Book Proposal 2015

Brand Aotearoa: Positioning a national brand for permanence

Building a ‘clean and transparent’ national brand based on longer-term resource management and sustainable production systems

Over the past century, Aotearoa New Zealand has developed several global triumphs in branding, perhaps beginning with the temperate fruit formerly known as the Chinese Gooseberry during the 20th Century – followed by the ‘100% Pure’ ‘Clean and Green’ national brands.

In my MBA Dissertation, ‘Brand Aotearoa’ (2010), I documented the divergent and polar response of brand stakeholders, including primary producers and businesses marketing ‘healthy’ foods, nutraceuticals and other natural products both nationally and for export. Perhaps not surprisingly, the national temperament does not support inflated assessments of self-worth, and many were ‘early adopters’ of nay-saying the brands from within, while others coasted along in the slipstream of the brand as ‘free riders’ who added no value. Most notably, to me, some other brand stakeholders did what they could to live up to, and to reinforce, a ‘clean and green’ product identity, primarily for export.

In the half-decade which has followed my research, the ‘clean and green’ brand has steadily eroded with an economic ethos of scale, gearing and growth at all costs, and ‘100% Pure’ shot with holes by economic exploitation of unique landscapes and their biodiversity, including mining (viz the Denniston Plateau) and by capital-driven intensification of dairy at scale, with ecological impacts from slope to estuary, and on to ocean.

Even before the brand leader of dairy – and the New Zealand global dairy brand itself became sullied by Chinese food scare, it was clear that the downstream effects of dairy on fresh water resources were infecting rivers, increasingly no longer swimmable. Alongside dairy, the seafood industry has grown apace during recent decades, led by NZ Greenshell Mussel ™ in particular. Thus far there has been no global scare based on the safety of this key export, but clearly a risk of food safety impacts of declining river quality in particular.

Not least here in Aotearoa New Zealand, production economics have become seen by neoliberal policy-makers as a zero-sum game, reducible to animal requirements, in the service and interests of growth as prime objective. Any criticism of this paradigm will most certainly met with howling outrage on any social medium, at great hazard to the critic.

The ‘growth fetish’ or development game is a modernist concept, reflecting 20th Century values, and by no means universally shared across global culture. At a minimum, the paradigm relies on permanent growth, which should rightly be seen as a clear contradiction in terms given even the most fantastically optimistic estimates of global resources and the ‘invisible hand’ of the marketplace which will provide livelihoods for all against unlimited population growth and the already very tangible effects of global climate change.

Maybe when a brand is allowed to be degraded by slicks and suits to the point of comparison to trashy fast food, it’s time to move on to a new brand ownership, by those remaining few who remain vested in the values of the brand – specifically sustainability and transparency (‘100% Pure’) of ‘clean and green’ production systems. Communities of practice should coalesce, communicate and share resources (knowledge resources and contacts, at a minimum) in order to revalidate the principles of sustainability inherent in the national brand of Aotearoa New Zealand.

In any case, I am convinced that the prize of purity can only be regained locally, in terms of environmental sustainability and transparency at the watershed level, reflecting individual and collective management decisions of all stakeholders.

As a step toward bringing together said stakeholders, attached is my (very early) first draft for your consideration :

Brand Aotearoa Book Proposal small circle 05.02.2015

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