Taskforce meetings seek common ground

Jon Condon, 23/03/2012

MLA managing director Scott HansenThree days of industry task force meetings aiming to chart a course for Australian red meat’s marketing effort for the next financial year wound-up in Sydney yesterday.

A stronger focus on global synergies was a common theme across the discussions.  

“I’ve been involved in these meetings for quite a number of years in various MLA capacities, and I would rate this year’s as probably the most engaged series of discussions I have seen,” MLA managing director Scott Hansen told Beef Central, in a post-meeting briefing this morning.

“There was really good dialogue between the processing, production and retail sectors,” Mr Hansen said.

One of the key themes to emerge was that market access issues were front-of-mind in all the international task force sessions – whether that be recognising the challenge of ensuring that Australia maintains its competitive stance against export rivals in traditional markets like Japan and Korea, or supporting investment in emerging markets.

“Part of the challenge for the six MLA task forces engaged this year this year was in ensuring Australia is investing appropriately to create the access and opportunities in the emerging markets, while not unnecessarily diminishing the importance of support for traditional markets, based on high- value customers built over decades,” Mr Hansen said.

That represents a delicate balancing act, when the industry has access to only a finite amount of funds this year (see yesterday’s story “Industry’s marketing effort cuts its cloth to suit its budget”).

“The challenge during the course of the meetings since Tuesday, has been to look at the over-arching strategy, and weighing up improving and stabilising market access in emerging markets where population and prosperity growth are driving demand for beef, with the need to defend against intense competition from export rivals in traditional markets, liked to currency value and competitors’ increased volumes,” Mr Hansen said.

Key observations from the domestic market taskforce meeting held yesterday included a sense of nervousness evident among some stakeholders over the challenge to beef on the domestic market, based around pressure on beef sales based on price, relative to other proteins, and the effect that has on consumer demand.

Many saw the coming year as the time to continue the push towards building a ‘really strong’ domestic beef marketing campaign, within the obvious budgetary constraints, Mr Hansen said.

Discussion centred on how to improve the effectiveness of the available spend, given the current finances available. The domestic market budget will next year take roughly the same hit as the combined international marketing expenditure, of about $2 million.

Despite that, there was a strong call for continued strong domestic beef promotion campaigns, given current shelf-space challenges.

“The reduced budget meant every domestic marketing program was closely scrutinised, in terms of how it might be delivered more effectively or efficiently,” Mr Hansen said.

Part of that focussed on the scope to consolidate the more generic nutritional marketing activities into more specific beef and lamb marketing activities, with stronger nutritional messages embedded within them.

“That leveraging theme was pretty common across most of the task forces,” he said.

“Up front I spoke about MLA’s globalisation of its program, and throughout all the task forces, one of the key commentaries was that everyone was aware of and focussed on the possible opportunities for greater collaboration across the regions – to help offset some of the budget reductions by extracting greater efficiencies across regions.”

A good example was the use of social media platforms to reach consumers.

As the task forces identified, platforms like Facebook, YouTube and Twitter are by their very nature global. And with individual markets looking to do their own thing within those marketplaces, synergies were identified that had the potential to be brought forward, Mr Hansen said.

Similar principles might apply to websites, and the broader nutrition program, which came under close attention. Stakeholders focussed not only on the importance of the nutrition program, but how efficiencies might be gained in delivery by utilising materials and messaging globally, and within individual marketplaces, ensuring that the nutrition message was supportive of other consumer messages, such as the enjoyment of beef or lamb, as opposed to stand-alone messaging.

In other outcomes, the taskforces gave MLA a green-light to expand staffing resources in the massive and diverse Europe/Russia region, with an additional key staffmember to support current regional manager, Jason Strong.

With the growing opportunities across the region as quotas increase, and the emergence of eastern Europe and Russia as key beef markets, it was felt that the area needed more staff resources, particularly in the area of trade development and business opportunities driven by human resources, rather than ‘advertising’.

There was also wide recognition of the importance of the Industry Collaborative Agreement (ICA) programs, in leveraging commercial dollars, but also a request to examine how the ICA program might be improved and enhanced for better and more efficient outcomes.

One of the angles discussed was whether there were ways to use ICAs more to encourage exporters and the brands they controlled who were aiming to grow the beef category – either through new product development, taking new products into a marketplace, or opening up new markets – than simply maintaining brand ‘loyalty’ in an established market.

The MLA board had a somewhat similar view, and MLA would examine ways to ‘incentivise’ the ICA program towards new business in coming months, Mr Hansen said.


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