As the marketplace fills with competition, setting yourself apart is more important than ever.
We all know that brand differentiation is key in standing out from the crowd and building loyalty. But, as new technologies emerge, generics gain traction and competition intensifies, differentiating brands in the ag space is getting more complicated and more necessary these days.
There was a time when it seemed as if the same players were bringing new technology to market while the rest of the category worked to catch up. Not so today. Greater accessibility to technology at a lower cost means more companies can take advantage of developments as they happen. Both new and established companies continually introduce new technology to farmers. There’s been a leveling of the playing field when it comes to product features and benefits, making it more challenging for ag brands to stand out.
Hang on. Is that true?
Well, yes and no. Although greater accessibility to science and technology has increased the number of quality choices out there, differentiating an ag brand from others in the same space is no more difficult (or easy) than it ever was. There may be more noise out there because there are more choices, but that just means that it’s more important than ever to get brand differentiation right.
To do this successfully, an ag brand must do three things:
1. Identify what makes your brand different.
Compared to others in the category, what makes your brand unique? How does it meet a customer’s needs better or faster compared to the competition? Is it less expensive? Higher quality? Manufactured locally? If none of the above, could it be that you support your product with better customer service vs. the rest? Is it conveniently sold in more locations? Wherever differences exist, identify and list them.
2. Know what your customer wants.
This is a little trickier than it sounds. Here you acknowledge the customer’s most preferred product features and benefits. So, all those things you listed in #1? None of them matter unless they’re important to your customer. If your customer wants a product manufactured locally, fantastic. If your customer couldn’t care less? Time to walk away from that in your messaging and instead talk about what they do care about. For some brands, it can be hard to admit when a unique attribute isn’t important to the customer, because there is a lot of pride associated with being different. You will connect more deeply with your audience, though, if you can demonstrate that you understand what they want instead of simply talking about how you’re different.
3. Focus your message on what sets you apart – and consistently communicate it.
Now this part is easy – deceptively so. Once you’ve identified how you’re different in a way that is important to your customer, get the message out. And don’t walk away from it. It can take time to establish what your brand stands for, but by staying focused you will build a strong foundation on which you can continue to add as time passes.
Brand differentiation may be one of the most difficult jobs in ag marketing these days, particularly as new technologies enter the market at an ever-increasing pace. By finding where your brand differences intersect with farmers’ needs and consistently communicating it, you will find it much easier to find a relevant, long-lasting niche in market.
President/Chief Integration Officer. Jeff combines 20 years of client service experience with his deep knowledge and passion for agriculture, which stems from growing up on a corn and soybean farm in northern Illinois. He is a quick study of the brand, the customers and competitors, knows the right questions to ask, and with his oversight on planning and analytics, pushes the team to category-defining strategies and results-driven plans.