Will has a good post over here giving some sag advice to startups to be authentic. It’s a valid viewpoint, especially given the recent cases involving dodgy lead paint, poisonous toothpaste and killer dog food.

Recently we have seen a number of products come to market which leverage off some sort of pseudo authentic platform. Here in New Zealand, and in my industry, we see it in the Asian manufactured outdoor products that keep harping on about clean green/made OF New Zealand/born of the mountains etc etc.

Sorry to get all heated up about this but what the hell does it mean. A product that is manufactured in China, of fabric made in Korea, then shipped to Europe packaged in bleach filled packaging that is printed with chlorine inks in a million places saying “Made of New Zealand”.

Now don’t get me wrong – I have no problem with (for example) Icebreaker moving production to China. It’s a move that (if one buys into their rationale) they had to make to ensure qualitative and quantitative performance for their brand. The move I have no problem with, what I do have a problem with (and I’m not going to enter the debate whether or not Icebreaker are guilty of this) is covering up the offshore move with awful platitudes about shiny happy Asian labour and the fact that their former manufacturing workers have miraculously become graphic/product/web designers.

So, to get back to what Wil says, be honest, be open and most of all ensure that your product, your mesage and your people are authentic.

Ben Kepes

Ben Kepes is a technology evangelist, an investor, a commentator and a business adviser. Ben covers the convergence of technology, mobile, ubiquity and agility, all enabled by the Cloud. His areas of interest extend to enterprise software, software integration, financial/accounting software, platforms and infrastructure as well as articulating technology simply for everyday users.

4 Comments
  • How much does it matter where the product is manufactured?

    In icebreakers case, they are selling technical clothing. For them, the ‘authentic’ part is entirely in the design (outdoor cool). Sure, don’t say “made in NZ”, but you can say “born in NZ” or “designed in NZ”, or other marketing stuff.

    In NZ, I think that is what we should be trying to encourage. The design matters (the value add) rather than the manufacture. Thats why I have an issue with the “buy NZ made” campaign, because I think we should be encouraging NZ to be a value add, not a subsidised manufacturing economy which can never win against a low-cost market like asia.

    I think its the intellectual property thats important, rather than the logistics of actually producing it…

  • Greg – I agree it doesn’t matter on the macro scale where something is made (on an individual scale it does but that’s personal preference) what I do believe is that by trying to misinform consumers we put them in a position to make buying decisions unaware of the consquences.

    I;m als not sure why manufacturing in NZ is equated in your comment with a subsidised manufacturing economy. My own business produces value added, leading edge “designed” products that sell worldwide and are still manufactured here – sans subsidies

  • Sorry, I guess I mean, in my flu-addled manner, if manufacture labour costs are a significant part of your operation, it will always make sense to manufacture in a place with cheap labour costs. I don’t think thats a bad thing, its… just a thing.

    I didnt really mean to imply that the whole manufacturing industry in NZ is a subsidised system! I really just meant that if manufacturing here adds value (because of specialised skill or whatever), then thats good for NZ, and we should care about that and be encouraging it. Which sounds like what your company is doing.

    But if its manufactured overseas, because manufacturing in NZ is expensive, and doesnt add other value, I don’t see anything wrong with that. If its designed in NZ, the IP is kiwi, and manufactured in China, Im still happy to call it ‘kiwi’…

  • I think the honest thing to say would be “Designed in New Zealand” or “Designed by Kiwis” rather than some bollix like “Made of New Zealand”. I presume there was some controversy that I missed about all this, but there are definitely people out there for whom an important product differentiator is “not made in an asian sweatshop” and to try to fool those people with a statement like “Made of New Zealand” is definitely very dodgy.

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