Is One NZ Ag Story Too Simplistic?

 In Rural Marketing, Rural Sales, Rural Strategy

If every one of us has different DNA, why do we insist that our Ag companies have to share one central story? I’m witnessing an abuse of storytelling and have to admit to becoming a bit nauseous. Story as a concept, like many marketing gizmos, has lost its meaning because of its misuse and common default as the panacea to most marketing woes (cue: “we just need to tell our story better”).  

To me, arguing for one central NZ Ag is too simplistic and rather naive. We are seeing some farmer levy paid organisations commissioning highly paid global brand experts to tell us what our own private companies programmes are already promoting: grass fed, animal-friendly, free range, non-GMO, hormone free. These are not new concepts. 

Wouldn’t it be better to leave the free market and entrepreneurialism to define their own stories based on what’s unique about them? If we don’t, we risk levelling the the playing field and commoditising the very tool that is supposed to help differentiate them. Call it unintended consequences. Worse still, we won’t develop the unique marketing muscle to develop and tell these stories. And like all muscles, if we don’t use them they disappear. 

Our wine industry (our fifth biggest export valued at $1.6bn) don’t talk NZ Story because they’ve been doing it for 20 years to great success. The average bottle of NZ wine commands a 26% premium over its nearest rivals in the UK. Under NZ Inc, which is already well articulated  through 100% Pure and the great work done by NZTE and NZ Story, they go deeper with a story of their own that’s unique to their provenance and terroir like Villa Maria did with Ngakiriki. More evidence of this quality was then being awarded in the global top ten most admired wine brands for the third year running and being the only NZ wine brand to make the top ten. They realise the table stakes, or hygiene factors, of NZ Inc alone are not enough to differentiate themselves so they know they need to go deeper with their own more emotive brand expression. Origin Green who I’ve quoted before is a prime example that use both rational and emotional. Greenmeadows Beef is another example going much deeper offering a well articulated and authentic brand personality online. 

Farmers and farming regions could learn a lot from guys like this and viticulture because we don’t just have to play catch up whilst we’re kicking our commodity habit, we have to go much further and deeper to create a more meaningful story that will cut through the noise. Developing our own stories about provenance, terroir and kaitiakitanga would be a good start. 

Every great company wants a unique brand proposition they can own to dominant a targeted market niche. The best brands win because they own a unique space in their market’s mind like Lego, Ikea, Harley Davidson, Tesla or Apple. They don’t share a brand platform with others, they create their own and capitalise on it for their own exclusive benefit rather than one that gifts the category. 

Like so much in life, it’s not so much the what (story) but the how (delivery and expression of that story). The now often quoted and evangelical Simon Sinek would argue it’s the why. Regardless of where you agree or land on, having a story that’s based on the basic expectations of today’s modern consumer is not enough. We have to go deeper and discover the real opportunities to differentiate.

If we don’t do this, we risk playing catch up footy to a protein-substitution game that’s already moved up a league.

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