In recent research carried out by British Growers Association across 139 UK growers, branding was ranked on a par with buying British when it came to listing things that help to maintain competitiveness.
Branding is a relative newcomer to the world of agriculture and growing, although there are companies that have been exceptionally successful in using a strong brand identity to inform and secure recognition for their organisation and their products.
So in a market where customer packaging requirements all but eliminate the scope for branding at the point of sale, does branding matter at the producer end of the supply chain?
Strolling along the branding highway you need to tread wearily to avoid the decaying carcases of some major branding disasters. I recall enjoying a very good dinner before being regaled by a forceful argument for ditching the Royal Mail brand in favour of Consignia. Royal Mail had been in existence since 1516 but, for reasons best known to the management at the time, the company was renamed Consignia. The new name was intended to show that the company did more than deliver mail. The change proved very unpopular with both the public and employees. Even the Communication Workers Union boycotted the name, and within a year it was renamed Royal Mail Group.
What is a brand and what can it do for a business or is it just another distraction to be avoided?
A brand is what your customers, prospective customers, competitors and stakeholders have experienced or know or have heard you to be. Put another way, it is an important component in your reputation and influences people in the way they think and react to you.
The advice often given to companies is that they need to make every aspect of a company live and breathe the brand. Interestingly, at grower level, where it is common for strong family values to run through the business, that sense of making every aspect of the company live and breathe the implicit values comes through very strongly.
Whereas some companies invest heavily creating a brand and then face the challenge of instilling the supporting values throughout the company, plenty of growers already have that tricky component – the embedded values running through the business. But they don’t necessarily take them on and develop a strong, well-recognised brand for their organisation.
One of the other outcomes of the British Growers’ research was the ongoing power of the retail customer. We are seeing signs that retailers are becoming more selective about the companies they want in their supply chain, so creating the right brand image for your operation and your products may play an important part in retaining your customers.
Perhaps now is the time to review the way your customers experience or know or have heard you to be, build on all those positives which probably already exist within the business and create the brand that you want to reflect your business beyond the farm gate.