THE wool industry's would-be saviour, Andrew Russell, has suggested Merino can no longer be adopted and protected by the industry and has invented and registered the word Merlana to describe fine Australian Merino wool.
It is a radical and far-fetched approach, according to many, but Mr Russell said for the industry to survive it must form and protect its integrity; similar to the way the French had protected champagne.
"The word Merino can be used by anyone ‹ we are seeing 28 micron Chinese wool using the word; it is even seen on a box of tissues nowadays," Mr Russell said.
"The word itself doesn't really matter, but what does matter is being able to protect the integrity of this great fibre and again create in the consumers' mind something they really strive for."
Speaking publicly for the first time at Sheepvention in Hamilton recently, Mr Russell said he had received an enthusiastic response to his paper "A Brand New Future: A strategy to de-commoditise and differentiate Australian wool".
The paper is a direct development from an 87-page report he developed, looking into marketing and business solutions for the industry.
Mr Russell has been labelled the Joan of Arc of the industry, given he is just 26 years of age and has shown a desire to present new solutions for wool at a time of uncertainty and poor trading conditions.
Like Joan of Arc more than 400 years ago, Mr Russell risks being burnt at the stake in professional terms, given his opposition to current thinking within present authorities; for example, he has labelled the famous Woolmark as completely out of date.
"The taskforce report put together by Ian McLachlan itself shows growers have spent $6 billion developing the Woolmark, which is now used for everything from fibre suits to carpets and has been officially valued at only about $28 million according to brand expert Interbrand," he said.
Merlana evolved from the word Merino.
Mr Russell said the name should be adopted and launched from next year ‹ the 200th anniversary of Merino wool in Australia.
While his concepts of marketing have taken growers by surprise, those who spoke with Farm Weekly said something had to be done to save the industry from an increasingly desperate situation.
Victorian stud breeder and woolgrower Dwain Duxton said it would not work across the entire industry.
"But for groups like us with a brand already in the industry I think we could really benefit from it," Mr Duxton said.
Mr Russell said he had spoken and met many producers across Australia in recent months and was enjoying great support.
"I know this is a very conservative and traditional industry, but people are really looking for answers right now," he said.
Mr Russell adressed more than 100 growers in Hamilton and formally launched his approach.
He intends to meet with key opinion leaders and broking houses Elders and Landmark in coming weeks.