Carolin Schäfer, effective branding is essential for large food manufacturers. But what about direct sales or short supply chains – is a brand even necessary to market effectively?
Yes. As soon as you enter a market as a seller you are a representative of the brand you are marketing. How we engage with the market, consciously and unconsciously, is going to have an impact. Going into a market as a conscious representative will generate success through intended impact, and for this, a targeted, active development of the brand, known as branding, is a prerequisite.
A brand is more than a logo and the name of the farm. But what else is part of the definition?
The name and logo are indeed among the first things that the customer perceives – a reflection of the company, so to speak. But the brand is much more; it includes everything that contributes to its appearance. What are the brand values, what does the company stand for, what is the passion behind the product and the manufacturing process? Of course, the customer cannot see this, but it is important. That’s because this self-image creates the basis for the branding and so, the external image.
The name and logo reflect the company.Carolin Schäfer
Do your customers know from the beginning what their brand is about?
My first question is always: Who are you and what do you actually do? In response, I often see blank faces. It sounds simple, but most people have never asked themselves this question. Then it’s a question of finding out: What makes us and our products different? Where do we go our own way? The goal is to highlight the positive qualities. You don’t have to hide everything else, but you don’t have to focus on it either. Once you have answered all these questions, there is usually enough meat on the bones to develop a good story.
How do you tell a “good story”?
Farmers bring everything to the table for a good story. We usually start with the history of the farm. And I don’t mean the exact history, but rather what makes the farm tick. Showing who is behind it, what happens on the farm and why – these are the stories that are worth telling. Because in the end it is all about one thing: Positive emotions – you must evoke that in customers. Then you can market successfully.
Few businesses can tell such multi-faceted, lively stories as agriculture.Carolin Schäfer
Few businesses can tell such multi-faceted, lively stories as agriculture, which is full of new impressions and experiences every day. Ideally you share this exciting everyday life with your customers – on your own website or social media. It should not be too long-winded, but always targeted and in easy-to-understand language. Complex agricultural terminology has no place in customer communication!
How does an agency like yours help farm businesses tell their stories?
At the customer’s request we help wherever possible. However, some customers prefer to take storytelling into their own hands because they enjoy it. An agency can certainly take on a lot of the work, but the material for the stories must come from the farm and the farmers. After all, it is the people on the farm who are involved in it every day and it’s their voices that makes the storytelling personal and authentic.
If you seek interaction with customers on social media, you might get negative feedback. How do you deal with this?
It is important to stay on the ball: Check in regularly and react if required. You can’t delete negative reviews, but if you react to them in a professional and friendly manner without being immediately offended, you take the wind right out of everyone’s sails. And customers reading along also perceive this as positive. In any case, no one should be afraid of this.
The ultimate goal of the brand is to build trust; how do you do this?
Clearly, with transparency and personality. It is important to be honest about what, why and how you do it. All of this should be as personal as possible because the people behind the brand are sometimes the greatest marketing capital of agricultural enterprises. Many try to hide behind their brand, perhaps to protect their personality, but that is not effective – people trust people. If customers feel that they are in good hands, then a long-term customer relationship can develop.
Have you experienced a company adapting what it offers to meet brand strategy objectives and capitalise on market opportunities?
I have noticed a trend where more and more farms are strategically selling directly to customers, and considering how they can expand and market their product range in a meaningful way. For most farms, the expansion of the business’ offerings is often influenced by operational changes. However, I frequently advocate for businesses to explore expansion into different branches of production like egg or berry production, and to take into account how new products will be worked into the branding. This is one of the most important reasons why the company itself often becomes a brand.
How do you see the trend towards direct marketing and sales in Germany? What has changed since the pandemic?
I believe that the pandemic has accelerated a development in direct sales – ee are seeing that more and more farms getting involved. The instability of food supply combined with the growing consumer desire for regional products during the pandemic was certainly a driving force.
Food doesn’t market itself. Sales, logistics and marketing all require an effort.Carolin Schäfer
We are also seeing a generational shift. Many young successors have taken over their parents’ farms in recent years and they now want to take different business paths. They see the economic potential in direct marketing. Nevertheless, it must be clear that food doesn’t market itself. In the end, sales, logistics and marketing all require an effort that should not be underestimated. Direct marketing and selling sales create completely different costs and tasks. But it also offers the opportunity to realise entrepreneurial potential – and to be more than ‘just a supplier’.