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Fodder for Thought

We Must Rethink Agriculture's Purpose And Message

It's time to teach consumers that agriculture is the foundation for society.

This week I had the chance to attend Alltech’s Annual International Symposium. As usual they had a great lineup of speakers and the event proved to be a unique opportunity to connect with others in agriculture from across the globe.

During one of the food sessions on Monday I heard Carol Cone of Edelman public relations firm talk about purposeful marketing and building brands through public relations. Edelman is the world’s largest public relations firm. I found many of the key points Cone mentioned from her company’s goodpurpose report relevant to our current situation in agriculture, particularly concerning consumer perception.

In today’s society businesses and brands are faced with a consumer who is highly connected and demands radical transparency.

Businesses also face diminishing competitive barriers.

Because of these factors it is imperative we embrace a new narrative that allows us to break through all of the white noise.

To do this, Cone stressed that businesses and brands must have a purpose. Through purposeful marketing she said businesses will be better able to inspire their customers to engage, activate, and advocate for their organization.

I like to think of agriculture as our brand. What is agriculture’s purpose? What is your farm or ranch’s specific purpose? While many would say that our purpose is to just “feed the world,” I’d say agriculture is much more than that.

Agriculture is a multi-faceted, dynamic community that enables our world to exist in its present state.

Agriculture and the many scientific advancements that have come along with it have given birth to civilization, as we know it, and allowed individuals to pursue their passions, which before our agrarian revolution would never been possible.

In essence, agriculture is the very reason that the many cultures throughout humanity exist. Digging even deeper you find that the word ‘culture’ first took its current usage from the word ‘cultivation’ when 18th and 19th century Europeans used it to indicate a process of agriculture improvement.

Today’s consumer is hungry, concerned, vocal and empowered. While this may sound intimidating it provides an opportunity for brands to become a beacon of trust for consumers by doing business true to their purpose. Societal performance builds trust and trust builds brand advocates.

In Edelman’s goodpurpose research report it says 86% of consumers believe that brand should place as much emphasis on society’s interest as on business interests. This report also shows that although price and quality still rank as the top purchase triggers, social purpose is third on the list.

I believe it is important that science always be at the foundation of agriculture management practices. However, this research and society are telling us science alone is not enough.

Agriculture must take back the moral high ground, which seems to be eroding away in our current state. We must look back to our roots and recognize that our intended purpose is not only about “feeding the world.” Agriculture is much more than that. Let’s put the ‘culture’ back in agriculture.


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