By Sarah Cornelisse
As farm businesses adopt direct marketing to capture the increasing value consumers place on local businesses and products, the ability to attract and retain customers is key. Effective branding contributes to this, as part of your overall marketing strategy.
What is Branding?
A common misconception is that branding is simply creating a logo. While logos are important for business and product identification by consumers, a brand is more than a logo. In fact, “a brand is the combination of a name, words, symbols or design that identifies the product and its company and differentiates it from the competition” (Giddens, Brees, Parcell). In addition to your logo, your brand will include slogan(s), packaging, and colors. Think about some well-known companies like McDonalds, Disney, or Coca-Cola. Whether you have purchased from them or not, it is likely that you would recognize the McDonalds golden arches while driving down the road, associate Disneyland with their slogan – “The Happiest Place on Earth,” or recognize the iconic shape of a glass Coke bottle.
The American Marketing Association expands upon the definition of a brand by stating that a brand “is an intangible asset” that is intended to create “distinctive images and associations in the minds of stakeholders, thereby generating economic benefit/values;” meaning that branding contributes to the image and perception in consumers’ minds about your business and product(s). Thus, branding goes beyond the tangible and visual, to include the intangible such as product quality, your reputation, the demeanor and actions of yourself and your employees, your production practices, etc. For instance, Chick-fil-A is known for their employee customer service and it is this type of intangible element that contributes to public and customer perception about the business.
In today’s digital world, remember that your branding flows even to your digital presence and activities. The form and content of what you post online - whether on your website, blog, social media, etc. - in addition to how you behave and interact with the public will impact individuals' perception of your business.
How Does Branding Benefit Your Farm Business?
While a logo or slogan provides the recognition and link that you need with consumers, there are additional benefits.
Product differentiation. Branding at both the business and product level helps to differentiate your product(s) and service(s) from that of the competition. The ability for a customer to recognize your farm business logo, identify a tag line, or tie an aspect of service to your business is incredibly valuable as you want to be front of mind when consumers are deciding which business to purchase from or products to buy.
Pricing opportunities. You can leverage your brand image when it comes to pricing your products and services. Through branding, you have the ability to set higher, or premium, prices that allow you to capture greater profits. For example, one study found that “consumers are willing to pay modestly higher prices for foods clearly identified as produced by small family farms” (Batte, Hu, Woods, and Ernst). Consumer willingness to pay also increased in their study when the product included either a state branding program logo or identification as being a regionally produced product.
Brand loyalty. Branding that resonates and connects emotionally with customers leads to brand loyalty. This is accomplished through the intangible aspects of your branding – your story, product/service quality, your relationships with customers, your reputation. Customers will seek out your business and products, returning to make future purchases. In the long run, this is the truly valuable result of successful branding.
The Building Blocks of Branding
The following are four building blocks for a developing farm's brand identity and image.
Logo. Whether simple or complex, create an enduring logo that represents your farm business and the vision of your business that you want to share with consumers.
Slogan and Messaging. You may consider creating a short slogan, or tag line, in addition to messaging statements. These can be used to communicate your farm’s mission, product/service benefits and features, or qualities you want consumers to associate with your business.
Colors. The color scheme you choose to use in your branding will evoke emotions, perceptions, and ideas. Use colors that will communicate the brand image you want to cultivate. For instance, green is often associated with nature and yellow with warmth and positivity.
People. You and your employees are elements and the heart of your brand. Be sure that everyone represents your business the way you want to be viewed by consumers. Achieving this may mean that you provide training on customer service or communication skills. For instance, if you want to be viewed as friendly, aim for a more conversational rather than formal communication style whether in person, on the phone, or online.
Building Your Brand
As you build and cultivate your brand, keep your farm’s mission, vision, and values in mind. Working these into aspects of your branding will bring them to life for consumers.
Key points for successfully building your brand include:
- Ensure that you have a high-quality product, service, or experience.
- Devote ample time and energy creating and cultivating your brand.
- Write down descriptive words and phrases about your farm that you want to convey to the public and your customers.
- Consider what need or desire you’ll be fulfilling or providing customers with your product(s) or service(s).
- Use consistent colors and fonts across your marketing materials.
- Ensure that your logo and slogan (if you create one) are highly visible and used consistently.
- Establish a code of conduct for everyone associated with your farm guiding how business is done and communication and service expectations.
- Gather feedback on consumer perceptions about your business and products to determine whether they align with your branding efforts.
- Avoid frequent changes.
Remember, branding goes beyond designing a visually appealing logo for your farm business. While a logo will visually connect consumers to your business, product or experience, it will also be a tie to your reputation; something you have with or without a logo. Successful branding is the result of integrating your farm story with visual and experiential aspects, setting your business and products apart from those of the competition, providing greater value to customers and capturing higher profits for you. Source : psu.edu