Emotional White Space When Marketing to Farmers

Too many brands are swimming in the sea of emotional sameness.

If you flip through a handful of farm magazines, you’ll notice much of the advertising skews toward feature-benefit messaging. Fact-filled headlines and bullet points. Some advertising does ladder up to emotional-benefit messaging. Those that do, seem to limit the appeal to a farmer’s pride, peace of mind or confidence.

How can a farmer differentiate, much less prefer, a brand from others when it’s not effectively differentiated from its competitors, i.e. when its emotional promise is the same as nearly everyone else’s? Ag brands can gain competitive advantage – even in crowded categories like herbicides or cattle vaccines – when they explore emotional white space.

How many emotions can ag marketers really leverage?

If you Google the “total number of human emotions,” you’ll get 101,000 results with a wide range of theories and charts showing the number of emotions. We see little agreement among the psychology community as to the total number of emotions. But in marketing, we care less about how many emotions a human can experience and express. We care about competitive advantage and strong, enduring brand relationships built on emotional connections.

Product features and benefits aren’t as motivating as some think. When marketing to farmers, emotional connections are vital because we know farmers are like everyone else. Their decisions are 90 percent emotional and 10 percent rational. Yet most ag marketing with emotional triggers seems to float the sea of emotional sameness. There is a lot of emotional white space for ag brands to explore.

What does emotional white space look like with farmers?

Ideally we want to stimulate positive emotions, but offering solutions to avoid negative emotions can be effective too. An herbicide brand and a farmer can bond over their mutual contempt for weeds. Any brand in the business of genetics – whether crop or livestock – may gain a huge competitive advantage by tapping into anticipation or optimism rather than merely presenting productivity and profit data. Choosing a particular crop insurance may help a farmer avoid the disapproval of his or her ag lender.

Ag marketers can tap into 30 or 40 emotions depending upon your preferred theory – or even hundreds if you ascribe credibility to emojis. Look to psychologist Robert Plutchik and his wheel of emotions that identifies eight basic emotions – joy, sadness, trust, disgust, fear, anger, surprise, and anticipation – and 24 sub-emotions.  We can learn how to emotionally connect with farmers and drive consideration, purchase, loyalty and perhaps even advocacy by target farmers.

The value of emotion in marketing to farmers is irrefutable. Ag brands have the opportunity to find their unique, emotional white space. And then decide if they want to be in the sea of sameness of pride, confidence or peace of mind, or if they are brave enough to find their own emotional white space.