'Clean and green' driving NZ brand growth in Asia

Thanks to focus on provenance and health, New Zealand brands are punching well above their weight throughout Asia, according to Carl Stephens, MD at Baldwin Boyle Shand.

Known primarily for its stunning landscapes, tasty wines, and huge dairy industry, New Zealand has seen a steady and remarkable rise in its exports to Asia, allowing once small, local brands increased access to the continent’s 4.4 billion consumers.

Research from New Zealand Trade and Enterprise shows that exports from New Zealand to Singapore alone have grown dramatically, from US$269 million in 2004 to US$2.15 billion in 2014. Campaign Asia-Pacific spoke to Carl Stephens, MD of strategic communications firm Baldwin Boyle Shand, about this growth and the opportunities for New Zealand brands.

What are the main reasons for this growth from a branding and PR perspective?
As a small isolated country, a core part of New Zealand’s economy is based on exporting its produce and expertise to the world. However, to be able to create a marketplace and give customers and consumers a reason to believe, New Zealand has had to differentiate itself by creating a compelling story, especially here in Asia where there is a lot of competition and cheaper alternatives across all sectors.

The export story has really benefited from what people see through the promotion of New Zealand as a destination. For example, the tourism brand campaign of "100% Pure New Zealand" not only resonated with travellers across the globe but I believe it has had a halo effect for many New Zealand businesses looking to expand their presence in Singapore and across Asia.

From a natural and environmental paradise for tourists, lush pastures best for producing the highest quality milk, to fresh produce with world-class food safety and quality standards, this clean and green positioning has enabled New Zealand to win the hearts and minds of consumers here in Asia.

How are NZ brands standing out in Singapore? What is it about their offering that PR practitioners like you are using to tell compelling stories?
What’s helping New Zealand companies stand out across Asia is the ability to leverage their own unique New Zealand story, which really resonates with consumers. Take the food industry for example—growing levels of affluence in Singapore and Asia has drawn consumer attention to such things as health and nutrition. More consumers now want to eat natural and authentic whole foods as nature intended them to be, with less processing and additives. This means people are looking for real butter, real cream, and real milk, but also fresh produce and grass-fed organic meats.

From a storytelling perspective, this means leveraging New Zealand’s world-class farming practices by showcasing how the country farms sustainably and ethically to produce the highest quality products and produce, which consumers are willing to pay more for.

Talk me through some of the insights you have learned when it comes to communicating between different countries with different cultures and consumer behaviours.
This may seem obvious, but it’s important to avoid a one-size-fits-all approach when communicating in different markets with different cultures. Asian countries in particular are highly diverse, each requiring a tailored approach where local consumer insights need to be taken into account.

We’re lucky at BBS that a lot of our work is at a regional level, which means we operate right across Southeast Asia. This gives us a good understanding of how we need to adapt and change a regional and global campaign to work effectively in each market.

What are the latest PR and communications trends you’re seeing in New Zealand, and across APAC more broadly?
As communicators, we know that content is king and our role is to deliver content in a compelling and engaging way. Traditionally this has been through mainstream media, however social media has obviously changed the way we deliver this content.

With this shift we are now seeing companies take much more control of the content that is being developed. They are creating their own news and content hubs, moving away from just a pure media relations strategy and using social media to seed this content out in a very targeted way.

I think the rise of social media influencers is also a changing dynamic across APAC. They hold a lot of power and influence across their audiences but brands need to use them in an authentic and engaging way that has a real connection to a brand’s audience, rather than just millions of followers.

Lastly, it’s all about video, which has quickly become the preferred form of communication today, not only for social media, but also thinking how brands and companies can provide video to traditional media who are being impacted by shrinking resources.

This story first appeared on campaignasia.com.

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