The business of agriculture is much, much bigger than its stereotypes and is rapidly expanding beyond those expected fence posts. Some of the greatest advances in technology are happening in the agricultural business, and agri-marketing is at the forefront of telling this story. On Tuesday, February 9, a panel of marketing experts shared their stories and insights about the importance and evolution of Agri-Marketing.
This webinar began with the familiar face of Jan Wood, Vice President of Events and Partnership for the Calgary Marketing Association. She set the pace and tone for the panel and then shifted the focus to Brad Parry, Vice President of Marketing and Communications at Calgary Economic Development, one of two sponsors of this webinar. Brad shared the video below that highlights the Agriculture Sector in and around Calgary and the diverse amount of growth and opportunities within it.
With such misconceptions about the world of Agriculture, it is essential to dive deeper into understanding the value of story telling and branding to change the perceptions that are out there.
Moderating this panel was the President of the Canadian Agri-Marketing Association (CAMA) Carolyn Lemoine. Agriculture is more than something she is passionate about, it’s in her roots. She grew up on a grain farm, and set off on a marketing career that spanned over 25 years. It began in the creative department and now it focuses on strategy and brand development where she is excited about the evolution of agriculture.
Our panel of Agri-Marketing industry experts consisted of Keith Driver, the CEO of Enterra Feed Corporation, Sabrina McAllister, the Chief Creative Officer for Indelible, and Todd Ormann, the Director of Products and Services at TELUS Agriculture. Each of these leaders are breaking new ground, growing new ideas, and ultimately evolving agriculture beyond its stereotypes.
Carolyn, Keith, Sabrina, and Todd discussed all things Agri-Marketing, from what it is, the misconceptions of Agri-Marketing, to the biggest changes in Agriculture and the importance of branding and storytelling within the world of Agriculture.
So without further ado, let’s dive in!
Carolyn: How is Agri-marketing different, what is it, what isn’t it?
Sabrina: The most common definition of Agri-Marketing is communication of an agricultural product or service to a consumer. But I think that Agri-Marketing actually done well is about telling a story and building a brand that is stronger than just a product or service. It’s about telling that story and having an emotional connection to an audience far more diverse than just those in the ag industry. Agriculture affects us all and it’s not so centred just around us in this bubble of agriculture. It’s the entire population.
Carolyn: There are lots of misconceptions out there about the agriculture industry, so Todd what do you believe are some of the biggest misconceptions out there?
Todd: The farm and the image of the farm used to be perceived very differently than it is today. It was seen as the steward of the land, a very natural brand, and people saw it as very environmentally positive. Now, I think we are challenged with the general brand of agriculture being more conservative. Back when I was in the agency, we had some very strict orders about how we marketed products, who we targeted to, and how we segmented that messaging. However, today most of the messaging that comes from communications and marketing comes from social media. You cannot ignore the fact that anything you market in the agriculture world hits the normal consumer urban world. That nuance is becoming extremely important as urban audiences become much more engaged in agriculture.
Carolyn: Keith, as someone who has been pushing the boundaries of our general perceptions of agriculture what has your experience been with how investors and the tech industry view agriculture?
Keith: In Alberta, I find there’s this component where people see agriculture as infrastructure, land, crops, and buildings with animals inside but that’s not reflective of what agriculture is anymore. The agriculture industry is very popular with investors right now. Think of an industry that will grow by 75% in the next 30 years doing things that are good and wholesome, feeding people, and meeting challenges. There are lots of opportunities in this sector now.
Carolyn: What do you think about of the importance of branding and storytelling in the Agriculture industry?
Todd: I think it’s that much more important today than it ever was. Before, the Marketing team could completely control the brand, including the brand message. But in today’s world, your team is as much your brands, as your brand steward, as any one else really. An image or tagline isn’t enough anymore, you need to know who you are, what you are selling, and what you mean to your audience. The story aspect is incredibly important because it’s now told through hundreds or thousands as opposed to the past where two or three people could control that message.
Sabrina: I think the importance of branding and storytelling is two parts. The first part is of agri-marketing fails, when we try to just brand the commodity itself. When we think about the transformation of that commodity into a good and service, that’s where the branding and story telling really begins. The second part is that in order to tell your story and create the right brand, we need to know our audience. Especially in cannabis, but I think in any sector, we are constantly learning about our audience each day. At Indelible, rather than segmenting our audience by a demographic we segment our customers based on cultural proximity to cannabis. From early adopters, to kind of curious, to the completely opposed, and we take that into consideration when understanding their levels of awareness and familiarity a brand and a product.
Cannabis is a similar industry to many traditional ag products such as seed and herbicide that really requires us to think about consumer adoption, and the how and where consumers are making their decisions. At Indelible, we try and get them beyond just awareness of that brand or of that commodity, moving the goal post a couple times. We move them through to brand affinity and towards brand advocacy. This is where the story really comes into play: Who is most likely to advocate for that brand and how are they going to rationalize it to their friends? It needs to the be the entire story and how that aligns with the purchase decision.
Carolyn: What have you seen as the biggest change to branding and story telling in agriculture in the past decade?
Keith: The biggest change I have seen is the personal connection, the farm to fork component. People feel disconnected to some degree or romanticize a connection with their food, so for us the story telling aspect is about making sure we’re getting added in to those niche markets that we want, at a premium value, because we are willing to tell the story.
Todd: In the earlier parts of my career, it was heavily production focused. Farms were getting larger, more efficient, and all of the messaging was around increasing yields and growing bigger beef. Now, it’s completely changed with the introduction of the consumer becoming much more interested and much closer to agriculture.
Sabrina: There is a real shift moving away from the product features, such as biggest, fastest, most profitable, to shaping the brand for what it stands for and focusing more on social advocacy, community, and engagement. Although I can’t really speak to the last decade in cannabis, I can talk about what we are thinking about for the next decade, and what that looks like. It’s exciting to be part of such early stages and have that opportunity to help shape the industry. We learn from traditional agriculture, with the goal of guiding brands to gain as much clarity and definition around where they are going, what their values are, what they stand for, and always working towards that north star. If they can keep that vision clear, then they are on their way to being remarkable and eventually earn their right as a legacy brand in the agriculture space.
Carolyn: What’s the next big thing?
Keith: There is so much, but one example is flavour enhancers. Plant proteins have a bitterness challenge, so they are looking for clean label flavour enhancers, which have non-chemical components that will change the bitterness. So as opposed to putting more sugar in it, you can add mushrooms that are used as flavour masking agents to change the flavour profile and take away the bitterness. So you now have a mushroom farmer whose waste material is now worth $4,000/kg as a flavour enhancer. It’s all about changing the economics of your business and thinking differently. You have all these different pieces where you are looking at the byproduct streams and the high value they go for them. I’m excited about up-cycling, regenerative ag, and biopharma components where foods that are traditionally just eaten have other values and services we can pull from them.
And that’s it! Throughout this one-hour webinar we broke down the stereotypes of Agriculture, learning about the diverse opportunities and the key role that branding and story telling have to offer in this growing sector.
About the Author
Kyla Mackie is a recent graduate from Mount Royal University, where she obtained a Bachelor of Business Administration, with a major in Marketing and minor in International Business and Economics. During her time at University, she was the Co-President of Enactus, a non-profit organization that helps create positive sustainable change through economic, social, and environmental projects. Now, she is currently working at the Calgary Marketing Association as the Communications Coordinator.