Auckland Whale & Dolphin Safari

The brand story project that stimulated innovations in customer experience

In a nutshell:

In January 2017, Auckland Whale & Dolphin Safari commissioned GoodSense to help translate their founding purpose into a new brand story and promotional messages.  The GoodSense collaborative approach brought the whole crew and management together, with the GoodSense team, to identify what truly set Auckland Whale & Dolphin Safari apart from other nature-based tourism operators.

The GoodSense co-creation process not only resulted in a compelling and effective new brand story and promotional messages, but also stimulated major innovation in the customer experience delivered onboard.  The deepened focus on conservation in every aspect of the trip is proving a hit with visitors and the industry, helping to affirm Auckland Whale & Dolphin Safari’s position as setting the standard for marine conservation and tourism in New Zealand.

What was needed:

Auckland Whale & Dolphin Safari has always funded conservation well beyond the requirements of their resource consent.  They make their state-of-the-art vessel available as a ‘platform of opportunity’ for research into marine mammals.  The catamaran is crewed by marine biologists and PhD students use the boat for access to the whales and dolphins of the Hauraki Gulf.  The family-owned business partners with DOC, Auckland and Massey Universities to advance understanding of the Gulf’s marine mammals.  This activity has always been in line with their founding purpose:  ‘The preservation of species and environment through research, education and awareness’.

The management team had realised that, while the conservation mission and work was unique, their promotional messaging made them sound like any other whale or dolphin watching trip.  In January 2017, Auckland Whale & Dolphin Safari commissioned GoodSense to help them develop new brand and promotional messaging that aligned with their founding purpose.

How GoodSense helped:

GoodSense planned and ran a workshop with the whole Auckland Whale & Dolphin Safari team, structured to develop a deep, shared understanding of the offer, the customer experience and the emotional needs of visitors.  Having the participation of the crew who undertake the research and look after customers every day, as well as the management team, was crucial.

The workshop identified the core components of the customer experience and the unique conservation commitment. It generated a new brand positioning built on 3 attributes – Share, Connect and Learn:

  • Sharing the unique sea safari.
  • Connecting people with the abundance of rare marine mammals, birdlife and scenery.
  • Learning from the onboard marine researchers.

The workshop generated agreement of the priority benefits to communicate, to tell the Share, Connect and Learn story, and ideas for the messages themselves.

Following the workshop, GoodSense developed recommended copy for a new tagline and supporting messages.  GoodSense then guided Auckland Whale & Dolphin Safari on how to apply these across all materials


What this has meant for Auckland Whale & Dolphin Safari

“At the start of 2017 I came to the very real conclusion that, perception-wise, we were no different to other whale and dolphin watching operators around the world.   We needed a point of difference, and the team at GoodSense helped us find it.  Our positioning of Discover Today ~ Protect for Tomorrow has not only given us a defining USP in the market, it has also helped us reconnect with the company’s very reason for being – to help protect the amazing marine life of the Hauraki Gulf.”  – Brad Kirner CEO, Auckland Whale & Dolphin Safari



The new tagline:

Discover Today – Protect for Tomorrow

and the supporting messages, that tell the Share, Connect and Learn brand story, have been implemented across all materials, from signage to brochures and online.   The clear and focused story has allowed for consistent messaging in everything from media relations to award entries and stakeholder meetings.

The workshop process and insights also stimulated the team to reinvent the on board customer experience over the following 18 months.

As well as aligning the customer experience more closely with the brand’s founding conservation purpose, the programme aimed to improve the experience even on the rare days when marine mammals aren’t seen and to more clearly differentiate the trips, providing a more explicit connection between tourism and social good.

The new customer experience programme includes interactive on-board citizen science activities for passengers, such as water clarity tests and capturing and explaining plankton types, as well as more encouragement for passengers to talk with the researchers about their work and better access in the trip to research findings.  A new role of Research & Conservation Officer was created in the crew to lead this work on an ongoing basis.

The crew are finding their roles even more fulfilling because, as passionate marine biologists, they are now able to engage with passengers in a more meaningful way.

Having a clear and consistent brand story has helped Auckland Whale & Dolphin Safari communicate their work more successfully, with successes including the TV news coverage of blue whale sightings during July 2018.

Due to increased awareness of the Auckland Whale & Dolphin Safari trip ‘experience’ as well as greater demand for conservation/environmental experiences by visitors from key target markets, Auckland Whale & Dolphin Safari had, for the first time, sufficient demand to justify a second daily trip during the December 2017 to February 2018 high season.

Auckland Whale & Dolphin Safari now clearly sets the standard for marine conservation and tourism in New Zealand.

Book your Auckland Whale & Dolphin Safari here.

To find out more about how we can help you tell your brand story, call Kath Dewar on 09 973 0960 or email us today, we would love to help.