Moa, hunted


Chris Keall

I'm not sure if Moa's problems are down to an inept distributor, as CEO Geoff Ross maintains; marketing; or its plan to sell 195,000 cases this year simply being too ambitious from the get-go, what wiht our shelves groaning under more and more craft and foreign beers.

Personally I don't think it's a quality issue. Several of Moa's labels have made their way to NBR's boardroom fridge, and staff happily quaffed them all. But then again, craft beer drinkers are a sniffy lot - not to mention hypersensitve to any signs a "craft" beer label is in fact produced by yet another corporate bandwagon-jumper (and leaving the sexism argument aside, the flash imagery and ads in Moa's prospectus probably didn't help on that front. And while no branding expert, I don't think the trendy/modern names for some of Moa's brews, such as "Blanc Evolution", sit well with the earthier "Moa").

But anyhow, the reason for this brief post is to highlight on-the-ground marketing - or at least the peril of leaving any element of a promotion up to the locals.

I snapped this Moa sign outside a Mt Eden cafe (it stirs unhappy memories of when I was with a publisher that launched a rival to NetGuide - and at the same pocket size. Our distributor recommended we stump up for A5-sized baskets that hung off newsstands, which we did. Newsagents and supermarket shelf stuffers duly filled them with copies of NetGuide.)

Anyway, Moa CEO Geoff Ross is not one to sit on his behind, so it will be interesting to see how he reacts to the sales setback. Stung investors will surely want to see more than tweaking with distribution.

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Geoff Ross should set up an advertising agency. That is his core business. Those that think the marketing alone is sufficient to drive a business is sorely mistaken. While he got lucky once with a egotistical buyer (Bacardi), the bottom line is that at that time he still hadn't been able to make 42 below into a profitable business. Its easy enough to spend - spend - spend on marketing to drive top line growth, but that doesn't actually create any value until it translates into cold hard positive cashflow. I am not aware that Geoff Ross has ever done this, and therefore any business he touches is unduly reliant on a takeover as the end game. This is a very low probability play, given that any potential buyers of Moa (and Ecoya) are now also aware of his limitations...and the type of 'marketing organisation' (rather than business) they are actually buying.

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It's difficult to understand how Geoff Ross can say they were misled by the distributor and that he did not find out sooner that Moa would make a sales shortfall. It looks as if he/Moa were relying on the glam factor, leaving a lot to chance and were not on top of the relationship with TWE. A wee bit of arrogance in there, perhaps?

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MArketing schmarketing. Beer schmeer. Distributor schmibutor. Moa is great stuff, but so is it's opposition... which for better or for worse, is eating Moa alive. I have done a wee survey of a few bars (of the "Moa-hunter market" typical persuasion) and wholesale off-licenses... The universal answer ?.. .the stuff dies on the shelf due to overpricing , over packaging, and a hype-sensitive market. THerefore it's not the Distributor at fault (the stuff's out there in droves, gathering dust ), it's the desirability; read "marketing".
You can suck a Voddie drinker in, but craft beer afficianados are not to be mucked with. That's WHY they drink craft beers, not Steinies or Heinies production swill et al. They're not brand-slaves, they're flavour and value and content hawks. Ross & co needs to realise this buyer-decision triumvirate (flavour/value/content) ,but I suspect it's outside him to do so. Pity the mugs who bought the shares though... they were mugs from day 1. Forsyth Barr have some answering to do methinks. All good though, I hope they get their dough back , somehow.

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