The year 1882 was big for New Zealand. On February 15 of that year the first refrigerated shipment of dairy, meat and more than 2000 sheep tongues left the country bound for England.
It was a milestone for us; no longer would isolation from customers hamper our ability to sell in those markets.
The first shipment, however, was not without issue; before it left the docks, a refrigerator crankshaft on the S.S. Dunedin broke down causing the loss of the 643 sheep stowed aboard.
A month later when repairs were complete and the ship set sail, sparks from the compressor caused a ship-wide fire hazard and the vessel’s captain developed hypothermia while attempting repairs.
Despite the considerable delays, British media of the day were remarkably positive with The Times providing the fledgling export industry with some early public relations success: "Today we have to record such a triumph over physical difficulties, as would have been incredible, even unimaginable, a very few days ago...
"More than 130 years later another UK media title Daily Mail has published a less complimentary commentary describing our brand image as “pure manure”, and in China it was labelled by another publication as “100% Pure Festering Sore. ”With the recent dairy PR crisis it has become apparent the longevity of the 'pure' New Zealand brand is no longer a given.
As the ‘100% Pure’ brand, meticulously built by Hobbit labour begins to erode, I find myself asking the question - is it now time for the geeks to inherit Middle Earth?
If we must align our country’s brand with an export industry, would not IT be a smarter choice?
As food exporters, we have relied too heavily on the New Zealand tourism brand equity as a method of deriving competitive advantage.
Since primary exports first began in this country, we have struggled with our geographical limitations. The economies of scale required for us to overcome these barriers as a commodity exporter are significant.
The cloud IT industry in many ways is the opposite of a commodity export model.It fits well within the parameters of our NZ brand where there is little in the way of environmentally damaging by-products, geographical distance becomes almost irrelevant and there is a high level of added value.
The IT industry has multiple small suppliers operating under their own brand - reducing the risk of one player bringing down the image of the industry/country.
In addition, a new entrant to the market can launch internationally on the first day meaning there are no cost burdens from foreign tariffs; reducing the need to wait for free trade agreements to be negotiated.
With companies like Xero growing from $1 billion in market capitalisation to $2 billion in just four months, it is not surprising that the IT sector is positioned to increase from its current 5% of GDP to become our leading export within the next decade.
Impact PR’s Fleur Revell is an award winning Auckland public relations consultant.