Vis­i­ble across al­most ev­ery media chan­nel, the name Annabel Lang­bein has be­come a brand in its own right. We chat to the woman be­hind it to find out how she cre­ated a media em­pire that now has its eye on the US mar­ket.

New Zealand Marketing - - Contents -

Matty Mclean’s media diet, the an­gry out­sider, stun­ning stats, jolly japes and Annabel Lang­bein.

What were the early days in your ca­reer like? In my early 20s I did a lot of trav­el­ling and ev­ery­where I went I cooked, though I had no pro­fes­sional train­ing. When I was liv­ing in Brazil I started a crois­sant busi­ness, and when I was liv­ing in Ibiza and in Lon­don I cooked too. When I came home I put my fo­cus into con­sul­tancy, do­ing such projects as de­sign­ing the food for New Zealand at the world ex­pos in Seville and Tae­jon. In a way, my tele­vi­sion se­ries, which has since been broad­cast into 93 ter­ri­to­ries, has been a con­tin­u­a­tion of that jour­ney. The mar­ket­ing work I did at that time also gave me a deep un­der­stand­ing of what con­sumers want and the re­tail en­vi­ron­ment. I ap­proached one of the su­per­mar­ket groups with a big idea around fresh­ness and as­sisted them with their mar­ket­ing, in­clud­ing pro­duc­ing a mag­a­zine, fronting tele­vi­sion ads and de­vel­op­ing in-store mer­chan­dis­ing, all de­signed to make cook­ing easy, ac­ces­si­ble and af­ford­able for peo­ple. In 1991, I de­signed and de­vel­oped a pro­gramme called ‘How to feed a fam­ily of four on $100 a week’ in con­junc­tion with the Child Health Foun­da­tion. It was all free and we printed nearly a quar­ter of a mil­lion lit­tle book­lets that went out all over New Zealand. The de­mand was huge. I think that this was the mo­ment when I en­tered the broader Kiwi con­scious­ness. From there I set up my own pub­lish­ing com­pany and be­gan to pro­duce cook­books, from which the Free Range Cook Book and TV se­ries evolved.

How did you get your big break in TV?

Launch­ing the first se­ries of my TV show Annabel Lang­bein: The Free Range Cook in 2010 was a game-changer for me. I had posted some lit­tle video clips onto the in­ter­net and multi­na­tional media gi­ant Fre­man­tle Media con­tacted me of­fer­ing to back and dis­trib­ute a TV se­ries. For me it was the cul­mi­na­tion of an in­ter­linked jour­ney and com­bined ev­ery­thing I’d learned about food dur­ing 20 years of cook­ing, trav­el­ling and liv­ing off the land, to­gether with my pas­sion for pro­mot­ing New Zealand food.

What’s it like hav­ing a name that’s also a brand?

I try to live my brand and be my brand so it is gen­uine, not just some con­struct. Peo­ple who visit us in Wanaka of­ten can’t be­lieve that the gar­den and cabin are ex­actly how they ap­pear on my TV show. It is all ac­tu­ally real – it’s the way we live. And we started with noth­ing – just work­ing with the wilder­ness and plant­ing and grow­ing. I also work with a fab­u­lous team of peo­ple up in Auck­land who do the be­hind-the-scenes work, which helps man­age the dis­tinc­tion be­tween my­self and my busi­ness and frees me up to be cre­ative and have the space and energy to think about the big pic­ture and how we can de­velop our vi­sion.

Why do you find it nec­es­sary to work across so many media chan­nels? I don’t think you can ex­pect peo­ple to seek you out. You have to be where they are, and these days with media be­ing so frag­mented you have to work across mul­ti­ple plat­forms.

In an at­tempt to be ev­ery­where, some brands seem to bat­tle to leave a clear mark on the media chan­nels they’re op­er­at­ing in. So, how do you en­sure that you’re not ev­ery­where and nowhere at the same time? It’s im­por­tant to al­ways be con­sis­tent with your mes­sag­ing so peo­ple get the same brand ex­pe­ri­ence across mul­ti­ple chan­nels and their ex­pe­ri­ence is seam­less no mat­ter where they choose to find you. Achiev­ing gen­uine con­nec­tion and en­gage­ment with your tar­get au­di­ences is key, so fast-track op­tions like shar­ing trend­ing videos or end­lessly giv­ing away your prod­uct might re­sult in seem­ingly im­pres­sive num­bers, but you need to un­der­stand what your real goal is. En­gage­ment has to be earned. My team and I work re­ally hard to cre­ate a qual­ity ex­pe­ri­ence, whether that is TV, a book or so­cial media. It also takes time to cre­ate a brand of trust. I started my Face­book page in 2010 and have grown my 100k fans al­most en­tirely or­gan­i­cally, which re­sults in a very high en­gage­ment rate. Peo­ple are al­ways in­cred­i­bly sur­prised to learn I had over eight mil­lion page views on my web­site in the past year. Sim­i­larly, I have a sub­stan­tial data­base and ex­tremely high open rates on e-news­let­ters be­cause we con­sis­tently de­liver rel­e­vant, qual­ity con­tent.

What does it take to be suc­cess­ful across dif­fer­ent chan­nels?

