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Can New Zealand dairy farmers regain control of their narrative from inside the farm gate

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Executive Summary

This research and affiliated report asks the question:

Can New Zealand Dairy farmers re-gain control of their narrative from inside the farm gate?

The dairy industry is New Zealand’s largest good exports sector, contributing 20% of total exports while bringing in $17.1 billion dollars into the New Zealand economy (NZIER, 2018). As dairy has grown in scale, the sector has increasingly become the brunt of social discontent. The current social climate places media platforms in misplaced control of narratives with the growing apprehension stemming mainly from questions around the sustainability and historical poor practice highlighted in the media. The New Zealand Ministry for Primary Industries conducted a study to explore urban and rural New Zealanders’ views of the primary sector and rural New Zealand. The study, consisting of 1,245 New Zealanders, suggested both groups of respondents, urban and rural, showed a decline in positivity toward farming in general. Since 2008, positive perception of the dairy industry from urban respondents has dropped from 78% to 47%, with rural outlook on the industry dropping from 83% to 50% (Ministry for Primary Industries, 2017). These numbers highlight that collective trust is shifting. This decrease in trust and increase in negative public perception is having huge impacts on our industry inside farm gates filtering into mental health and wellbeing and staff attraction and retention.

Throughout my research, I have utilised cross-industry resources and publications which I have compiled into a literature review and broken down in to main themes. I have compiled information from marketing literature and social media research regarding consumer and market trends with support from psychology and philosophical theories. I have also utilised research from social licence experts which I have followed with case studies. I have used case studies to demonstrate how companies have dealt with consumer trust and the results of individual responses on the associated market. Throughout this research I have dissected two main themes, why consumer demands on New Zealand dairy farms are changing, and how.

My report aims to cover the effect changing values are having on trust in the rural sector and the impact it has on company and industry, it will break down the relationship between narrative and consumer trust and discuss why having control of your narrative is important, and discuss recommendations on how farmers can build trust and empathy; re-gaining control of their narrative from the ground up.

My main findings throughout my report have been:

  1. Change in industry Trust is driven by changing consumer values.
  2. Unconscious decisions affect the uptake of brand strategic narratives.
  3. Misinformation is a key contributor to dairy farmers loss of control over their narrative.

On the basis of my research, my recommendations are as follows

  1. Farmers to develop credibility and authenticity built on results, history and consistency.
  2. Step out of our echo chambers.
  3. Render authentically by humanising the industry.

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Can New Zealand Dairy Farmers regain control of their narrative from inside the farm gate? Sacha McDougall