‘Brand Australia’ to capture essence of Aussie beef and lamb

Jon Condon, 07/03/2014

Michael EdmondsMeat & Livestock Australia will soon launch a new ‘Brand Australia’ concept for red meat, designed to better capture the positive international images of Australia as a clean and green environment, backed by world’s best industry systems and our general laid-back, good-natured Aussie spirit.

The brand proposition will be used across all international markets, but will be tailored for local use.

MLA’s global marketing general manager, Michael Edmonds, gave the first brief insights into the program and what it’s all about at the ABARES conference in Canberra this week.

Readers may remember a recent Beef Central article authored by Australian Farm Institute’s Mick Keogh, which argued that Australian agriculture needed to follow New Zealand’s lead in delivering a more powerful, national message centred on ‘brand Australia.’

“We operate in an increasingly competitive international beef market.” Mr Edmonds said.

“One of our competitors that we do not often hear a lot about is Uruguay, which has done a great job of positioning itself using a clean, green image along similar lines,” he said.

“Australia also has some very low-cost competitors like India and Brazil in international beef export markets, so it’s important that we continue to differentiate our product as much as possible. How we do that, and who we target is critical,” he said.

“Ultimately this is an initiative to benefit producers. On farm profitability is obviously a big issue for Australia’s beef and lamb producers. If we do this well, we will gain premiums for our product, which ultimately means better livestock prices for producers. We can’t do anything about weather or exchange rate influences on prices, but we can influence the value of our product, and that is what we are seeking to do”

Clearly the markets that had performed strongly for Australia recently had a demand for a quality product that carries a high degree of trust and strong food safety credentials.

“Our strategy is to take that ‘clean and safe’ reputation, which Australia already ‘owns’ in markets like Korea and Japan, and build on that to develop something more global,” Mr Edmonds told the ABARES gathering.

The initiative is much more than just a brand label or identity, however, and will involve a suite of activity, driven by brand positioning under the title, ‘True Aussie Beef’.

The program will be based on three main pillars:

• Australia with its vast land and pristine natural environment is an ideal home to produce livestock. It also embraces the notion that Australia, as an island continent, has largely escaped animal disease incursion that impacts other producing areas.
• With its highest food safety standards and industry systems, Australia is a trusted partner. This pillar embraces industry systems like individual animal-based NLIS providing a high degree of traceability, the Livestock Production Assurance program, and other world-leading regulatory and management measures.
• The third pillar is more subjective, but works on the perception that Australia is a relaxed, friendly country with an appealing lifestyle. It focusses on our abundant, diverse, informal lifestyle and friendly way of life, meaning we provide a real feeling of enjoyment to our customers.

All these attributes will combine into the tag-line ‘True Aussie Beef’. Similar tags will apply for lamb and goatmeat.

“The True Aussie Beef tag is designed to summarise the three parts to the brand positioning,” Mr Edmonds said.

Having shared the new concept with a large number of stakeholders along the production chain, MLA says the response has been ‘very positive’, because they could see the upside in better positioning Australia as a quality producer.

A logo is currently being finalised that will become a key identity for the program. It will be launched in coming months in international markets.

“The key point is that this will be a country of origin brand, representing the Australian beef and lamb industry in key export markets,” Mr Edmonds said.

“Particularly on the beef side, it will very much underpin key commercial brands. The brand focus will remain, but in some markets where customers currently take Australian beef and market it under their own labels or names,  we will continue to promote under the Aussie Beef identity. An example might be Aeon/Jusco supermarkets in Japan.”

Over time, the ‘True Aussie Beef’ program would be designed to replace the current Japanese market logo.

“Japan is a market where Australia has put a lot of brand equity over a long period into the Aussie Beef campaign. We’ve done some consumer research, however, and the general feeling in that market is that there’s probably an opportunity to refresh that original Aussie Beef logo.”

In Korea, Australia also has an existing, successful platform based around the distinctive lime-green ‘Hoju Jungchungwoo’ (Aussie Beef: Clean and Safe) campaign, which, while an endorser of the safety of Australian product, will initially sit side-by side the new, broader brand initiative. But the two may eventually merge.

In other markets, such as China, where Australia really only had a trade, rather than a brand identity presence at the moment, the opportunity is there to embed the ‘True Aussie Beef’ identity from the ground up, Mr Edmonds said.

“As our distribution increases in China, we are looking to build consumer awareness, meaning this is an ideal time to introduce the new True Aussie Beef country of origin brand.”

Other markets like the Middle East, the US and Europe will also adopt the same look and feel.

Mr Edmonds said there was no real application for the new brand image within the domestic market, however.

“One of the risks in doing so would be that it could almost imply that there is imported product on the Australian market. While that is technically true, with small quantities of New Zealand sometimes sold locally, as a general rule consumers need to see domestic beef supply as domestically produced.”

“For us, this is an opportunity to really add value to Australian beef and lamb on the international market, and present our product in a premium sense,” he said.

“Australian beef is always going to be underpinned by our clean and safe industry systems, but we are trying to do more than that, by extending to a broader brand story.”

In terms of exposure, MLA had not yet decided whether it would allow the logo to be used ‘on-pack’ (cartons and cryovac bags). “It’s something we and stakeholders are talking about, and it if happens, we’d be looking at licensing the use of the logo – not for financial reasons, but to ensure that the brand integrity was maintained,” he said.

The True Aussie Beef message will be carried through brochures, websites, the use of QR codes, the development of short educational videos directed at the trade and consumers to support brand work, and a suite of other marketing and awareness tools.

Another of the motivations behind the new campaign was that MLA had been challenged by the industry’s marketing taskforces over the past two years to harmonise more of MLA’s international marketing effort, Mr Edmonds said.

“When stakeholders see us present the various in-country programs, it is obvious that we do currently have a different approach and feel in each. We’re not talking about making everything in every market look and feel the same, however: but it’s about consistency from a design viewpoint.”

“Individual markets will still need to respond to the needs of the trade and consumers differently, and that will still happen, but we need a more consistent look and feel for our global branding.”

The new program should also produce some synergies in terms of production costs and other issues, he said.

Is there a risk of symbol being perceived as a quality standard?

In getting a better understanding about how the new True Aussie Beef brand program will function, Beef Central reminded Mr Edmonds about some of the perceived issues that emerged during the era of the “Aussie Beef” campaign in Japan.

While enormously successful, one of the criticisms that arose at the time was that some Japanese consumers perceived “Aussie Beef” as a quality standard, rather than simply a country of origin identity. High quality grainfed and moderate Australian grassfed could equally carry the Aussie Beef symbol in in-store trays in Japan.

Is there a risk of similar confusion with the new True Aussie Beef campaign?

“I don’t think it’s a major issue,” Mr Edmonds said. “Obviously we do need to be careful of that, but we’ll be working hard not to position it that way,” he said.

“We certainly do not want consumers confusing this as some form of quality (as in meat quality, not quality as it relates to safety and other attributes) endorsement.”

Mr Edmonds said that in the domestic market, MSA was now the key driver of quality endorsement, and it might well be that over time MSA moves into overseas markets. There was no reason why both symbols could not sit comfortable side-by-side.

“This is a great opportunity to create a new value reputation across all export markets as a platform for individual red meat brands.”

Next step is individual regional plans to roll this out for the new financial year, and there are a host of other supporting activities that will be put in place including digital applications, website harmonisation and licensing as an endorser for individual brands.

“Just as the French have created a quality image of romance, culture and connection with Bordeaux wines, so too Australian red meat can create a positive image and value around Australian provenance, integrity and a connection with an aspirational Australian way of life,” Mr Edmonds told ABARES delegates.


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