New Zealand is such a small mar­ket that com­mer­cially to re­main suc­cess­ful you need to reach ev­ery bit of that mar­ket. You can’t af­ford not to. It’s a very time-con­sum­ing and ex­pen­sive ap­proach, though, as you can’t just push a but­ton and be ev­ery­where at once, you need to tai­lor to the plat­form, even from a lo­gis­ti­cal per­spec­tive, so peo­ple can view and read and en­joy. And for a small com­pany like ours, this re­quires dis­ci­pline about al­ways man­ag­ing lim­ited re­sources. I have al­ways been cu­ri­ous about new ideas, and in a way been a nat­u­ral early adopter. In or­der to have rel­e­vance you have to be, oth­er­wise you end

up at the back of the line. For ex­am­ple, I think we were the first com­pany in New Zealand to pub­lish com­puter-to-plate (CTP). We have al­ways tried to be in­no­va­tive, not for the sake of it but to be rel­e­vant and also ef­fi­cient. I also think that be­cause our tele­vi­sion se­ries is broad­cast into so many ter­ri­to­ries we’re aware that not ev­ery­one can ac­cess our books in a tra­di­tional form, so we are al­ways ask­ing how do we reach them, how do we find those part­ner­ships and re­la­tion­ships that are go­ing to pro­vide en­hance­ment for both par­ties?

Why is sus­tain­abil­ity so im­por­tant to your brand? You can’t be all things to all peo­ple, and you have to have in­tegrity and be true to the val­ues you es­pouse. As a foun­da­tion mem­ber of the Sus­tain­abil­ity Coun­cil of New Zealand I’m acutely aware of the chal­lenges fac­ing our planet. If we aren’t sus­tain­able then what does the fu­ture look like for our chil­dren and their chil­dren?

How do you go about mar­ket­ing your brand these days? It’s al­ways a multi-plat­form ap­proach. A tele­vi­sion show is one thing but you need to line up all the other el­e­ments to sup­port it. Of­ten to­day, it also means part­ner­ing with other media and aligned brands, but do­ing it in a man­ner that en­riches the whole ex­pe­ri­ence for the con­sumer. The idea that peo­ple need three touch points be­fore they will en­gage with a brand is as rel­e­vant and as chal­leng­ing as ever. There is so much clut­ter out there, you need to have a con­sis­tent mes­sage and stay fo­cused while all the time evolv­ing and keep­ing up to date with new in­no­va­tions.

How sig­nif­i­cantly has the dig­i­tal age changed what you do on a daily ba­sis? There’s a real sense of im­me­di­acy about so­cial media and I love hear­ing on a daily ba­sis from peo­ple who are en­joy­ing my recipes and mak­ing them on their own. For com­pa­nies such as ours, work­ing from the ge­o­graph­i­cal iso­la­tion of New Zealand, it en­ables us to com­mu­ni­cate di­rectly with an in­ter­na­tional au­di­ence and stay at the fore­front of in­ter­na­tional trends.

What are some of the key chal­lenges that you’ve faced in your busi­ness? There will al­ways be chal­lenges. I think that has been the most use­ful thing to know. There is al­ways another hill or moun­tain and it doesn’t get eas­ier. It changes but it doesn’t get eas­ier. Ev­ery time you get to the next part of the jour­ney there are new chal­lenges, new things to learn, new de­ci­sions, new ways to try to make a path. You have to back your­self.

What ad­vice would you give to young Kiwi en­trepreneurs? Make a plan and stay fo­cused. You can al­ways change and up­date the plan but you need some­thing to work to that other peo­ple can work to­wards too. Al­ways act with in­tegrity, and be sure to make de­ci­sions, even if they are the wrong ones. If you don’t, then you stay stuck in the same place. Bring in the best peo­ple you can around you. Take week­ends off, and make time in your day or your week for your­self so you can be strong and fit and healthy.

What is the se­cret to longevity in the fickle media in­dus­try? The peo­ple who I most ad­mire in life are those who are cu­ri­ous, and I have a few in mind who are now in their 80s. As soon as you stop be­ing cu­ri­ous you stop be­ing rel­e­vant, and can get too caught up in what you think rather than maybe what other peo­ple might want or need. It’s all about look­ing out­wards and adding value for your au­di­ence.

What’s next on the cards for Annabel Lang­bein? Amer­ica is a very ex­cit­ing op­por­tu­nity for us, given that my TV se­ries will be launch­ing into the USA from Septem­ber for a two-year run. It’s such an ac­co­lade to be picked up by public tele­vi­sion in the USA, and it’s the cul­mi­na­tion of many years of plan­ning and work. For ex­am­ple, when I shoot my TV se­ries I al­ways shoot an im­pe­rial ver­sion as well as the met­ric ver­sion, to en­sure we have a prod­uct that will be rel­e­vant to the US mar­ket. PBS takes only a few shows a year from out­side of the USA and its au­di­ence is per­fect for us. It’s like the BBC of Amer­ica, run­ning shows like Down­ton Abbey that get huge view­er­ship. If we can join the dots there, and find com­pa­nies to work with who share the same val­ues, then to­gether we can make a much big­ger wave. I know it won’t be easy, but grow­ing a brand is very much a jour­ney and this stage of the jour­ney is tremen­dously ex­cit­ing.

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