NZ Ag: Why Maoridom alone won’t fix our brand

Some think Maoridom and our indigenous culture could be the panacea for NZ Ag’s current brand identity crisis. They're wrong.

100% Pure won’t work because of the slow degradation of our rivers and water quality and our reliance on supplementary feed such as PKE. We will never able to back it 100% (excusing the pun).

It makes sense to look at the All Blacks because they are now one of the world’s strongest sporting brands(recognised by $20m of Adidas sponsorship). They don’t lead with Maoridom. Instead Maoridom plays an important influencing role through the Maori All Blacks (who give many national teams a good run for their money), the Haka and its contribution to a diverse squad of Maori, Pakeha, Samoan, Fijian and Tongan players. The All Blacks jersey is about legacy, character, continual excellence and an understated ruggedness. Maori influences the brand but doesn’t dominate.

There is a temptation that adopting Maoridom as a lead proposition will fix NZ Ag’s brand. It will. But only to a point. The principles of Kaitiakitanga are highly applicable.

The New Zealand Story talks about Open Spaces, Open Hearts, Open Minds. In this powerful narrative, Maoridom and Maori principles plays a big role but it’s not front or centre. It features as a support act and adds a certain blend and flavour. It is rightly called the New Zealand story for good reason.

New Zealand has always had a certain magic and mystique. Aoetoroa, or 'The Land of the Long White Cloud', fits this bill perfectly. It conjures up a unique place on Earth. A place that retains its distinction and identity in the face of increasing urbanisation and artificial, man-made environments. New Zealand Tourism has set the bar and Air New Zealand have used this strong platform to great effect. Both entities are revered by many, even copied. However the NZ Ag brand is trailing by comparison.

Perhaps the first step, like all great companies do, is to define their brand by their culture and values. We need to define our culture of agriculture. The culture of the All Blacks has stepped up significantly in the professional era. It has become stronger and extracted more value in the process. NZ Agriculture will need to employ the same marketing and commercial discipline if wants to land its very own Adidas.

Many have challenged MPI’s Export Double as a goal and not a strategy and I couldn’t agree more. Setting a number is easy, showing how to achieve is much harder. NZ Ag also needs an over-arching vision which perhaps has been cruelly exposed by Ireland and their push with Origin Green which is winning the battle for European’s hearts and minds in terms of quality food and beverage. Germany and Switzerland have their own brands of business and the All Blacks have their own brand of rugby.

We need to define our culture, vision and values if we are to land on a singular unifying brand for NZ Ag. NZ Tourism has set the platform and shown us how it can be done. The inspiration is there. Time we stepped up to the challenge.

Maoridom and Kaitiakitanga will have a strong influence in defining our own brand of NZ Ag as powerful values or attributes but it won’t be the overall essence.

NZ Ag’s recipe for success will require a wider range and blend of special ingredients perhaps with a splash of terrier.

Time we got cooking (just not too many chefs please).

St John Craner is strategic planning director of Tracta, a primary sector communications specialist based in Hawke’s Bay. St John wants New Zealand to extract the maximum value from its natural produce so future generations prosper stjohn@tracta.co.nz.