful, impactful campaign.

This campaign aimed to promote the use of the Māori language by encouraging a mass shared moment for te reo Māori. At first glance, it followed all the standard rules. But as JLo says, "Don't be fooled by the rocks that I got."

Te Wā Tuku Reo had campaign moves that had not been seen on the block of mainstream marketing (ok, I know it breaks her lyrics, but you can see what I tried to do).

The witty responses to racist keyboard warriors, user-generated personal stories, and thought-provoking graphics that woke any dormant language advocates, resulted in over a million people sharing in a single moment for te reo Māori, breaking the world record for the biggest celebration of an indigenous language.

Te Wā Tuku Reo, brought the whole nation together. It created a full-bodied campaign that showed it was unique to our situation, focused on improving our now, built street cred with actual people-generated content, and was confident to give its opinion every now and then.

Social media marketing isn't just advertising, its SOCIAL.

It's about building whanaungatanga with your audience, and showing manaakitanga that you've got their back, and you're in this 'campaign' or 'journey' with them! These concepts have always been considered Māori superpowers, so it makes sense that these work beyond company values and can be used in strategies that build engagement.

And for all our data guru's out there, in number terms. This Māori method to campaign engagement increased the Kia Kaha te Reo Māori platforms by 430% in 2020.

But the 'Māori way' of successful campaigning doesn't stop there!

'Pipiri ki a Papatūānuku' was a Māori-led initiative to raise awareness around the actual state of our taiao, our environment. What set 'Pipiri ki a Papatūānuku' apart was its approach to engagement.

Rather than relying on mainstream environmental messaging, the campaign leveraged Māori values and legends to create a deep connection with its target audience. While creating a campaign entrenched in te reo Māori me ōna tikanga was good, the real gem was its references to Papatūānuku (the Earth Mother).

The New Zealand educational curriculum introduced the Māori creation story into all public schools in the late 1990s as part of a broader effort to recognise and celebrate our country's cultural heritage. This helped create a powerful cultural connection that resonated with not just Māori audiences but pretty much any millennial and above! It's like making an enviro-campaign with Beyonce. Everyone is Crazy in Love with Papatūānuku.

The impact of the campaign was immediate. Within 24 hours of the launch, the hashtag #PKP trended nationwide, and posts reached over 250,000 people. The engagement was staggering, with many people sharing their own personal experiences and messages of support.

Like Te Wā Tuku Reo, the campaign wasn't just limited to social media. Over 2,500 people signed up and took action to reduce, reuse and recycle. Highlighting the power of cultural connection in inspiring real change.

So what does this all mean? Why does this mean anything?

Well, my potential client, by embracing our Māori heritage and incorporating it into our social media strategies, we can create campaigns that stand out and make a real difference in the world. So if you're looking for a fresh and innovative approach to your social media marketing, look no further than the magic of Māori-led campaigning.

The success of these Māori-led campaigns shows us that marketing isn't just about advertising - it's about building relationships - whanaungatanga with your audience.

By incorporating te reo Māori me ōna tikanga into our social media strategies, we can create campaigns that stand out, engage with people on a deeper level, and drive real change.

Māori-led social media campaigns are a powerful tool for all marketers. By embracing our cultural values and using personal stories, these campaigns are changing how we think about marketing and creating a new standard for social media engagement.

Nekeneke mai e te iwi - let's break the mold and embrace the Māori way of successful campaigning.


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