Apple red authenticity blog post

Authenticity the new brand-essential

By Anna Campbell

Easter came at the right time for me after a pretty frenetic start to the year, which included moving house, settling my children into three new schools, endless cricket matches, and lots of interesting projects at work. 

In a fit of energy, my husband hired a digger for the Easter holidays determined to tame the wilderness that is the garden of our new house. I would like to say that I have enjoyed working alongside him, physically toiling and appreciating the meaning of hard work but I am sad to say, while he has been chain-sawing, digging, and taking loads to the dump, I have been far less industrious. 

Instead, this Easter I have discovered music via Spotify- what a gift, although my poor children are not so sure having had to suffer endless musical trips down memory lane. I have also started and finished two novels, caught up with friends and family, made hot cross buns, and walked on the beach.

Even as I write this column to a background of chainsaw melodies, I refuse to feel guilt. Rest and relaxation allow the mind to sift through the chaos of daily life and re-approach challenges and projects with a fresh perspective, something I always value.

Today I am reflecting on the themes that came out of the Queenstown Agribusiness Symposium we hosted a couple of weeks ago. The symposium – led by Mary Shelman, Director of the agribusiness programme at Harvard University – was run in a style similar to the Harvard MBA programme: entirely by case studies.

This means that instead of lectures in a death-by-PowerPoint style, attendees have to pre-read case studies and then enter into group discussions facilitated by the leader. This is an amazing way to put yourself into the minds of CEOs of global agri-companies and ask yourself, ‘if I faced this challenge, what would I do?’.

Then by discussing the same issues with your group members and listening to their ideas, new approaches and avenues are opened up. After the symposium, I have enough themes to write columns for the rest of the year. But for this column, I will just settle on one, which I believe underlies the future of our food industry.

Brands don’t mean what they used to mean anymore. Authenticity is now the holy-grail for the food industry. In the past, brands have been established through clever marketing and ‘throwing money’ at television advertising and retail positioning- simply telling consumers what to think.

In a couple of case studies we explored the fragility of such approaches in today’s world. Social media and questionable supply-chain relationships mean reputations can be ruined in a heartbeat; take a look at the media campaign that brought down McDonald’s massive supply partner OSI in China as an evidence of just how quickly this can happen.

Companies need to grapple with the need for authenticity throughout the supply chain in order to have any hope of connecting with supply chain partners and eventually consumers on a long-term basis. Consumers are suspicious of fancy slogans without any depth. Rather they are looking for genuine transparency and meaningful innovation in their products.

Good branding is now more about really good values and those values have to be lived by employees, producers, and distributors – or they risk being undermined. This applies not just to food producers and exporters, but anyone connected to the New Zealand production system, including companies like ours: AbacusBio. 

My family’s garden is looking much tidier now, thanks to my husband’s efforts. Unfortunately though, he has put his back out in the process much to my eldest son’s disgust, who was promised a game of golf with him if he helped! Said son is currently golfing by himself and is to be joined by me this afternoon (oh dear).

Meanwhile, I will finish Easter in my state of Zen and work to apply the lessons learnt about trust and authenticity in Queenstown into the food industry and determine how we can continue to innovate at every level, while connecting authentically and genuinely with everyone we deal with. 

And as always, after a holiday I vow to remain uncluttered by the small things in life and focus on what is really important and where I can make a difference – what is the saying… ‘God loves a trier!’