How can farmers support the image of Brand Agriculture

“Marketing is an activity that has exited for over 150 years. Marketing activities commenced when farmers and tradespeople had a surplus of goods and decided to barter these goods in exchange for an item or service provided by some-one else.”

Whilst farmers were at the forefront of marketing 150 years ago, today Agriculture has very limited opportunity and dollars to ensure its voice is heard and its products promoted in a way that farmers are comfortable with.  In fact a  few years ago I attended an event where I learnt from one of the presenters that the marketing team at Meat and Livestock Australia had less than 7% of the budget of the marketing team at MacDonalds

Pretty confident Dairy Australia would have similar constraints. Hence the questions about accountability of dollar spend value in this post by Marian MacDonald about the recent TV advertising campaign featuring water slide tester Deb Poole are very relevant

According to the post Deb has a huge responsibility on her shoulders. Marian asked the marketing team at Dairy Australia this question. “ What are the objectives of the campaign and who is the target audience? and the answer was

The overall marketing objectives are to:

  • Improve perceptions of dairy products and the industry
  • Decrease the percent of women who agree “I’m concerned dairy foods will increase my weight”
  • Increase the percent of women who agree “dairy foods are essential for good health and wellbeing”
  • Increase the percent of women who agree “I trust the dairy industry”
  • Increase proportion of women who make an effort to consume enough dairy.

Wow Deb Poole is a wonder woman if she can change all these perceptions.

As Marian quite rightly said the big question to ask before the campaign was even conceived  was ‘Is TV the best and most cost effective marketing and communications medium to achieve this?”  The big question now is –  “How do you effectively measure it ( and Deb) was?”

I did some large promotions with Dairy Farmers back when it was a farmer owned co-operative. Dairy Farmers employed consultant Ed Geldard to advise them on large community engagement projects and events. Ed certainly had lots of credibility in this space . Ed was the general manager of a sponsorship consultancy, the Sponsorship Unit, and helicopter company Aussie Copters. Ed consulted for a lot of big companies like Telstra and Channel 9 and even wrote books with his wife on the topic of how to get the best bang for your buck on advertising and sponsorship. I was a lucky girl I learnt a lot from Ed and I am even luckier still in that people have invested in programs I now help coordinate so our team can put into practice what I learnt.

One of the key things I learnt from Ed  was the importance of measuring success. As I had skin the game (I was one of the 1000 plus dairy farmers who owned Dairy Farmers) knowing how to measure success was very very important to me.

If you read Ed’s book The Sponsorship Manual you will see there is a list of 14 reasons why businesses invest in the marketing and communications space with ‘changing attitudes and behaviours’ at the top.

So obviously the first thing you have to know is “what people’s attitudes and behaviours are” and Dairy Australia has obviously done that research and have been very concerned about what they have learnt about the images and perceptions towards milk and its consumption of their most important customer – women. You can see from the research results outlined in Marian’s post why the Australian dairy industry  would be very keen to improve women’s images and perceptions of milk as a healthy product produced by people who care and can be trusted.

Evaluating success is also very expensive and if you want to do it well it can be 10% and upwards of your budget.

The Archibull Prize surveys the images and perceptions of many things about the industries that feed and clothe us.

Below is just a small survey example. As  you can see like Dairy Australia we also learnt from our entry surveys there is a great deal of room for improvement. You can also see  why we get very excited when we see the results of the program exit surveys.

Secondary students attitudes to farming

Changes in Attitudes

Farmers were at the forefront of marketing 150 years ago. Being at the forefront of marketing today is just as important as it was 150 years.

 Brands today are now creating value not just by the products or services they represent, but by the meanings they generate. People like to think that their purchases stand for something – consumers with a conscience are informed and discriminating and they will change their purchasing habits based on how they perceive the product. 

As the marketing gurus keep reminding us image and perception do matter and that means marketing is a shared responsibility between everyone in the supply chain. How do we as farmers ensure we are doing everything we can to support the image and perception of Brand Agriculture?

Wendell Berry

How do we as farmers improve our image of being good environmental citizens?  Reports like this show we are facing an uphill battle