For three decades Brian Richards has been de­vel­op­ing ideas that de­liver change – to gov­ern­ments, com­pa­nies and com­mu­ni­ties.

NZ Business - - CONTENTS -

NZB: What ini­tially set you on the path­way to be­com­ing New Zealand’s fore­most brand and in­dus­try strate­gist? And why so pas­sion­ate about brand­ing?

BRIAN: Af­ter a suc­cess­ful ca­reer in cre­at­ing a la­belling busi­ness, I be­came fas­ci­nated about the ques­tion of brands be­yond lo­gos. New Zealand is a com­mod­ity na­tion and for many years I have been con­vinced we can sell less for more.

It's be­come a cru­sade in vir­tu­ally ev­ery project we un­der­take. We have over the years seen sig­nif­i­cant suc­cess from tiny be­gin­nings in terms of 'sem­i­nal' think­ing about how to po­si­tion a prod­uct or ser­vice. This goes well be­yond the item it­self – cov­er­ing be­hav­iour change and, in many cases, re­design­ing an in­dus­try.

“It's im­por­tant to dif­fer­en­ti­ate be­tween story telling and story sell­ing. The lat­ter tends to dom­i­nate in ad­ver­tis­ing mes­sag­ing and is so of­ten deeply sus­pected.”

NZB: If you had to name one or two of your per­sonal ca­reer high­lights, what would they be?

BRIAN: The power of col­lab­o­ra­tion across in­dus­tries saw me lead ini­tia­tives in New Zealand wine ex­port­ing, ki­wifruit (Ze­spri), veni­son (Cer­vena), hor­ti­cul­ture, and other smaller ini­tia­tives which, over time, now rep­re­sent well over $1.5 bil­lion in ex­ports. To know that I made a strate­gic con­tri­bu­tion is very pleas­ing.

NZB: Sim­i­larly, you spe­cialise in re-in­vent­ing or re- defin­ing busi­nesses; de­scribe one of your proud­est achieve­ments in that re­gard?

BRIAN: I was par­tic­u­larly proud to be ap­pointed by Hol­cim Global (based in Switzer­land) across all of Asi­aPa­cific to re­po­si­tion this ma­jor ce­ment group's brand with a uni­ver­sal look, story, and mind­set change.

We led a project over many years to de­liver a sig­nif­i­cant brand change that re­alised im­proved value and di­ver­si­fied prod­uct sto­ries.

NZB: What are some of the ab­so­lute do’s and don’ts of brand­ing in 2017 – es­pe­cially tak­ing into con­sid­er­a­tion the emer­gence of on­line plat­forms and so­cial me­dia?

BRIAN: A ma­jor ‘do’ is ab­so­lute clar­ity and can only be ar­rived at through clear vi­sion and pur­pose work at the front end of the strat­egy. UX de­sign is guided by these prin­ci­ples and the dis­ci­pline of well-de­fined in­for­ma­tion ar­chi­tec­ture is key to main­tain­ing cus­tomer in­ter­est.

A ma­jor ‘don't’ is to as­sume that all cus­tomers are the same. Ho­moge­nous think­ing de­liv­ers very poor brand out­comes, and we now have the tools to in­di­vid­u­alise more than ever.

NZB: De­scribe the im­por­tance of ‘a story’ for busi­nesses. Can you name a good ex­am­ple of one?

BRIAN: Noth­ing suc­ceeds bet­ter than a story you have never heard be­fore. Driven off your brand essence and point of dif­fer­ence, it's im­por­tant to dif­fer­en­ti­ate be­tween story telling and story sell­ing. The lat­ter tends to dom­i­nate in ad­ver­tis­ing mes­sag­ing and is so of­ten deeply sus­pected.

En­gag­ing the cus­tomer in the story by way of recog­ni­tion is ev­ery­thing. We de­vel­oped Ice­breaker's en­dur­ing story al­most 20 years ago now, which I'm pleased to say is alive and well in dif­fer­en­ti­at­ing merino gar­ments from syn­thet­ics.

NZB: What other ad­vice can you give busi­ness own­ers around brand­ing and sto­ries?

BRIAN: You can't be­gin with­out your vi­sion, pur­pose, and val­ues. You need to see them in the con­text of the cat­e­gory you op­er­ate in. What dif­fer­ence can you make to this cat­e­gory by way of cus­tomer choice? And how can you cap­ture your cus­tomer's imag­i­na­tion to con­sider you first? Is the story about them rather than you? De­sign­ing a brand from the 'out­side in' is crit­i­cal.

NZB: Out­side of Richards Part­ners, what other in­ter­ests and hob­bies do you en­joy pur­su­ing?

BRIAN: My wife Brigitte and I, to­gether with our man­ager Richard Mor­ris, have run a sig­nif­i­cant scale deer and cat­tle farm­ing prop­erty for 26 years. It's a busi­ness in its own right, with a ma­jor com­mit­ment to en­vi­ron­men­tal prac­tices. The prop­erty won the na­tional award in the deer in­dus­try in 2003, for which we are very proud.

NZB: Who have you drawn in­spi­ra­tion from over the years?

BRIAN: I am a prodi­gious reader and travel a great deal. My in­spi­ra­tion is less about in­di­vid­ual peo­ple and more about how we as a small na­tion di­vide into a big­ger world.

It's taken me a ca­reer life­time to see the po­ten­tial of this con­text and I am so en­cour­aged about a bright fu­ture – if New Zealan­ders learn how to sell less for more.

It's about adding value and the in­tegrity of our value chains across the globe. We should see a trou­bled over­pop­u­lated en­vi­ron­ment else­where as an op­por­tu­nity, not a threat.

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