What’s in a Name – How branding and social media are running the next generation of farms.

This blog was inspired by a recent conversation with a client. One of the aspects where I thought their business could make strides was in terms of branding and media presence. 


His answer was simple, “If I drive my truck to town with a farm logo on it, everybody will think I am showing off”. I honestly didn’t know what to say, because to be truthful, most of the farms I have been working with lately have a focus on branding and creating a legacy. 


This was out of left field, and the deeper problem is that I think he was right. 


Only in agriculture would we believe somebody was showing off by creating a business.


We constantly push the image that farmers are a tight-knit group. Always pulling for the other guys, and willing to step in and provide a hand whenever asked. But on the same account, we cannot wear our farm logo to town because of the talk. So then, how do we effectively brand or sell our business to the public? 


The simple answer is we can’t care about the opinions of others.


I can honestly say that branding has been one of the largest benefits of our business since its inception. Kristjan had already built a personal brand, and Hebert Grain Ventures was well-known on the industry front. Since then, the branding of myself as well as our other group of companies has spun a web beyond what I thought was possible. 


The fact that you are reading this blog right now speaks wonders about the brand. Five years ago, I was in an office punching a calculator. I am now building a brand beyond that of the company I used to serve. It is a different experience for sure.


How do you build a brand? First, you need to realize you are a business. As part of our Farmer Coach program, we do a two-hour Zoom call between sessions to discuss industry issues and independent farm issues for the participants. Human resources has more often than not been the topic of choice. Not just how to manage people, but how to actually find people! 


By branding your operation, you create a professional lasting business that somebody can picture a career with. Furthermore, a jacket or hat, or gloves with a farm logo goes a long way in convincing them they are part of something bigger.


The Website


Welcome to the new generation. If I cannot find you on Google, you do not exist. I have preached this from the start of my consulting career. In fact, one of our latest consulting clients said that the website and the brand were one of the largest positive changes he has made to his operation.


Most clients are asking me why they need a website. “What am I trying to sell?” The answer, you are selling yourself. 


As producers, we often only see our operation as a production and wholesale business, but the reality is you are actually selling throughout the entire day. You sell yourself to your current and potential landlords, you sell yourself to your current and potential employees, and you sell yourself to your current and potential investors. If you look at our own farm website, we sell the farm to each of these individuals and we highlight our partners and team members. This is the goal of a website, be seen.


With the current labour shortage that the industry is seeing, it is common sense that most operations would start looking overseas. So, how does somebody on the other side of the world determine if they want to work for your operation? The internet would be a good place to start.


The Logo


This will sound trivial, but one of the hardest decisions we made at Maverick was the logo. I have seen way too many farm logos created on a napkin and then mass-produced onto machinery and clothing. An unprofessional business logo is worse than not having one at all. Look at other industries, you will see the importance of logos and what they mean. 


Can you picture the logos of  Apple, Nike, Pepsi, and Netflix? The answer is yes, they are iconic, they are memorable, and you know exactly what that brand means and what you are buying. This is not any different from your own enterprise – be professional and create a logo that fits your brand.


There are a multitude of businesses that you can pay a fee for, and they have professional artists take your values, your words, and your ideas and put them into professional artwork. I highly recommend this. 


For us, this was only the starting point. Once we decided to take the next step with a public relations advisor, we then changed the logos across the enterprise so that each company had a logo that was intertwined with the rest. We now have separate logos for Hebert Group, Hebert Grain Ventures, Maverick Ag, Farmer Coach, Deep Roots Foundation, and every other idea that we come up with along the way.


Once you have the logo, use it. 


The second step that many producers fail to do, is to take that logo and put it on everything. I can remember the first time my wife and I went to Las Vegas. We walked into the M&M shop  –  a mistake as it cost me a lot of our savings  – from pajamas to teacups, underwear to plates, the M&M logo is on everything. Put your logo on your clothing (gloves, coveralls, jackets, hats), and make sure it is displayed on any company vehicles and equipment. Sell yourself, you never know who is looking.


The Social Network


Whether you like social media (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, etc), or hate it, you need to use it. If you think a help-wanted ad in the newspaper is going to cut it today, you are wrong. The best recruitment tool you may have for your farm is the social platform you post on and the community you engage with digitally. 


Ever wonder why some of the large farms post pictures of a dozen combines in a row? 


Okay, some of it may be ego (I need to state the obvious), but it also puts a significant number of resumes on the desks of these farms. Kids from across the globe are looking for this type of operation to be a part of.  Drone photos, family photos, and anything else you can think of will sell your operation. Social media is built for communication and connections. 


Lastly, and most importantly, be careful. I have learned over the years that social can be your friend as well as your enemy. On certain topics, you must pick your battles. I made a personal rule to not post on religion, politics, or pandemics. This was a personal choice because I found that those three areas will always get me in trouble. 


The goal of these blogs is to open communication and be transparent on thoughts on our industry. Branding is not going to be for everyone, and that’s okay. You just need to understand that others are branding, and you may be kept on the sidelines of the industry if you don’t. For those that claim humility, focus on being an entrepreneur, and being proud of your accomplishments no matter what others say. Don’t you remember the Tiger Woods putt where the Nike symbol rolls in slow motion into the cup? Now place your farm logo on that ball and just imagine the possibilities.