Swanndri: Kiwi icon’s checkered road ahead

In 2007, defending his decision to move manufacturing to China, Swanndri’s former chief executive Julian Bowden said that if any product deserved to be called a Kiwi legend, it was the Swanndri.

Dear beloved Swannie. Even after all these years of not living in New Zealand, I feel a warm fondness for the old checkered shirt. But the Swanndri brand raises a number of challenges for its owners. It’s an icon with a niche market of rugged, no-nonsense blokes. So any changes need to stay true to the core customer. It’s also still a very Kiwi product, which is a disadvantage in as many markets as it is an advantage. In Australia, for example, we have our own blokes and iconic Aussie brands like Driza-Bone, Hard Yakka and R.M. Williams.

Without an additional, compelling point of difference, why would a quintessentially Aussie man buy a quintessentially Kiwi product? …

Business planning for startups: finding mentors

One home truth that remains is that you don’t always have the good fortune of working closely with a great leader. In your entire career, you might be lucky to work with one such person. But that doesn’t preclude you from surrounding yourself with people who can teach you a thing or two, regardless whether you share the same industry.

To get a mentor in any field, you need a certain degree of shamelessness. There’s no secret to engaging with someone you respect, and there’s really only one tried and tested technique that works like a charm. You ask them.

However, no matter how generous people are on paper or in theory, one rule I live by is to never take advantage of people’s time. For that reason it’s good to have a pool of mentors to draw from at various times. No one person has all the answers and the more professionals you can surround yourself with, the better…

Will Bell Tea & Coffee soon be brewing in Australia?

Tea drinking has its fair share of zealots. The premium tea space in particular is a very lucrative market, with new tea brands and brews featuring fantastical names and flavours popping up as both on- and off-trade options.

I didn’t think it possible, but consumption of hot beverages in Australia is increasing. According to research firm Roy Morgan, in the last five years visits to Australian cafés rose from 38 to 48 million across all age groups.

Hot drinks are big business in Australia, and I’d stake my skinny chai latte on New Zealand’s Bell Tea and Coffee Company wanting a piece of the action. In fact it surprises me that New Zealand’s beloved and established brand has yet to brew its ‘‘feel alive’’ flavour over here…

Sistema Plastics thinking outside the industrial box

In the manufacturing industry a business meeting on the topic of brand can be highly entertaining. Too often there is little differentiation and very little evidence of product development led by market strategy.

Sistema Plastics is a compelling case study on how to build a successful brand. Reading and listening to interviews with the co-founders Brendan Lindsay and Allin Russell, you quickly piece together that the success of the plastic food storage containers is no happy accident.

The fact that Sistema is producing 100 per cent locally while building a global brand, exporting to 59 countries and experiencing year-on-year growth of between 80 to 120 per cent, is remarkable. Australians are not easily impressed and are spoiled for choice in every product category, and yet in 2012, the company had an estimated 44 per cent market share across the Tasman…