By James Cochran, Farmers Market Support Program Manager
Photo by Kaboompics.com from Pexels
Branding is an oft-confused term. Many immediately think branding consists of making a new logo and once the logo is made, the job is done. Logos are only a small part of the equation, and they’re not nearly as important as you may think. Branding, in our specific world of farmers markets, also means understanding our values and standards while ensuring that we are communicating those effectively to the world. When promoting our market, it takes figuring out the who, what, when, how, and, why. These elements must be projected out to our audiences. When farmers’ markets have their brand figured out, it helps sets the standard for vendors. Additionally, when a market is well branded, new customers will find it easily, return customers will appreciate the consistency, and partners will understand your “why”.
Now, branding is not rocket science, but it is definitely nuanced. There’s a lot of meta-speak in this kind of work. However if you do a few exercises we lay out for you, and stick to the outcomes as your best practices and references, you’ll find that your messaging will improve, and your customers and partners will develop a deeper understanding of your market. First let’s talk about what branding is and isn’t:
Your brand is more than just a logo, font type, color, and your company name. Brands are also not one size fits all. They highlight and include:
- Your unique story, history and perspective
- The why you do what you do
- The message you want to share
- The value you want to add and the feelings you want to emit
- The energy around what you are about
These elements partnered with consistent copy and visuals, will build a successful brand platform.
Let’s get started!
Know Your History
In order to know where you’re going, you’ll need to look at where you’ve been. Begin your branding strategy by examining the past. In the case of the farmers markets we work with history can mean many things: a 30 plus year market history, or the history of the community, or the history of market ties to a specific industry. We have a number of markets that either brand new efforts or revive a dormant market. So, when examining our place in the history of our communities, we cannot simply examine the history of a 3 year-old market. We need to look back to what makes a particular community special, and why we want to be a part of its history.
Exercise 1: Take a deep reflective dive with other community members and explore the following questions.
- What is the history of your community in the realm of local foods and agriculture? Is your community known for producing something specific?
- What is the history of your farmers market? Location? Success? Variety of vendors?
- What is unique about your community or farmers market history? Do you have a special event that community members take pride in?
These questions may feel mundane, or even unimportant to some of you. However, they’re an important cornerstone of your brand, and will help you shape your message to a maximal effect within your community. Knowing your history will help you plan for the future and overall create a more sustainable market.
Tell Your Story
What is the market’s place in your community?
Now that we’ve discussed the past, it’s time to focus on the present. In this section of the branding exercise, we want to explore how your market stands out in your community. By doing so, you will be differentiating your work, by setting the stage to show your values, your importance and worth to your community
Exercise 2: Thinking about the WHY
- What does your market do that is unique to your community?
- How do you do business differently?
- What frustrates you about the market/competition you’re in?
- How does your organization try to do it differently?
- Why did the market start?
- Why is it still in operation?
- Who do you serve?
- Why do your regular customers come back?
Establishing a greater understanding of the present workings of your market will prepare you to tell your markets story in an appealing way. You will also gain knowledge of your current audience and recognize what keeps your market moving.
Share Your Message
It’s time to work out your market’s values!
A great part of branding, that often is forgotten is common language. While you do not want folks to be robots, it’s good to lay a foundation and come up with an elevator pitch that is the example. Typically, and elevator pitch shares, briefly, the reason others should care about your farmers market.
If you have been following the exercises above, you have been through your market’s history and know the pieces of the story. Additionally, many of you have already discussed what “kind of farmers market” you want to be. Now, it is time to frame that in a way that can be explained effectively in a few sentences.
Exercise 3: Discovering your market values, and creating an elevator pitch. Take a few moments to revisit the answers to Exercises 1 and 2. Then respond to the following questions:
- What is most important to your market? Is it quality? Is it community? Is it events?
- What makes your market unique?
- What is better about your market than elsewhere in your community?
- What do you want to change in your community through the farmers market?
- Why do you do what you believe in the farmers market?
- Why does it matter?
The question list could go on and on when trying to sculpt an elevator pitch, but remember to always think about who you are talking to when you are delivering it. Bringing your audience to the forefront will allow you to tailor each message and will increase overall impact.
Lastly, Presentation Matters
This is where things get creative. For some of us, we know that creativity isn’t our strong suit. After all, many of us have found our greatest satisfaction in tangible tasks where progress can be monitored through the entire process. Branding, typically, seems to be all objective. Nevertheless, in direct marketing settings like farmers markets, it is impossible to ignore the importance of the “first impression”.
How many of you have seen customer walk within 30 feet of your booth, size up your offerings, move right along and never explore what’s for sale?
Most of you have been guilty of doing that a time or two. And we’ve all seen booths (especially messy ones) suffer from that first impression. We’re using this point to illustrate this: How we present ourselves matters. The energy, vibe, feel we emit really makes a difference in how we are received in the mind of a customer, both consciously and subconsciously.
Exercise 4 will focus on how we want customers to feel when they think about our markets.
- How do you want people to feel about your market? Other than “happy”, Describe three feelings you’d like to evoke.
- What kind of aesthetic can be applied to these feelings? Are there design examples or markets you have visited that have the vibe you are looking for?
- Design some visuals with the feelings/aesthetics that convey your market’s atmosphere or the atmosphere you are seeking to show. Canva is a great FREE online tool that has some basic templates you can manipulate for this.
- Test It: choose your favorite pairings and use them on social media or display them at the market to see what kind of public response you get.
- Put it all to use. Once you’ve got a handle on the image you want to put out as a market, keep the visuals consistent and update them regularly.
Now, you have explored your history, told your story, shared your message, and thought about your first impression. Armed with these four key elements, you can now your exercise responses for reference when creating new promotions, events, materials, signage, and even a logo, color scheme, and more! Always remember, your brand speaks for you before you ever say a word. Building and cultivating that silent spokesperson will keep your market moving.