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This article appears in the January 2021 issue of Pay Dirt Magazine

A New Era of Marketing

You don’t need marketing expertise to know it has dramatically changed since the pandemic took hold. Events are out and we’ve got Zoom fatigue. Restaurants are struggling and baking ingredients are seeing record sales. A focus on buying local (even if it means Made in the USA), supporting small business, and purchases with a purpose has created a new perspective in the economy. For agriculture leaders, while the supply chain has been hit hard—in this new era marketing, there are bright spots.

Farming Stories Matter

At the root of any great brand is an authentically great story. And stories matter more now than ever, before simply because shoppers are more willing to listen. Americans want to know where our products come from, how they’re made and who is behind them. Consumers are spending more time online evaluating choices regardless of where the purchase takes place. Value is important, brand familiarity and trust is everything. This all adds up to meaningful opportunities for agriculture companies to step up their brand game and tell stories with genuineness.

I have never met an agricultural company without a story (or a product) people would care about. It’s often that the right voice hasn’t been found or the energy hasn’t been put into telling it. Marketing takes investment and effort, but storytelling is where it all starts.

Celebrating Food & Family

Not only are we spending more time together at home with family, our definition of family has been redefined. Gone are the days of marketing to a mom with 2.5 kids at home. Families consist of groups of friends, housemates, communities and increasingly represent an intergenerational dynamic. Demographics are blurring in the sense that a one-size-fits-all approach doesn’t apply to the average household. Marketers of agriculture need to be hyper aware of this trend and creatively determine how their products can speak to it.

This age of new families and time at home has secured food as a focal point in our lives. In our quest for comfort candy sales in the US has exploded. And suddenly we’re inclined to learn how to bake sourdough, start a garden and mix new cocktails. A bright spot is that food is having a real moment. We are celebrating food and family in new ways that is bringing people together and making everlasting memories. All of this underscores the endless possibilities for agriculture brands to connect the dots with consumers.

This past Fall, Pink Lady® Apples took a page from this book with its “Cozy Up & Share The Love” promotion. Three “cozy” recipes were developed and consumers could enter for a chance to win two handmade American Blankets and a $250 gift card to a trendy matching pajama company. This is a great example of leaning into the consumer trends in a way that spotlights the brand’s core messaging: Pink Lady® apples are meant to be shared with loved ones. It worked, the brand saw thousands of entries and a significant increase in social media engagement.

Don’t Call it a Comeback

This cooking at home trend isn’t a trend. An online article for Food Technology Magazines cites, “Half (48%) of food shoppers say they plan to continue cooking more at home post-pandemic, according to the Home Cooking in America 2020 report from The Food Industry Association (FMI).” And they need inspiration. The article also notes, “Hartman Group research shows that nearly half of consumers (46%) are looking for more recipes now than before the pandemic.”

What does this mean for agriculture marketing? It’s time to double down on digital, but in a purposeful way. It is likely that most companies large and small need to regard their website as a top dog sales rep and invest in it. But it does not make sense for every brand to have an active social media presence, or a large database of recipes. Communication materials with professional photography and video on some level are a must. Regardless of your target market, a strategic email marketing program can also be incredibly effective. Like at-home cooking, digital marketing isn’t going anywhere and this is the year to create a solid strategy.

Live from the Farm

How can agriculture brands enhance their story, and do it digitally? One way is to bring consumers right to the farm and show them what a day in the life looks like. Interest in family farming and the stories behind is at all all-time high. Now is prime time to deliver interesting and engaging peeks into sustainable growing practices, stewardship of the land, family traditions and stunning views of row crops. But to get real attention, your brand needs to keep it interesting to stand out. 

One farmer doing this right is Shay Myers, CEO of Owyhee Farms. His growing social media following revel in his in-the-moment photos and videos that capture the unique life of a farmer. He’s got millions of views on TikTok and over 18,000 followers on Instagram, but he also engages industry leaders on LinkedIn. This has all helped grow his Boise, Idaho based potato and onion farm into a brand that has its own merch (merchandise). #goals

If end consumers aren’t your key target, other timely updates are still valuable. There will always be an important place in marketing for accurate crop updates, pricing offers and other customer-only information. And there is always a way to make those more interesting for your customers by connecting it to your authentic story and personality.

Lisa Minardi

Author Lisa Minardi

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