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Part 4: Value-add is in our vulnerability

By Sarah Perriam, Director Perriam Media ‘We need to tell our story better’. This is a well-trodden mantra New Zealand’s primary producers chant to themselves, trapped behind the farm gate, in hope that the person who shakes the hands of their end dollar will send them a cheque written out to their ‘self-worth’.

‘We need’ is directed at a handful of faceless individuals that control the brand strings of our food & fibre sector in the hope it will filter some extra coin down through the disproportionated supply chain. But hang on, this statement has no substance because number one, it’s the brand’s story to tell, not the supplier’s. It’s the simple economic principles of ‘higher risk = higher reward’. We have spent generations pumping our levy dollars into improving profitability through production to ensure our wealth remains in low-risk capital gain; in turn, we have lost out on the reward of ‘owning brand equity than land equity’. Straight up I’m pointing the finger at New Zealand’s financial system that has a rich culture of rewarding low-risk research and disincentives investment in brand innovation. "A nation that draws too broad a difference between its scholars and its warriors will have its thinking being done by cowards, & its fighting done by fools.” Thucydides The History of the Peloponnesian War, 431 BCE. No matter how beautifully designed or “focused-grouped” our New Zealand Primary Sector Council vision is, it’s destined to be lost in an avalanche of noise and distraction until we pride ourselves on the common denominator - being human. It’s ingrained in us to justify the logic of farming with the facts rather than harnessing the simple and final purchasing power of emotions. Time to switch from volume to value? Get out of your cave and be vulnerable. The story of Shrek the sheep could be perceived as a bad straggle muster to few or a celebrated story of empathy between human and animal to the masses. The dust of our struggles is the gold we are sitting on. In the world today, we are choosing to switch off from the daily negative information overload and are searching for things to care more deeply about. Tim Staples from Shareability says, “If you want to be relevant anywhere in the world today, you have to lean into ‘unifying’ emotions - not ‘polarising’ ones.” Polarising emotions are the success ingredient applied by the activist movements in the post-truth era trading fear and greed in the attention economy. Staples explains content has to hit the five key positive emotions to get people to engage and share - happiness, awe, empathy, curiosity and surprise. The new consumer has a mantra ‘I buy therefore I am’ - their purchasing decisions need to reflect their values. We celebrate ‘humility’ way too much in this country. Do you know what humility means? To have a modest or low view of one's importance. Our fear of being misjudged is overshadowing our misjudgement of how close we really are to our consumers. When we realise that our values are the same, we will get more value from selling them. As Brene Brown says “When we make the choice to dare greatly, we sign up to get our asses kicked. We can choose courage or we can choose comfort, but we can’t have both. Not at the same time.”

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