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The Collective ups its social status with international accolade

Auckland-based dairy producer The Collective has embraced social media as its major marketing channel in an effort to better connect with its 'herd' and, in many cases, get them to assist with product creation. And that strategy has been vindicated, not just because it is one of the fastest growing companies in New Zealand, but because it was also named as the first and only New Zealand brand to feature in The Social Brands 100 list—"the authoritative ranking of brands leading the way in the social age"—coming in at number 57 ahead of brands like Dell, Groupon and Intel. 

The Collective, which markets primarily through Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest and has gone from a staff of seven to 40 since launch, was founded in November 2009 by chefs Angus Allan and Ofer Shenhav. Allan was the creator of Naked Organics and Ofer of Pitango Organic Cuisine, but the two former competitors decided to join forces and purchased the boutique Canaan Cheese business. After a crash-course in manufacturing dairy, it launched its range of soft cultured cheeses and haloumi in February 2010, followed by its gourmet yoghurt range in May 2010.

Allan says the marketing strategy has always been "to develop a fun brand and persona that is serious about what it makes". From there the strategy grew and was all about ensuring the loyal community—or as he refers to it, 'the herd', which numbers around 3,400 on Facebook—was looked after.

"The key is showing a genuine personality and interest in the herd," he says. "It’s the balance between having fun, sharing news, interacting and thanking our consumers. With all our communications we want to drive people to us, not drive people crazy. We don’t need to incentivise people for liking us; we want them to like us because they really, really do. We are very community driven and take social media and the people who are listening to us seriously."

Youtube Video

And, as well as creating a quality product, that approach appears to have paid dividends. Today, The Collective is New Zealand’s leading gourmet yoghurt brand—and it's still growing (at around 250 percent, as evidenced by its 28th placing in last year's Deloitte Fast 50). And with product now stocked in Australia, Singapore, Spain, France, Hong-Kong and the United Kingdom, the word—and the herd—is spreading quickly. The company hopes to move into other markets like Canada, Brazil, Mexico and Germany, with a projection to achieve global sales of $30 million by June 2012, $100 million by 2013, $250 million by 2014 and $400 million by 2015.

The Collective’s distinctive ‘Cow’ logo and subsequent ‘…no bull!’ taglines were developed in collaboration with design company pHd3, which was also involved in the ecostore rebrand. The packaging won a bronze Pent Award in the food, dairy products category, one of only three awards for that category. And it also secured two further awards at last year's New Zealand Best Awards for Graphic Design Identity Development (small scale) and Graphic Design Packaging.

As for the Social Brands 100 list, Innocent took number one position.

The UK-based food and drinks brand that Coca-Cola has bought a majority share in made its name with packaging that spoke directly to its customers, and it was one of over 300 brands nominated following a crowdsourced nomination process on Twitter that took place in January. The report found that the best performing brands have a genuine, human voice on social platforms and aren’t afraid to get personal.


Social Brands 100 Top Ten


























































RankParent BrandIndustry
1InnocentFMCG
2StarbucksTravel & Leisure
3giffgaffTelecom
4Cancer Research UKCharity
5British Red CrossCharity
6ARKiveCharity
7 =CadburyFMCG
7 =ASOSRetail
9 =The Ellen DeGeneres ShowEntertainment
9 =Met OfficeServices

“It feels like not a day goes by without a new ‘game changing’ platform or technology appearing, and it can be easy to lose sight of the fact that it is people who are at the heart of social media,” says Steve Sponder, head of agency at Headstream, the social brand agency that created Social Brands 100. “The brands in this ranking have found some of the best ways so far to become part of the ‘people’s media’ in a transparent and compelling way.”

Headstream worked in partnership with social media monitoring company Brandwatch and Social Brands 100 measures social performance across a series of markers that demonstrate the brand is building two-way relationships with its community, engaging in active listening, and behaving in an appropriate way in social spaces.

“Defining a brand as ‘social’ can be both complex and subjective," says Giles Palmer, chief executive of Brandwatch. "Every brand is different and customers want to interact with them in different ways. This year we have been able to dig deeper than ever before into our data to analyse brand and consumer interaction at a per post level. Our new techniques in data mining give us valuable insights into how, when and where interaction takes place. Add in Headstream’s social algorithm and desk research and the result is a definitive measure on brand sociability, which crosses industries and sizes of business. We are proud to be part of it."

Other notable findings:


  • A four percent drop in the use of foursquare since 2011, indicating that the use of geo-location platforms has still not taken off.

  • Charities and not-for-profit organisations are starting to make the most of social media, representing over 25 percent of the top twenty brands this year.

  • In the 10 months since it launched, 49 percent of brands have joined Google+ with the same number of brands now present on Pinterest.

  • YouTube appears to be a missed opportunity for many sectors, with the exception of technology brands.

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