Time to be a market force

Sat in the radio studio in London; about to open the microphone.

Imagine my delight when another well-produced, simple and effective advert for Danish bacon comes sizzling into my ears for the ninth ad break in a row.

It would probably be too much to think that British farmers could get together to raise the profile of what they produce.

It is frustrating when I see how anything we try to do for UK farming just seems to scratch the surface.

We have occasional successes, but, as in the recent case of meat Hollywood dieticians, others seem to have more impact on sales than our own promotions have ever done.

It would be good to think that the levy body review might stimulate some debate on the subject of shifting product.

And go way beyond just looking at the various boards and what they do.

We are constantly told about the future joys of subsidy-free trade and how we need to connect with consumers and produce what they want.

Nowhere it seems is there a plan as to how we tell the shopping-trolley-pushing public what we are producing, when we have finally worked out what they want.

I sometimes wonder who is responsible for doing the selling.

There are so many bits going on all over the place – Little Red Tractors, British Food Fortnight and animated cricketers cooking meat, quality marks, marks of quality about the quality mark, marks of quality that show that the quality mark was audited correctly and is indeed a quality mark!

All of these are worthy efforts with their own degrees of success, but they all just seem to be skimming the surface of the pond that is consumer desire.

To confuse the message even more we then have retailers, processors and restaurant outlets also sending out their messages about their food.

It all leaves the consumer with little idea about whom is producing what and why they should want to buy it.

In some areas we make matters worse by using negative imagery such as: “If you don’t buy this we will all go broke and the countryside will turn into a wilderness.”

Any marketer will tell you positive sells, negative doesn’t.

The 54m that the levy boards have in the pot is spent in lots of different ways.

We need research and development.

We need ambassadors to visit other markets and sell container loads of our produce.

But who should encourage the public to buy what we produce and when are they going to do it?

Should we continue to invest in campaigns that seem to run out of financial steam just as they jump on to the screens or pages of our advertising media?

Should we leave it to the processors and retailers to promote our produce however they see fit?

Or do we need to think big in terms of creating our own effective brands?

It is surely possible to do, but would require us to invest far more at a time when, for many, the cash is not there.

When you look at the variety of advertisers in this magazine from phones to tractors to Thai wives, it seems ironic that everyone is trying to sell to us, but we don’t try hard to sell anything back.

People have got to want to buy our products over those from elsewhere.

We can’t rely on exchange rates, market shortages or natural disasters to give our prices an occasional boost.

The whole industry needs to look hard at ways that we can collectively market what we produce in an effective, co-ordinated and positive way.

We do need to step up our game in a big way if we are to create the sort of brand loyalty that is required if British farming is to survive in ever more liberalised global market.

Imagine a world where you hear or see nine commercial breaks in a row selling our produce, our brand, and underpinning our future.