By Ahmad Fauzi Mustafa
RED Gold is a popular expression among palm agro-communities as it refers to oil palm trees and the growers believe the tree is God’s gift.
It all started with the first oil palm tree planting in a commercial farm near Tennamaram Estate, Batang Berjuntai (now Bestari Jaya) in 1917.
The palm oil industry continues to shape our life then, now and in the future as palm agro-commodity, involving upstream and downstream activities, helped Malaysia to become one of the largest palm oil producing countries in the world.
One can see this as the value of exports for the period January to June 2020 amounted to RM21.16 billion compared to RM20.06 billion in the same period last year. The value of palm oil exports this year is expected to reach between RM65 billion and RM70 billion compared to RM63.73 billion last year.
This confidence was expressed by Plantation Industries and Commodities Minister Datuk Dr Mohd Khairuddin Aman Razali, who was of the view that the palm oil industry market needed to be innovated in terms of new markets, approaches, initiatives and rebranding.
Though Covid-19 has an effect, it is not a big reason to start doubting production because this commodity contributes to the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) of 4.76 per cent amounting to RM64.84 billion.
Acknowledging that contribution, a drastic step was taken towards a more responsive approach, which was the rebranding of the palm oil industry using the tagline “Palm Oil is God’s Gift”, replacing “Love My Palm Oil” in an effort to elevate the country’s reputation, image and identity in the regional and international markets.
In other words, the rebranding to “Palm Oil is God’s Gift” should be seen as conveying a consistent image to the internal and external environment while boosting revenue in the long-term and putting the country’s major agro-commodities as the “frontliner” in terms of the nation’s income.
The Plantation Industries and Commodities Ministry needs to focus more on the rebranding as a new presence that can attract a lot of attention and in turn become the key for the ministry, including the organisation under it to lead the development of a strong corporate brand.
Dr Khairuddin’s approach is in line with the views of a communications scholar who put forward the concept of PATH — Promise, Acceptance, Trust and Hope — to support the slogan “Palm Oil is God’s Gift” while making the brand better with it being always in the minds of stakeholders.
For example, customers who buy Malaysian palm oil buy them due to the perception that they are buying the best in terms of durability and reliability in terms of quality, supported by the Malaysian Sustainable Palm Oil Certification (MSPO) which is increasingly recognised globally, including Asean, China, India, Japan and parts of the European Union.
In this regard, the time has come for the slogan “Palm Oil is God’s Gift” to be used to promote the country’s palm oil as it has the characteristics of a guarantee symbolising the brand as trustworthy and having high reliability.
It’s a certainty that the country’s palm oil industry players, especially the smallholders, have high confidence and expectations, seeing the price of crude palm oil possibly reaching RM2,400 to RM2,800 per tonne in the next few months.
Previously, the lowest palm oil price was recorded in December 2018 at RM1,794.50 per tonne and RM1,879 per tonne (July 2019) for the period of 2016-2019.
With strong promotions and marketing, the “Palm Oil is God’s Gift” brand will be heard and reinforced in the Asia Pacific region (Philippines, Vietnam and Myanmar), West Asia (Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Jordan), Africa (Djibouti, Ethiopia, Somalia and Mozambique) as well as Central Asia (Afghanistan, Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan).
The country’s palm oil industry must maintain a dynamic branding management strategy because to build a brand identity is not easy as it involves costs and needs to be maintained in order to remain strong and effective. – NST ONLINE
- The writer is former Head of Corporate Communications, Plantation Industries and Commodities Ministry and Senior Analyst Socio-Economic & Communications at Centre Strategic Research (CSR), an independent and non-profit think tank