Cultural Awareness in Marketing

Matariki: What it is, What it means now,
and how to celebrate it respectfully


As Matariki rolls around, it’s a good time to consider how we relate to cultures that are not our own in a sensitive and meaningful way. This boils down (or maybe boils up? Yes, I said it!) to three things: Understanding, appreciation, and implementation.

Let’s jump in!


What is Matariki?

Matariki is the star cluster called Pleiades in the western tradition, and its first rising marks the beginning of the new year in the Māori lunar calendar. As a pre-technological society, astronomy was used to mark the passing of time. It informed when crops were to be planted or harvested, the times that certain forgeable foods were available, and other useful times during the year. As such, the beginning of the new year was a time of celebration and reset.


Why is Matariki important to people now?

New Zealand is a country of immigrants. Their different cultures add strands to the diverse rope of shared cultures which makes up our shared culture in Aotearoa / New Zealand. I whakapapa (genealogically connect) to one of the Pahiatua Poles, the 800 Polish orphans who settled here as children after the Second World War.

However, there is only one country in the world where Māori culture is indigenous, and that’s here. All New Zealanders play a role in preserving and celebrating Māori culture. Much like the Kiwi and Whittaker’s Limited Editions, you only get it here.

Recent celebration of Matariki is actually quite new. The reality is that a lot of Māori culture was suppressed, with the first Kohanga Reo (Māori language nest / pre-school) only opening in the 1980s. It’s for this reason that a lot of Māori are protective, not precious, about tikanga Māori (Māori guidelines for behaviour). It’s important to them and it hasn’t been appreciated before.

Now, Matariki is a time for reflection, reconnection, and resetting for the coming year. It is also, really, a time for celebration, a time to have some fun, so please, gently remind some of my cousins of this if they need it.


Great! What do we do about all that?

Well, the first things are not what you do but what you don’t do:-

  • You don’t pretend,
  • You don’t make things up, and
  • You don’t perform because you think ‘they’ want you to

What you do is use Te Reo Māori in copy, add a translation in parentheses (because not everybody is fluent). Use Māori imagery with the same copyright guidelines as you would for any other images. Say ‘Kia Ora’, if you feel like it. There are a huge range of Māori resources online, so use them

Authenticity is important at all levels

There is no such thing as an “authentic token”. Therefore, if you are authentically representing yourself, and what you know; You ain’t no token, dude. You are playing your part in celebrating one of the strands of the rope that is your culture. It might not be a strand you are as familiar with as some of the others, it might be a bit new, and a bit scary, but you have a role to play.

Cultural Sensitivity in Māori Advertising

As an advertising agency, we take pride in ensuring that any communications requiring a level of cultural sensitivity have been overseen by a member of the culture we’re purporting to represent. When it comes to Māori advertising, this means understanding the cultural significance, and ensuring our messages respect and celebrate Māori culture authentically.

Tips for Culturally Sensitive Māori Advertising:

  • Consult Māori Cultural Experts: Always have your communications reviewed by someone from the Māori community
  • Use Te Reo Māori Correctly: Ensure correct usage and provide translations
  • Respect Māori Imagery and Symbols: Use imagery that is culturally appropriate and follow proper copyright guidelines
  • Celebrate, Don’t Appropriate: Ensure your messages celebrate Māori culture without reducing it to a marketing gimmick

Here at Fizzypop, we come from all over, but we have chosen to make this place our home. We will be back after the Matariki break fully reflected, reconnected, and reset for another year of better digital marketing. 💪

Jack Prichard, Cultural Consultant

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