Brands to watch | New Zealand Companies in Australia | Trans Tasman

Refocusing on Aussie baby category


First published in New Zealand Herald 26 May 2015

I’m not a huge fan of social media from a business perspective, despite the fact that I do use it personally.┬áSimply because to me most of these networks, apart from LinkedIn, are my channels for talking with far-flung friends rather than having ads targeted at me.

I might follow a handful of companies on Facebook and Instagram – favourite designers or magazines. But even though I love chocolate, I’m just not interested in what my favourite chocolate brand has to tell me on a daily basis.

However, when it comes to newborn babies and the mummy market, social media is a match made in heaven.

A couple of things happen to you (me) when you have a new baby. You spend a lot of time online Googling things to make sure what your baby’s doing is the same as other people’s babies are doing. You share your horror and delight with anyone else who has a new baby (and is still interested in hearing this stuff). You search online for other mums’ recommendations. And you buy beautiful things for beautiful prices, just because your little bundle of joy deserves everything organic, fairtrade and Is. Worth. It.

Also if you were like me when you had your first baby, you pretty much stayed in the house for the first three months. Social media becomes your connection to the world of adult conversation and a link to your former life.

So when Diana Kerr, Merino Kids General Manager of Australasia, tells me that social media is a very important channel for the business, I believe her.

“We’re having amazing success with our own Australian newsletter database,” she says. “Our repeat customers are driving new ones and it reaffirms that word of mouth is taking off there. We’re focusing more on targeted campaigns and remarketing and doing less with print media.”

Merino Kids was founded more than ten years ago by Amie Nilsson and the merino sleeping bags for infants became an instant hit in New Zealand. The company continues to hold major market share in the baby sleepwear category in New Zealand.

Australia has been more difficult to crack, but Kerr says the business is now refocused on Australia for several reasons.

“We experienced significant growth in 2007 and even made the Deloitte Fast 50 with 400 per cent growth. It was stressful and exciting,” says Kerr. “We then launched into the UK in 2008 and in retrospect that was early. We should have focused closer to home and gone into Australia.

“Everything at that point was going really well, but as soon as we were in the UK our focus changed and we put time into that. On top of it all, the day I arrived in the UK they went into recession.”

Merino Kids has restructured the business with one part focusing on product distribution for Australasia (with Kerr at the helm) and the other part overseen by founders Amie and husband James. They cover the rest of the global market and focus on design, R&D, manufacturing and management of distributors.

Kerr is also working with Katabolt, a consulting firm that specialises in helping Kiwi companies develop export strategies outside of New Zealand. I’ve worked with Katabolt before, they’re a hands-on team with a good reputation.

“Rather than just doing a standard quantitative survey online, we’re trying to find as many Australian contacts as possible who aren’t customers of ours,” Kerr says. “This time we want to know what triggers Australians to purchase particular products, sleeping bags and products in our category.”

Merino Kids has always positioned as a premium product and at around $150 for a Go Go Bag, it’s certainly seen as an investment purchase. But again, this is a category where price is not the number one factor and a good story and good quality product can do well without ever seeing a sale. As long as the marketing tells the buyer why it’s worth the price. And Merino Kids has been good at telling that story, they just need to tell it a little louder in Australia.

This could be the year of Australia for the brand and Kerr hopes that by the end of next season Merino Kids will have a local office and distribution centre.

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