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Brand storytelling – agri style

04:30pm December 07 2017

Spare Harvest's Helen Andrew says telling customers your 'why', not just your 'what', helps people engage more with your brand. (Supplied by Spare Harvest)

If there’s one certainty of running a business, it’s that success demands a little creativity. According to Richard Parker, executive planning director at content marketing agency Edge, this is especially true when it comes to creating your brand story.

“A brand story is a brief encapsulation of the emotional heart of a brand,” Parker says. “It provides us with a bright and vibrant central story that articulates the voice and focus the brand needs to establish its place in the market.”

Brand storytelling is becoming increasingly important for agribusinesses, as buyers crave knowledge about where their food comes from. We spoke to two entrepreneurs about harnessing the power of narrative to successfully grow brands.

Spare Harvest: “story before everything else”

When Helen Andrew was disposing of the fruit from her flourishing mandarin tree at her Sunshine Coast home, her mind turned to the huge problem of Australia’s food wastage. Feeling frustrated, she decided to take action. This background – which Andrew refers to as her “why” – became the first step behind her social enterprise, Spare Harvest, an online platform that allows producers to connect with people who want to buy their spare food and other garden resources.

The success of Spare Harvest has proved to Andrew the importance of flipping the traditional sales story of “what” and “how” on its head – asking yourself “why” your business is special is the first step towards encouraging customers to engage with your brand story.

“The way we make a decision to buy something is a very emotional process, and brands that tell stories fill that emotional gap,” Andrew says. “People want to find a deeper connection and they want to know the people behind the business. There’s so much choice in products and services now, so consumers are trying to find something to connect with.”

As a social enterprise, Spare Harvest not only measures success by financial sustainability, but also by the impact it makes in social, cultural or environmental spaces. The enterprise not only flourishes by filling a need, where someone who has too much can share with someone who has too little, but it helps connect local people to each other. It’s in sharing the story of these values that Spare Harvest is able to succeed.

“It’s important to bring some vulnerability. You have to tell the warts and all, and show you’re a real person to bring some real emotional connection to people,” Andrew says. “Rather than looking for what your genuine selling point is, think about what your story is. That becomes your unique selling point.”

Beechworth Honey: “communicate the greater good”

For fourth-generation beekeeper Jodie Goldsworthy, selling honey under the brand she co-founded, Beechworth Honey, is part of a bigger picture of education and bee conservation.

“All we have really tried to do is share our passion for bees and convey what we know about their importance,” she says.

“What we have learned is that the simple act of information sharing also positions our values and ethics. For example, only using 100 per cent Australian honey instead of cheap imported honey reinforces our views around the quality of Australian honey and demonstrates to our customers that we never compromise on quality or put them at risk.”

Creatively sharing their brand’s story is something Beechworth Honey does very well. Walk into the Beechworth Honey shop in the north-east Victorian country town – or its store in central Melbourne – and you’ll see active beehives on-site, with kids in particular loving searching for the Queen Bee (safely behind a viewing window). Customers in Beechworth can attend the Bee School, which is also home to the Hive Kitchen cooking school. Visitors can enjoy free daily activities including cooking demonstrations and Bee Talks or wander through the Bee Cause garden with its picnic and play space for the kids.

These additions to a business act to engage customers with the brand without the need to push product. In fact, it’s just the opposite, with customers choosing to support a brand they see doing good in the world. Beechworth Honey’s strong online presence spreads their story further.

As a case in point, by far one of the most effective ways Beechworth Honey is sharing its brand story is with Bee Cause, a social-impact initiative through which every jar of Beechworth Honey contributes to saving Australian honey bees, which are dying at an alarming rate.

Starting from the premise that “two in every three measures of produce we grow are produced with the help of bees”, Beechworth Honey then confirms its commitment to protecting Australian honey bees and asks its customers to help.

“Having the awareness that Beechworth Honey re-invests time, energy and profits into worthwhile bee-related causes, such as Bee Cause, has created an overwhelming and positive response from the market,” Goldsworthy says. “And our brand is having an impact beyond the supermarket.”

How to identify your brand’s unique story

Edge’s Parker shares his advice on how to find your agribusiness brand’s story.

• Be creative. You’ll never find your story without imagination.
• Start at the end. What do you want people to think, feel or do after hearing your brand story?  
• Look into the past. You may find inspiration for your story in your agribusiness’ history or journey.
• Know your customer. Who are they? What do they do for a living? What motivates them?
• What’s it worth? Make sure your story adds value and significance to people’s lives.
• Emotional vs rational. Consider whether your story should be inspiring or informative.
• Show some attitude. What are the beliefs that shape the culture of your business?
• Use metaphors and archetypes. These powerful narrative tools can help to formulate your story.
• Ask hard questions. What are your objectives? Who are your competitors and what is going to make your story different?

This article was first published in Produce Magazine by Westpac Agribusiness.

Megan Blandford is a freelance contributor to Westpac Wire.

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