Creating a Pan-Asian discovery brand
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Creating a Pan-Asian discovery brand

What if you have a great product but not enough local consumers to buy it?

That was the conundrum facing New Zealand dairy company Miraka, which needed to build a brand overseas so it could export to populous markets of Asia. Catalyst speaks to Kusal Perera about his seven top tips for differentiating your brand to compete on the global stage.

1. "Begin with your end goal in mind"

In many businesses, the purpose statement is hung on a wall or filed away. In Miraka, it is talked about daily. If an action is out of alignment with the purpose of ‘Nurturing our world’, it doesn’t happen. And this extends beyond marketing. The living purpose articulates the company’s balanced approach to nurturing people, as well as the land that sustains them. This spirit of interconnectedness is what leads to Perera’s second success factor.

How to apply it:  Establish, share and live your purpose or vision – don’t get tied up in corporate jargon. Work with stakeholders to develop words that have emotional connection and meaning, and then condense these to a handful of words that you can work for and live by 

2. "Secure stakeholder and partner buy-in, then let the experts be the experts"

Perera is charged with creating and leading the consumer brand experience, but his journey has been hugely collaborative. It has involved the rest of the Miraka senior management team – led by Wyeth – as well as the Maori community in their various roles as trustees, owners and cultural advisers. Perera has also brought in external expertise, not shying away from investing in the help of specialist consultants.

Believing in ‘letting the experts be the experts’, he’s been quick to engage global nutrition branding specialists The Healthy Marketing Team, which has provided advice on branding and innovation. Another consulting partner, Emerge Venture, helps growth driven start-ups to expand their business into Asia. Vinamilk, the leading Vietnamese dairy, is also a stakeholder in Miraka, the idea being to integrate vertically and create additional value, as well as share knowledge.

How to apply it: Big change is accelerated by bringing key decision-makers along with you – so involve them in all major decisions. If you have points of issue or uncertainty, bring in experts while you have the key stakeholders together; then you can move forward with expert counsel

3. "Don’t wait to start: Winners set off and course correct en-route"

Perera’s a man on a mission and he’s not waiting to begin. His approach is one of rapidly assembling the teams and getting started. With the right experts on board, he believes he can ‘course correct’ as he travels. The method hasn’t always been plain sailing: after 18 months, he is on his third creative agency. But he’s happy – for now.

How to apply it: Take action towards new goals. Make a start – don’t wait for the perfect time

4. “Tell the story your target wants to hear”

Miraka sells to other businesses and directly to consumers via retail partners, but whether he’s selling premium ingredients or finished products, Perera has customers front and centre in his mind. He’s creating a brand story that his business customers want to tell their end users.

He’s not spending money to change minds; he has researched what is wanted by consumers and he’s engineered those core elements into the very heart of the Miraka brand. Grass-fed; genuine, far-reaching sustainability; advanced farming methods; transparency of supply; world-class packaging and ingredient partners – these are some of the attributes that mean Miraka is telling the story its customers want to buy.

How to apply it: Don’t try to change consumers’ and customers’ mindsets. Instead, take the time to understand what they really want and focus your brand on delivering that. Be prepared to change and move on from the stories you’ve told in the past, and stick to one clear message for your brand.

5. “Leverage meaning to create a differentiated brand world”

The death of true brand experience is usually a result of careless execution, brought about by a lack of focus; poor understanding of – or adherence to – strategy; or underfunding, which leads to cut corners.

Perera has set about creating a Miraka ‘Brand World’ that cuts no corners: a perfect expression of the brand that captures the essence of ‘Nurturing our world’ in every element. The result is that when anyone interacts with the brand – be that on the website, with printed material or when meeting the brand owners in Mokai – their user experience is tonally accurate and complete.

How to apply it: What is the perfect expression of your brand? Activate your brand in a way that dramatises your benefit and demonstrates your integrity to your values. If you have a unique history or location, use that to differentiate your brand.

6. "Take inspiration from distant categories"

Inspiration can come from unexpected places. The secret, says Perera, is to keep an open mind about where it may appear. He first came across Shinola watches in a shop near Shinjuku station, in Tokyo. This led to a 20-minute conversation with a stranger about Detroit. Shinola is a start-up watchmaker out of that US city, and its compelling story rallies you to support something handmade by the people of Detroit; to support a revival and rejuvenation of a city.

For Perera, Shinola exemplifies a ‘discovery brand’ – one that’s difficult to come by, but when you do, it becomes a long-term and personal relationship. Instantly grabbed by the brand’s affinity with the purpose, the people and the place, Shinola became an inspiration for how Perera could tell and sell the Miraka story.

Specifically, he wanted to emulate the way its story contributed to the wearer’s personal brand story. He wanted the choice of Miraka-branded milk ingredients to contribute to the story of his customers’ dairy-based products.

How to apply it: Look into other brands or businesses that have faced challenges similar to yours? What did they do? What can you learn and apply? Look at categories very distant from your own; sometimes they reveal lessons that you can put to good effect with your brand

Catalyst issue two: brand experience

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