Who are we? What makes us different? What do we want to be known for? What are we known for? These are just a few of the questions that came up when a client of ours needed to present a proposal for a large tract of land. Half of that decision would be based on who the farm is—or, said another way—its brand.
While branding started in agriculture as a way to mark cattle ownership, today the modern concept of "branding" isn’t high on farmers’ priority lists. However, since farming became big business that requires good landlord relationships, positive community image, and effective employee recruiting, the role of branding continues to grow.
While it may be tempting to just rush out and have a logo designed, the real branding of a farm goes deeper. A brand surrounds the story people tell themselves and others about your farm. Are the farm owners honest? Hard working? Do they take care of their equipment? Or are they sloppy? Disorganized? Are the employees disrespectful?
Brands can stick in people’s minds in unique ways. When I was growing up, I met a farmer from several miles away. I told him who I was and he immediately said, “Oh yeah, your farm has that nice white painted fence.” For him, the fence meant our brand stood for taking good care of things.
In helping our client uncover their brand and develop their land proposal, they began to really understand their values and what they do differently than other farms. Next came the visual aspect of their brand—the logo, colors, etc.. The greatest benefit for them throughout the process was developing the "story" of their farm.
Building a proposal for this tract of land had unexpected benefits. The farm’s employees now have a more unified understanding of who the farm is and what makes it different. The owners had the opportunity to stop and reflect on what matters most to them. They examined the link between their actions—and what they were saying was important.
So, what to do?
- Ask yourself and key people involved on the farm: What would we hear if we asked suppliers, landlords, employees, neighbors and people who have just "heard of us" to describe our farm in one sentence? (Now you know what you believe your brand is.)
- Now ask some of those people to describe your farm in one sentence.
- There may be gaps or blind spots between what you believe and others believe. Look for patterns among the comments.
- Consider your approach as the farm leader in how decisions are made, actions are carried out and values are upheld. A congruent, positive brand requires that you be intentional and proactive in your leadership.
When you’re clear on who you are as a farm, how work gets done and where you are going, take it to the next level by working with a firm to help you with your professional presentation. Then, your logo, letterhead and web presence will consistently communicate your farm’s brand to all who interact with it.