Farming needs to rebrand

Poran Malani

Farming needs to rebrand, said Poran Malani, a communications expert sharing his insights from working with some of the biggest corporates from across the world including Coca Cola and Amazon.

Bringing an outsider’s point of view to his work with farming over the last three years, he said the difference between perception and reality is bigger than anything he has seen in his whole career. 

Farming is still widely viewed as hard work, run by conservative god-fearing folk who toil against the forces of nature much in the way they have done since the Middle Ages. This is as far apart from the truth as the old manual dial phone is from the modern-day smartphone.

To be a successful food producer today you have to know economics, arbitrage, science, data, geology, chemistry, mechanics and law as well as farming. There are more sensors on a field that on a space craft. There are more data job vacancies in farming than any other industry.”

Big brands have changed their dialogue with the consumer. Poran said it needs more than basic marketing, and that the farming industry needs to integrate with and entertain people. 

As the environment changes, we are all going to have to come to grips with our food, where it comes from and how to make the most of it. It is time for people to reassess and get back in touch with the source. But to achieve this we are going to have to reframe the way people think about farming.

Society doesn’t want to be educated, they want to be engaged,” he said. “We need to create a Borough Market on a mass scale which makes farming sexy not worthy, to make the Top Gear of food production.

Most brands these days are purely digital which provides opportunity for farmers, without big budgets, to be part of the conversation and in mulitiple spheres. 

As farmers you need to engage outside periphery of food – tell the stories of the science, data, the contribution you make to fuels, to materials. What farmers do infiltrates every aspect of our lives. So, it becomes about everything else in the world and then bring food in.”

In the face of polarised conversations on meat eating, affordable food and climate change, farmers at the conference were keen to find out how they can get the real and positive stories out there.

In any communication, he advised, you need to focus on who you are talking to and where they are in relation to you, and to think about the four quadrants: loyalists, detractors, the neutral and the enemy and speak to them in different ways.

Engage people outside the circle. Do some research, find out what people thinking – start with enemies - you learn a lot. Change the questions and influence the conversation. Ask for example, OK, so a meat-free world – what does that look like? Without the base knowledge you can’t come up with hypotheses. Find out what each of quadrants think, not necessarily to change their mind – but it may come part of the conversation – this is the number one step.”

Traditionally brand equity can be lost as you go down the supply chain, the big noise made by the retailer leaving the producer largely out of the picture. Technology is an opportunity to harness this, said Poran. Provenance is one of the biggest growing consumer demands and already you can scan a product to find out more about the primary producer.

Leverage it or someone else will do it,” advised Poran, “Don’t follow but lead, align with the big technical companies, work with Silicon Valley. Collaboration – different to cooperation – is key to business.”

Watch the Frank Parkinson lecture with Poran Malani.