Cheryl O'Brien

Team Leader, Account Management

Reach consumers with transparency

Now more than ever, consumers want to know where their food comes from.  They want to know the source and contents of the fuel they’re putting into their bodies. And it’s not just our rapid access to information driving their curiosity; it’s also due to a disconnect between farms and the families they feed.  This disconnect presents a challenge — and a huge opportunity — for agrimarketing and food marketing.

Consider this: Farm families make up less than 2 percent of the U.S. population. Most consumers are at least three generations removed from agriculture and food production livelihoods. Thinking of the dairy industry specifically, technology, partnerships, building efficiencies and innovations in cow comfort have helped farms grow, while the number of people needed to run farms has gotten smaller.

It all means there’s a larger degree of separation between a consumer and the farmer. And in that wide space, the potential for misinformation about agriculture and food production practices is even greater. The good news is that consumers are eager to learn more, which could bridge the divide.

This is a fact for many agriculture, food and even B2B companies in general: Your end consumer has little, if any, direct contact with you. And because of this disconnect, it can be hard for consumers to imagine what your business is like and how you’re producing your products — which are things they want to know.

How can you help fill in this gap with knowledge and, eventually, confidence? Transparency.

Transparency allows you to educate consumers and to combat negative perceptions. It allows businesses to proactively share stories that make connections.

Here are two quick tips for effective transparency:

  1. Be prepared. Ask yourself, “What might people say when they see or hear this?” An increasing pain point is social media, with brands now having to consider whether even a hashtag is vulnerable to hijacking from an adversarial group. While your intention may be positive, you need to bulletproof its impact through audience research and message testing. In your organization, know exactly how you’ll respond to such comments and who will do the talking. Consumers will sense if you’re scrambling to come up with answers you weren’t prepared for, and that will further cloud your transparency efforts.
  2. Be proactive. Honesty is the best policy, and when it comes to consumer transparency, it is vital. By being upfront and beating naysayers to the punch, you’ll increase the likelihood consumers will respond positively and with confidence in your company.

Here’s a prime example. In the U.S., dairy is a $102 billion industry. One way this industry promotes transparency is by, quite literally, opening its doors to visitors. For example, in Wisconsin — America’s Dairyland — Breakfast on the Farm is a time-honored Midwestern summer tradition where families head to the farm for tours, festivities and, best of all, delicious food. By eliminating the disconnect with consumers, farm visitors can walk away from these events knowing farms are clean, responsible, safe and caring places they can feel good about. They get a clear and true picture of where our food comes from and in the process, build a connection to the food and agriculture industry and its products.

As a marketer, think beyond the promotion, the logo, the sales tactics and even the products themselves. Instead, think back to how you developed your brand in the first place. What is the story behind who you are and how you got where you are? Your brand and your industry are relying on you as a marketer to tell that story and be transparent.

Find your truths and share them. Bridge the gap and build connections. For your brand and your industry, now and in the future.

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