How does a company set about building a global brand that is relevant to local consumers? Jiunn Shih, Zespri’s general manager for marketing, offered delegates at Asiafruit Congress in Hong Kong a valuable insight into the group’s efforts to do just that in Asia.
The key, according to Shih, was to engage consumers and move beyond the focus on quality and the New Zealand origin typical of previous marketing efforts.
“We’ve been telling the story about our growers and their quality for a long time,” he said. “It is an assurance of quality, but just that. Quality is an important element, and a fundamental part of our communication in some markets, but it is not the only one.”
The issue, he said, was that produce had developed the image of a commodity in consumers' eyes. “This is not great if we want to deliver better long-term value to our growers,” Shih told delegates. “The way to fight that is by telling better stories, stories that connect at an emotional level with the consumer, helping people to make sense and find meaning.”
Shih gave two unusual examples of storytelling being shown to add value, first in a charity appeal to students for Save the Children and second in an eBay bid for a fish-shaped wooden spoon. “Facts are important,” he said, “but people need meaning.”
By creating storylines in both its TV and online adverts, Shih revealed that Zespri had significantly increased the unaided awareness of the brand by consumers in markets including Japan and China. Introducing a story also made it easier to educate viewers in subsequent advertising, he added.
“We have an overarching message, which is that life is made more delicious with Zespri,” he said, “and we adapt this story to each market. In the past, we haven’t been very good at having a consistent message globally.”
Shih concluded with some tips for fresh produce marketers, not just in Asia, but globally. “When marketing, put consumers at the heart of what you do,” he said. “Think of the people you are actually selling to. And don’t try to do everything. We don’t have as deep pockets as the FMCG sector, so concentrate on what is most important.
“Finally, always balance the short and the long term. We’re perishable, we’re seasonal, so everything drives us to be short term, but we must remember the importance of the long term. And we must all try to be better storytellers.”