Why NZ Ag Needs Many Stories, Rather Than One

Telling the same story over and over again gets boring. It becomes tiresome for the listener and then they stop listening. That's the concern I have with all the talk I keep hearing about one NZ Ag Story when I attended this week's fantastic ASB AgriFood Week (run by the very competent CEDA team).

Don't get me wrong. A platform is great. Just look at the diversity of New Zealand wine brands who are prospering under the NZ banner. All the successful vineyard brands carve out a unique story that folds in the NZ narrative but they do it in a differentiated way, not a homogenous one. Stories can get stale with a limited shelf life just like our food.

This is why NZ wine are able to claim some of the highest price points around the world. The story they wrap around their product makes them brands that more people want to pay more for.

The same can happen with NZ dairy and red meat before it's too late.

We should not force a formulaic, bureaucratic version of a NZ Ag story because it's impact will wear thin quickly and we'll burn a ton of cash in the process. We'll only commoditise and industrialise our story in the same process we do with too much of our current produce.

The Primary Sector Council are close to sharing their vision on this very subject and I, like you, look forward to the results of their hard work. Will it be diverse? Time will tell.

Rather than one story, we need to allow our growers and producers to express their own stories in their own unique ways. Sweden didn't dictate how Ikea should promote itself. Germany didn't dictate how BMW or Audi should tell their story. Switzerland didn't tell Rolex or Tissot how to position themselves either. It happened the other way around. These countries are defined by their companies. It should be exactly the same for New Zealand.

Telling monosyllabic stories, a bit like growing monoculture crops, runs the danger of losing impact and audience resulting in the law of diminishing returns. As an example, New Zealand cannot be defined by the All Blacks alone. We need more emotional diversity to spread our bets. Hobbits and good coffee help but we need to be more than that.

Like your managed funds, you don't put all your eggs in the one basket hoping you'll get a great return. You invest in different asset classes to create balance, manage risk and increase resilience when it comes to tough times. The same principles can apply to stories and brands. We need a plethora of stories that we can own and rely on.

We need a story bank

New Zealand armed with a bank of success stories would be a powerful proposition. We set the stage and the actors deliver their own versions of the script by being their genuine and authentic selves. By doing so, they make deeper connections and move their audience.

We can do the same by forming parallel attacks when marketing our world-class produce to the world (it worked for Eisenhower in WWII). We can keep sharing new stories with new markets fuelled new imagination and ideas (also known as brands) that demonstrate and distinguish how we think and approach things uniquely and different from this far edge of the world.

It's an distinct attitude we display working from the front foot, not the flat or back.

Truth telling beats story telling every time

The problem with stories is most of them aren't based on a real or fundamental truth.

This is why they die quickly because they have no depth or substance. Instead, it's often a disappointing case of making things pretty or getting the crayons out colouring by numbers which ends up in a cosmetic exercise of "lipstick on the gorilla", rather than a strategic one that shifts mindsets and perceptions towards the positive and the possibility of purchase.

We need to dig deep and find the truth using curiousity, customer insights and design-led thinking. We need to focus more on the psychology rather than the technology. And we need to shift from a seller mindset to a buyer mindset ie. why do they buy.

They are no short cuts to building brands.

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When we tell just the one NZ Ag story, we show the world we've run out of ideas. We show our markets we have little imagination. We show them a lack of ideas innovation. And when we do this we don't deserve their respect or revenue.

We're better than this NZ Ag.

Let's all work hard and dig deeper to create stories that are based on powerful, meaningful truths that help us capitalise rather than commoditise.

We don't do industrialised farming and nor should we with our stories.