Farm businesses have increasingly switched to direct marketing by selling their products straight to consumers, without the mediation of retailers or distributors. Not only is it beneficial to the farmers’ pockets, but this strategy also allows them to establish a unique relationship with customers, adjust their offerings to serve their needs better, and keep the money closer to the community. Branding is an essential part of marketing success, which helps grab customers’ attention and keep them coming back.
Agriculture is the primary source of the global supply of food commodities, such as grain, meat, dairy, poultry, eggs, fruits, vegetables, etc. Lately, it has been largely impacted by the effects of climate change, while also being one of its reasons due to unsustainable farming practices and greenhouse gas emissions. To enhance the productivity of farms and minimize environmental damage, large numbers of farmers are adopting modern sustainable technologies, such as smart farming that enables the saving of natural resources.
Apart from cost reduction, sustainability can become beneficial to the marketing of a farming brand. Considering that 54 to 60% of U.S. consumers say they would switch brands based on sustainability concerns, and half of all respondents are willing to pay more for foods produced sustainably, farmers are encouraged to adopt smart agriculture techniques, go eco-friendly and convey this principle in their brand messaging. With the right branding of products, they can reach a wider audience of consumers and reap maximum economical benefits.
Ways to brand a product
One of the branding types is manufacturer branding crafted by the producers. They also perform brand marketing spending heavily on advertising. In-depth knowledge of all processes and technologies used in production allows producers to perform high-quality marketing. Manufacturer branding used to be thought of as more innovative and quality compared to the branding done by retailers or other intermediaries in the distribution channel.
The onset of the digital agricultural revolution, promoting smart farming technologies and organic production, has brought about the need to include educational elements in the branding and marketing of innovative products. Manufacturers’ first-hand expertise gives them an upper hand in finding the right words and images to support the unique identity of what they offer.
For example, the Korean agri-tech brand for a sustainable modular vertical farm with mass productivity based on IoT smart farming technology bears the name of N.THING (“number of things”), which reflects the underlying Internet-of-Things concept and company’s mission to combine agriculture with innovation.
Agricultural commodities are oftentimes sold under powerful retailer brands, thus getting much greater exposure than they would on a farmer’s family-owned shop shelves. The downside of retailer branding lies in the fact that these companies don’t know the product inside out. In the past, there was also a lack of trust among consumers who associated lower costs with inferior quality. However, as customers become savvier in the way things work and realized that the lower pricing is because retail brands make do with local media and in-store promotions cutting promotion costs, the market share of such brands significantly increased.
The obvious advantage retail brands possess over manufacturer brands is that they have direct access to end consumers and can get more information about what they like or dislike to tailor the products to their tastes.
Retail brands also have more resources to follow the trends that find favor among customers, such as sustainability. The Belgian food retail brand Colruyt introduced a sustainable loyalty program that encourages customers to pick goods with higher Eco-score and earn points that can be exchanged for local good deeds, such as planting trees and flowers. The brand has a Smart Technics department for investing in smart agriculture technology in the field of offshore and indoor farming.
Geographical and varietal branding
In the agricultural landscape, branding can also be made on the basis of species type or its native habitat. Usually, patenting and brand names are given to the crop variety or crop growing in a certain region that has better qualities compared to others. One example is Than Ha Thieu’ lychees. It is a lychee variety that has a reputation for quality, and the best fruit is produced in Thanh Ha district of Hai Duong province. It was often mixed with other lychee varieties which led to a decrease in customer confidence and prices. Through labeling and IP strategy, the regional cooperative worked with distributors and secured sales of branded fruit at a premium of $0.15/piece compared to no-name produce. The named province also pioneered in applying smart farming technologies to growing lychee by using the right amount of pesticides at the right place and time.
81% of customers admit they are buying new products just because the packaging grabs their attention. Considering this, farmers and agricultural commodity producers can use package design as means to attract more consumers. Aside from being safe and quality to ensure the claimed shelf life of products, packaging should immediately associate with the agricultural brand. Brand awareness is an integral part of customer loyalty and willingness to buy the product on a long-term basis.
With the current competition in the agricultural market, no-name products have fewer chances of surviving compared to those having a brand name. It is vital to create branding that would help a small family farm or local crop variety stand out among the rest and attract customers. Producers can either do it on their own or turn to retail branding, as well as other available types for establishing a brand.