Project Hongi, Japan

Bringing New Zealand and Japan closer together

Who we worked with

MFAT and NZ business representatives

What we did together


Key Skills

Problem discovery, ideation

With an unprecedented series of sporting, cultural and political events happening in Japan from 2019–2025, New Zealand companies and agencies have been discussing how to capitalise on those experiences to showcase New Zealand and all it has to offer. 

In February 2019, staff from Creative HQ went to Tokyo to facilitate a week-long Design Sprint that brought together representatives from MFAT and NZ business representatives (including Zespri, Fonterra, Air New Zealand, Super Drive, Education New Zealand, Cookie Time, and more) to agree on a platform to bring the two island nations closer together, improving opportunities and outcomes for governments, businesses and consumers. 

Interviews with Japanese consumers, businesses and government officials showed that NZ is still most known for rugby and sheep. These perceptions limit how much traction NZ interests can gain in Japan. CHQ’s challenge was to help Design Sprint participants design a story platform that could seed curiosity and update how the Japanese see New Zealand.

“We went to Tokyo to turn months and months of talking into doing. By undertaking a design sprint, we talk to real people and get real insight from those experiencing the problem. Then we identify, design, prototype and test solutions. This collective co-design approach is how you instigate action”

Catherine Jones, CEO, Creative HQ

How we did it

The participants put together a testing pack to expose Japanese consumers to “the New Zealand experience” – eating Cookie Time cookies, served from a prototype hydrogen-powered vehicle, while watching a video covering initiatives that are uniquely New Zealand. This included a clip detailing innovation technology, arts and cultural events, New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern speaking, and information about New Zealand’s education sector.

Test subjects were asked about their new impressions about New Zealand.  All had a much more diverse view of this country and what it offers, and were interested in finding out more.

The result

At the end of the Design Sprint, a recommendation was made to evoke a “Sister Island Status” between New Zealand and Japan, weaving together both countries’ interests, showing how similar we are and how we can benefit from each other.

Government agencies and businesses can use this high profile status announcement as a platform upon which to further their specific individual interests, whether that be in arts, culture, a premium product offering, promoting female leadership, innovation technology, or education.

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