Beefing up a brand

Working with a partner can take your agribusiness brand to the next level. Using Certified Australian Angus Beef as a case study, we highlight how entering into a brand partnership can sharpen competitive edge.

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The success of Certified Australian Angus Beef (CAAB) reflects how growth options really open up when branding becomes part of the marketing mix. As Phil Morley, CEO of CAAB puts it, the creation of a brand offers a business owner considerable competitive advantage. “Unless you’re selling your product under a strong brand then you’re actually only selling a commodity,” he explains. If you’re selling a commodity then you’re a price-taker but if you’re selling under a brand, you can demand the best price available.

“It’s like the wine industry – branding is the only way to create brand awareness, repeatability, standards and integrity. If it weren’t for wine brands creating brands, we’d all drink cleanskins.”

The value of partnerships

CAAB began its rise in December 2007, when McDonald’s Asia-Pacific Consortium (MAC) signed an agreement with the company.

MAC wanted someone to verify that the Angus product to be exported into the McDonald’s US Angus program was actually Angus, says Morley. When McDonald’s Australia found out the Angus product was being used in the US, they were anxious to launch Angus burgers here. That launch happened in August 2008.

Morley says McDonald’s did a lot of research and one of the outcomes was that Angus was recognised in the marketplace as a source of quality beef. “Our CAAB company logo was the one that came up as being most recognised,” he explains. So Certified Australian Angus Beef Pty Ltd were engaged by MAC to independently verify the product in McDonald’s as being Angus.

The partnership, which has since spawned similar agreements with Hungry Jacks, Burger King and Patties Foods (owner of Four’N Twenty Pies), has resulted in enormous growth in production kilograms processed over the past two years. Taking the most recent 12 months as an example, CAAB-certified production has surged 35 percent.

Finding the right partner

How does a business owner identify suitable partners and implement such a scheme?

Marketing expert Hunter Leonard, Founder and Managing Director of BlueFrog Marketing, says the process must begin with thorough research of your market.

“The first thing you need to know is whether the customer of the brand you’re partnering with is the same as your customer,” says Leonard. “If not, then there’s no point. And remember, it’s a bit like sponsoring a celebrity – you’re offering somebody else power over your brand and that means risk.”

Ultimately, adds Leonard, any decision about a partnership comes back to finding out what’s the all-important point-of-difference that your customers are looking for. “You have to work out where the customers are leaning,” he says. “Look at organic food – it was on the edge then customers made it mainstream. You have to do enough research to understand that there’s a group of customers leaning towards that positioning before you go there. Angus Beef couldn’t have done what they did if there wasn’t a customer need for certified beef.”

Maximising the benefits

Once a partner is identified then it’s a matter of figuring out what the benefits are for each other.

In the case of McDonald’s and CAAB, it was strict and reputable certification of a quality product for the former and brand exposure beyond anything they’d ever dreamed of for the latter. The next step was ensuring that both brands worked together to protect the other and promote each other’s positives.

“The very simple message from McDonald’s is that if you buy an Angus burger, it’s premium quality,” says Morley. “In return, Angus beef is now widely recognised as premium beef, irrespective of whether it’s for the high-end restaurant business or for inclusion in Four’N Twenty Legendary Angus pies or McDonald’s Angus burgers.”