Farmers Have Feelings, Too: Why You Need Emotion in Agrimarketing

Think Shift

W We want to pitch you a brand new, revolutionary agrimarketing concept. To sell your product to farmers, we’re going to run a print ad in a farm publication, featuring… wait for it… a farmer standing proudly in a field. This male farmer, likely in his mid-forties, is probably handsome, with a bit of scruff on his face. He looks like he would be a hockey coach, or the type of guy who would help you fix a flat tire - which is why you're going to want to buy whatever product is emblazoned on his gently used baseball cap.

Edgy, isn’t it? (No; it’s not.)

We all joke about "farmer in the field" ads, yet we all seem to produce them. For some reason, agrimarketers are afraid to do anything different. Put simply, our industry has accepted bad marketing, and we’re overdue for a change. It’s time to put some soul into our advertising and stop treating farmers like they wouldn’t know good advertising if it hit them in the face.

So, how do we do this?

1. Find bravery in other industries

What do geckos and a fiery woman named Flo have to do with insurance? Not a lot, but they’ve sure helped differentiate Geico and Progressive Insurance.

There are plenty of traditional industries that have managed to get ahead through creative marketing tactics. If they can be bold, then so can agriculture. And what often helps push marketers out of their comfort zone is seeking bold, out-of-the-box advertising that has already been done (and done well) in other industries.

Time and time again, we’ve discussed why it’s crucial for agrimarketers to push to be the best in marketing, period (not just best-in-class). By rallying against status quo marketing tactics — like the aforementioned “farmer in the field” concept — agrimarketers can adopt more progressive best practices that can better prepare their organizations, and our industry altogether, to meet the challenges of today and tomorrow.

There is a real business case for innovative marketing, backed by piles of case studies demonstrating real value in these efforts. So, next time you embark on a creative campaign, make sure to first look outside of your industry, find real results and challenge your team to follow suit.

Once you can convince your team to take a risk, make sure you use your sales results as a benchmark to prove ROI. The only thing sweeter than telling naysayers "I told you so" is having the data on hand to back you up.

2. Find inspiration in the "why," not the "what"

Think of the last ad you remember. What was it about? Chances are, the ad you remember didn't revolve around a list of product benefits. Instead, it probably told a story that appealed to you on an emotional level — perhaps a noble purpose you could connect with, or a humorous element that made you laugh out loud.

In branding, we talk a lot about the "what" and the "why" of an organization: the "why" being the heart, and the "what" being what you do and what you sell. The more you can speak to the heart of your organization — the stuff that gets you to work each day — the more your marketing will connect with your customers.

Unfortunately, in ag, we're very comfortable talking about what we do, and less so about why we do what we do. Very often, ag campaigns feature literal explanations of product benefits and details on why a product is better than its competitors. However, to be impactful, a campaign should speak to the heart by seeking to connect with customers on an emotional level.

To do this, look to your brand and your brand promise. What do your products really give your customers? How do you want to make their lives better? What do they want from you? Capture the spirit of your customer or your team, and your advertising will connect more effectively.

3. Give farmers more credit

Open an agriculture publication today, and from the bland, whitewashed ads you’ll find within, you might assume farmers prefer straightforward advertising, don’t take “edgy” brands seriously, and perhaps even lack a sense of humor. But that couldn’t be further from the truth.

Farmers are targeted by marketers in an array of industries. From cell phone carriers to automotive, brands are leveraging bold creative to catch the eye of farmers — and it’s working. Take a look at Dodge RAM’s acclaimed 2013 Super Bowl commercial, which racked up 4.6 million views on YouTube overnight. Like this “So God Made a Farmer” ad, a touching tribute to ag featuring a voice-over by the late radio legend Paul Harvey, we often find that the campaigns that resonate the most are the ones with some heart, grit or humor.

It’s time to re-evaluate our understanding of our audiences — perhaps by creating evidence-based customer personas — and build our campaigns around what farmers actually want and value, versus what we think they want.

4. Get in the habit of asking "why not?"

When we're brainstorming, we so often introduce constraints too early, prematurely limiting ourselves by simply uttering "we can't," or "they wouldn't go for it."

It's not easy to break ourselves of this kind of thinking. So instead, try conducting a couple of brainstorms where you ask, "why not?" When someone throws out a constraint, be intentional about asking the question. These simple words can trigger a shift in everyone’s mindset, allowing participants to take a closer look at their own biases.

5. Pick a test campaign that isn't too high stakes

Making the switch from blending in to standing out can take some time, both mentally and internally (from an approval, culture and comfort perspective). So rather than jumping all-in right away, consider running a test campaign. Pick something that is relatively isolated, such as a product push, to try out your new creative approach. Be sure to track results closely, as there's a good chance you'll see better pick-up than you would've in the past.

As a marketer, it can be intimidating to step out and try something risky. It can feel like it might threaten our own reputations — or worse, our jobs. But wouldn't the world be a better place if, instead, it was the unwillingness to take risks that threatened our reputations and jobs? Wouldn’t we be so much better if we held each other accountable to being bold in our marketing and pushing for results?

We accept creativity in other industries. In fact, we celebrate it. We marvel at how great it must be to work on consumer brands that “let us” do creative work and settle for the idea that ag will never be as creative as it could be. This is a mistake on all our parts. As a whole, agrimarketers must stop settling for “best in ag” and start striving for “best in marketing.” Only then can we produce truly good work that builds more meaningful connections between our audience and our brand.

To learn more about the forces reshaping agrimarketing, read our deep dive into the Evolution of Agrimarketing.

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