13.01.2022, 10:38

OBE Organic: difficult and sometimes “expensive” lessons to learn

On January 12th, Ms. Dalene Wray, Managing Director of OBE Organic - a well-established Australian company specialising in organic halal grass fed beef, held a workshop with the theme “from the pure heart of Australia to families of the world”. The event took place on the Zoom platform, receiving the attendance of many people who are interested in organic farming.

”Even if you are a small business of one person or two people or three people, you can become an exporter and we are hoping to show you the way,” said Ms. Dalene Wray, delivering the main message throughout this workshop.

OBE Organic: difficult and sometimes “expensive” lessons to learn

Ms. Dalene Wray, Managing Director of OBE Organic.

OBE Organic is a company founded over 25 years ago in the Channel Country (a region in the Australian Outback). OBE Organic beef is sold to customers in Australia and around the world.

One interesting fact is that the market OBE Organic sold their first kilos of beef to was Japan. Many starting businesses in Vietnam believe that they must learn to do business in their home country, but Ms. Dalene encourages that one can learn by exporting first.

The OBE Organic production region is located in one of the driest lands in Australia (annual rainfall of 50-100mm/year). This land, however, is blessed with a natural asset in Australia called the Great Artesian Basin (GAB), which underlies 23% of the continent. The genetics that the company uses is British genetics, which is believed to perform best in this environment.

OBE Organic takes pride in exporting products worldwide while being a very small business. They are a farmer-owned business with only 10 personnel employed. The family farmers are very isolated and have limited or zero access to the mobile phone network, but committed to ensuring that their company has a relationship with their consumers all around the world.

Starting their journey around 1995 and officially born in 1996, one interesting fact about this company is that the market OBE Organic sold their first kilos of beef to was Japan through an official commercial shipment in February 1999. Three years later OBE Organic launched in retail in New York, USA. Then the company promoted its brand in Taiwan in 2007 and the Middle East (Dubai) in 2012. Their product became available in Vietnam in 2018 which one can access through foodsach.com or dinhphongits.com.vn.

Many starting businesses in Vietnam believe that they must learn to do business in their home country, but Ms. Dalene encourages that one can learn by exporting first and exploring non-traditional markets such as the US - considered less complicated than other markets around the world.

Ms. Danlene said, “Marketing consultants usually will say that you can’t do anything unless you have a mission or a vision.” OBE Organic has been exporting for over 25 years, and many things have changed in that time.

Their first mission and vision were more inward-focused, all about them and their families, and their next ones were very focused on food. Now their mission is to help people lead a healthier life - a vision that gives them the opportunity to develop business in areas other than food, more outward-focused and global.

Logos of OBE Organic throughout the brand’s development.

There are other things that need to change in their business. Their first logo was all about “Beef” and “The Taste of the Australian Outback”. Then a thought came to their mind: “Because we are organic, we need to have green on the logo”, so the second logo came to exist. They got some feedback from customers, particularly for non-English speaking customers, saying that they cannot read the word “Organic” in the second logo. Ms. Dalene considered this one of her “expensive” marketing lessons.

Vietnamese businesses using taglines such as “The Taste of Vietnam” or the name of a province to market their products overseas must be very mindful that many consumers have never been to Vietnam and don’t understand what  “The Taste of Vietnam” is.

Their tagline in 1996 was “The Taste of the Australian Outback”. After conducting some research in China and receiving feedbacks around the world, they came to a realization that consumers in many parts of the world couldn’t understand what “The Taste of the Australian Outback” means, which makes this tagline barely useful. In 2009 they updated the tagline into “Australia’s Best Cattle Grazing Land”.

“Now, if I’m selling my products into Vietnam, I imagine that those two taglines don’t mean much to Vietnamese consumers. And so our current tagline is “Seasoned by Nature” - OBE Organic beef is seasoned by nature, which I love and hope that the audience does as well,” said Ms. Dalene.

The next lesson she shared in the workshop: How we describe our location depends on who our audience is.

It is very important when Vietnamese businesses are developing marketing materials for the audience in export markets to give them a point of reference that they understand. For example, “the Australian Outback” is not a very good point of reference because it means nothing to customers around the world. No one has been there, no one has seen it. With intelligence, they created a term called the “Channel Country Grasslands” to give a point of reference for Chinese consumers, based on certain similarities between the Channel Country and the Mongolian Manchurian Grasslands (Chinese autonomous region of Inner Mongolia).

“So my message, I guess, is how you describe your production regions in Vietnam as forests, deltas or oceans may not be the right descriptive (reference) to use in export markets,” said the Managing Director of OBE Organic.

What differentiates OBE Organic Beef from other organic beef available is its unique provenance. They have translated their marketing material “Seasoned by Nature” into a number of languages while using similar imagery.

And they have been “listening” for 25 years. Presence on social media is very important because it gives them an opportunity to listen to their consumers. Sometimes a business can have the media feeding it messages, forcing it to take action. A sense of truth from consumers proves vital to acquire, and listening meaningfully means receiving a lot of useful information.

Ms. Dalene concluded that It is difficult and sometimes “expensive” lessons to learn: what appeals to you might not appeal to me.

It is difficult and sometimes “expensive” lessons to learn: what appeals to you might not appeal to me.


Author: Hoang Giang

Translated by Samuel Pham