by Bruce Sachs
The number of Farmers Markets has nearly doubled in the last ten years to a total of 7,175 markets nationwide. Farmers at these markets don’t think about branding in the same sense as traditional corporations do. The brand isn’t about the logo. It’s about the presentation and the experience – from clean stalls, to fresh produce, to friendly merchants. The most successful vendors create an experience that the consumer enjoys. This approach offers lessons that we can apply to improve the branding of other businesses.
Engage and inspire the consumer with your story.
Farmers have the opportunity to describe when and where their produce is harvested. They interact with the consumer one-on-one, making it easy to connect to their story. For larger businesses and corporations, the connection is harder to make. Chipotle has done this well, and has proven that a chain restaurant can serve naturally raised meat and organic vegetables. They share their story in their restaurants, on their website and on the side of their beverage cups. Chipotle’s growth mirrors the growth of Farmers Markets. Both have flourished because consumers are increasingly interested in eating locally and sustainably produced foods.
Provide a taste of your product.
Everyone likes a free sample. In the summer at stalls throughout the historic Soulard Farmers Market in St. Louis, you’ll find numerous vendors offering a taste of their juicy watermelon or a few kernels of their fresh picked corn. If the product is good, then it’s likely to sell. Trying before buying takes away the consumers’ fear. This practice works well at Apple stores where visitors can test the latest products without any pressure to buy.
Grow your business by getting the consumer to try new things.
While you’re giving them a taste, encourage them to try something new. I’ve purchased odd varieties of squash because the farmer described the flavor and texture in detail and gave me tips on how to cook it. Recently, this worked well for POM Wonderful’s Pomegranates Made Easy campaign that attracted consumers who had never opened a pomegranate. POM provided take-away flyers at the grocery story with easy to follow directions that took the mystery out of how to open the pomegranate and extract the tasty arils.
Quality is as important as price.
The growing number of markets proves that consumers are willing to make an extra effort and pay a little more to support good products. The main reason they are willing to pay extra is quality. There is greater value in an amazing $2 tomato than there is in a mediocre $1 tomato. This is why brand name products are able to retain their spot in the marketplace, even when they are surrounded by low-cost imitations. Honey Nut Cheerios is the most popular cereal in United States. There are cheaper options on the market but very few cereals can match the taste and texture of the Cheerios brand. Successful brands provide credibilty and a product consumers trust.
When I visit my local Farmers Market I have my favorite vendors. There’s the one with sweetest strawberries, the one with the freshest eggs, and the one with the best herbs and salad greens. Each vendor has built their brand one visit at a time. The best ones have achieved what every strong business aspires to — authenticity and loyal customers.