We have much to learn from Tariana Turia.
For example, maybe we should get much more excited about the brand names of the stuff we peddle than with the wholesomeness of the contents of a can.
More obviously, we should draw up a list of iconic and sacred words that should be eschewed when products are branded.
Take baby food for example.
An outfit in Auckland called Kiaora New Zealand International might have been better to go into the greeting card business than the food busienss.
It peddles baby foods and claims to be in the business of supporting your growing child, every step of the way “because sometimes even nature needs a helping hand.”
At Kiaora New Zealand we are dedicated to sourcing and providing Kiwi mums with the best, and healthiest, infant formula available.
We have milk powders that are designed to be taken at different stages of your child’s growth.
The company website also tells us the great thing about natural food is that it is free from all GM (genetically modified) organisms, produced without artificial fertilisers and pesticides and animals raised without the use of antibiotics, growth promoters or other drugs.
Previously only available in small stores or farmers’ markets, natural foods are becoming much more widely available
This sounds like good stuff.
It probably is good stuff.
But – bugger me, says Alf – it seems we should not be exporting milk powder under a brand name that incorporates a Maori cultural icon.
Tariana Turia has blasted a New Zealand company for using a Maori cultural icon as branding for milk powder.
The Associate Health Minister said Maori midwives complained to her that “Heitiki” infant formula produced by Kiaora New Zealand International was being sold overseas.
So what’s the problem?
Kiwi boot polish and Tui beer haven’t bumped into trouble with Tariana.
And an outfit called Tiki Tours has done nicely, thank you, in the travel business.
Is there much difference between a tiki and a hei tiki?
Mrs Grumble consulted a web site that told her Hei Tiki necklaces are often referred to as ‘Tiki ‘,
‘Hei’ means to wear around ones neck.
The Tiki necklace is regarded as a good luck charm when worn and in some areas is also regarded as a fertility symbol.
Tiki necklaces are very ancient symbols and by far the least understood so there are a number of legends about itheir meaning. Some say the Tiki came from the stars and that he was the first man of the world.
On the strength of that, poor old Adam loses his claim to fame and The Bible needs a fundamental rewrite in its opening chapters.
Tiki are also often depicted with webbed feet which suggests a strong link to the creatures of the sea. Tiki was respected as the teacher of all things and the wearer of this symbol is therefore seen to possess clarity of thought, loyalty, great inner knowledge and strength of character.
So if we can go on a Tiki Tour, can we sell Hei Tiki baby food?
Mrs Turia is telling us it’s offensive that a cultural icon has been associated with food.
“One of the most concerning aspects for me was seeing the cultural misappropriation of one of our most sacred terms – being associated with food.
“The use of heitiki, our traditional taonga, for the marketing of infant milk powder has been criticised as both disrespectful of tikanga Maori and representing the theft of cultural knowledge.”
Tariana is bothered, too, that the use of a cultural term could be seen to be targeting Maori women to substitute breastmilk with infant formula.
That was “unacceptable” when breastmilk was acknowledged as best for a baby’s development.
At that point of the story Alf became a tad confused. Are the Maori midwives in a tizz about the product being sold overseas as Hei Tiki, or are they in a tizz that Maori women might give up breast feeding in favour of Hei Tiki, or are they in a tizz about a cultural offence that is beyond the ken of non-Maori – or all of the above?
Anyway, this experience goes to show how cavalier we have become with brand names.
If it’s got anything to do with something that might be hung around one’s neck, maybe we should not use it as a brand name for food.
Diamonds might be forever, if we follow this advice, but they should not be used in association with tucker.
This will come as an unpleasant surprise to a certain pasta manufacturer.
Initially, Diamond was established by the Timaru Milling Company Ltd as a quality oats and flour brand for breakfast cereals and baking in the late 1880’s. But in 1941 during World War II the New Zealand Government sought locally produced replacements for international products. As a result, the Timaru Milling Company received a license to manufacture pasta and the small-scale production of Diamond pasta began.
We can imagine that if Mrs Turia had been involved in that Govenrment decision, it would never have happened.