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Farmers: Put your name on your product

What’s Your Story? If consumers want to know where their food comes from, it stands to reason that your products may well be worth more with your name on them — maybe up to 500% more.

Owen Roberts

January 4, 2024

3 Min Read
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No farmer wants to leave money on the table. But if you’re not somehow putting your signature on commodities leaving your farm, you may be missing an opportunity.

Beyond their roles as legal commitments, signatures are effective marketing tools. They’re no gimmick — they communicate identity and value. And research shows they sell products.

A new study from Canada, involving the wine sector there, suggests how signature marketing could apply to a variety of other commodities. The research, from Brock University’s Cool Climate Oenology and Viticulture Institute, monitored wine sales of the same bottle with and without the winemaker’s signature.

The researchers found bottles bearing a signature were perceived to be better, even before consumers had a chance to sample what was inside. In fact, the researchers say that in some cases, the signature can boost sales as much as a whopping 500%.

When it comes to wine, they ought to know. Brock University is in the heart of Canada’s Niagara Region, the country’s top wine-producing area with 13,600 acres and more than 50 wineries.

And while that’s big for Canada, it’s petite compared to the rest of the world. So Canada’s wine sector turns to Brock researchers to address challenges and find opportunities … like how to succeed as David in a world of Goliaths.

One Canadian success story has been Wayne Gretzky Estates Winery and Distillery, in nearby Niagara-On-The-Lake. On every label — and plastered all over Gretzky’s 23,000-square-foot tasting, brewing and distilling facility — you see repeated signatures of No. 99, the player hockey fans everywhere call The Great One.

Beyond Gretzky

But the research underlines that you don’t need to have Gretzky-like name recognition for your signature to succeed. It says your first effort should be to understand your audience: their preferences, their needs, what keeps them up at night. Then, figure out a signature or personality that will resonate with them.

“Ultimately, our research indicates the effect of adding personal signatures depends more on the identity of the target consumers rather than the identity of the signer,” said researcher Antonia Mantonakis.

And for Illinois producers, that’s an open door.

Illinois consumers love family-produced homegrown products. They are yearning to know the signature behind who’s producing their food. Yet to them, it’s a mystery. They grossly underestimate, by almost half, the amount of food grown or raised in the state by family farms.

That’s where the We Are The 96 homegrown food campaign comes in. Organizers found that when consumers understand 96% of Illinois farms are owned and operated by families, they’re more likely to have trust in farmers and farming practices. Enhanced trust means enhanced sales, and even more so if your commodities can bear a signature.

Being an Illinois family farmer is a signature in itself. It’s legible, it’s proud and it’s indelible. The challenge now is to look inside your operation and identify additional ways your personal signature can add further value. Where’s your Wayne Gretzky?

With increased sales potential of 500%, it’s worth thinking about where the puck will be, not where it is.

Roberts teaches agricultural communications and journalism at the University of Illinois. Email questions to him at [email protected].

About the Author(s)

Owen Roberts

Owen Roberts teaches agricultural communications and journalism at the University of Illinois.

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