A guide to agricultural branding foundations for ag start-ups

03 Apr, 2024

Are you ready to take the next step in developing  your agribusiness and shift your focus toward branding? Before you dive into designing your logo, it’s crucial to lay the groundwork with brand foundations.

If the term “brand foundations” is unfamiliar to you, don’t worry. Think of them as the essential building blocks that shape your brand’s identity, personality and positioning. These foundations serve as the bedrock of your brand strategy and, when developed effectively, they should steer all aspects of your branding, marketing and communication efforts.

Establishing a strong brand foundation is no longer a luxury, it’s a necessity. Agricultural branding goes beyond simply creating a logo – it’s about crafting a unique identity that resonates with your target audience and sets you apart from the competition.

Why does agricultural branding matter?

Traditionally, success in agriculture has often been measured by factors like yield, efficiency and cost-effectiveness. While these aspects remain crucial, a shift is happening. Consumers are increasingly interested in the story behind their food, the values of the companies producing it and the impact those companies have on the environment. This is where agricultural branding comes into play.

A strong brand allows you to: 

  • Connect with consumers – it will help you tell your story, communicate your values and connect with those who resonate with your mission. It allows you to create an emotional bond with consumers, fostering loyalty and trust in your products.
  • Stand out in a crowded market – by clearly defining your unique selling proposition (USP), you can attract your ideal customers and establish yourself as a leader in your niche.
  • Command a premium price – consumers are willing to pay more for products they trust and connect with.
  • Attract and retain talent – a strong brand attracts top talent, with Millennials and Gen Z being particularly drawn to companies with clear missions and values.
  • Build trust and credibility – in an age of increasing scrutiny on food safety and environmental practices, trust is paramount.

Exploring brand foundations

Drawing on our marketing agency’s experience working with ag companies across the agricultural supply chain and at different stages (from startups to mature brands), we’ll introduce you to what brand foundations are, why they’re important when it comes to agricultural branding , and provide some tips on how you start thinking through what these are for your business. We’ve included practical questions at the end of each foundation to help you contemplate and articulate your brand foundations effectively.

Before we dive in, it’s important to note that – much like your agribusiness – your brand foundations are not static. They evolve over time. As your brand matures or responds to changing circumstances, your brand foundations may also evolve. However, establishing a strong foundation provides you with a solid base to navigate these changes while preserving the core essence of your brand.

Start with your vision

If you can’t articulate your vision, you’re not alone. Many successful agribusiness owners initially struggled with their brand vision statement. Because it’s not an immediate goal and requires highly aspirational thinking, it can be challenging if you’re not used to thinking this way.

The brand’s long-term vision describes what it aspires to achieve in the future. It sets a clear direction for the brand’s growth and development, and it should be concise and impactful.

To help you identify and articulate your brand vision, consider these questions:

  • What’s your company’s purpose? What is its goal?
  • In an ideal world with no barriers, where do you see your company in 20 years?
  • What problems does your brand solve, and for whom?
  • Are there specific words that help you visualise this ideal future state? If so, note them down.

Here’s an example of a vision statement for an innovative agriculture food producer:

“We want to bring nutritious food to every family across Australia.”

Now for your mission

A vision statement and a mission statement are often confused, but they serve different purposes. Your brand’s mission defines its overarching purpose and reason for existence. It answers why the brand exists beyond making a profit and articulates the positive impact it aims to have on its customers, the industry, or society.

To help you identify and articulate your brand mission, consider these questions:

  • What do you do?
  • How do you do it?
  • Why do you do it?

Here’s an example of a mission statement for an innovative agriculture food producer:

“We want to use innovative tech to bring nutritious food to Australian families, in order to build a healthier, brighter future.”

What are the values

Every vision statement and brand will be influenced by a brand’s values – these are the core principles and beliefs of the brand’s behaviour and decision-making. They help define the brand’s character and the ethical standards it upholds.

Having worked with many companies on identifying and articulating their brand values, the importance of them being genuine and implemented from top down in your company cannot be overstated. Rather than choosing words because they sound like values a company in your field should have, it’s important they’re based in authenticity.

Brand values are also important for building consistency in how your brand is perceived across touchpoints, and they set your brand apart from competitors by showcasing its unique personality and principles – something that can, in turn, attract clients and customers who share the same values.

Brand values are also playing an ever-increasing role in agricultural businesses in a candidate market where the war on talent is real. Having a brand’s values defined and truly embedded in the company provides candidates looking to join a new workplace with a sense of what they stand for, and can buy into.

To help you identify and articulate your brand values, consider these questions:

  • Why did I start this business? 
  • What principles guide my decision making?
  • What type of workplace culture do I want to cultivate?
  • What impact do I want my business to have?
  • What sets my business apart from competitors?
  • What positive behaviours and attitudes do I want my brand to inspire?
  • How do brand values align to our day-to-day operations?

Let’s talk brand personality

Brand personality is the human characteristics or traits that a brand is attributed with. It’s the set of traits and characteristics that consumers associate with a particular brand, similar to how they perceive individuals. Just as people have personalities that define their behaviour, beliefs, and values, brands can also possess personalities that influence how they are perceived by consumers.

Brand personality can include traits such as sincerity, excitement, sophistication, strength, competence and friendliness, among others. These traits are communicated through various brand elements including messaging, visual identity, tone of voice and overall brand experience. Establishing a distinct brand personality helps to differentiate a brand from its competitors and creates emotional connections with consumers, ultimately influencing their purchasing decisions and brand loyalty.

At Sketch Corp, when working with our clients to identify and articulate their brand personality we use Carl Jung’s brand archetypes theory of archetypes, which follows that there are universal, recurring symbols and themes in human experience that are embedded in the collective unconscious. In marketing and branding, Jung’s archetypes are used to define and understand the personality of a brand, allowing marketers to create more resonant and compelling brand messages.

If you’d like to dig into this further, take a look at this article we wrote on the topic of brand archetypes.

As it relates to marketing your agribusiness, the importance of understanding your brand personality is important for:

  • Establishing consistency – brand archetypes provide a framework for maintaining consistency across all brand communications. When a brand consistently embodies the traits of its archetype, it becomes more recognisable and memorable to consumers
  • Connecting emotionally – archetypes tap into universal human emotions and desires. By aligning with a specific archetype, a brand can evoke emotional responses from consumers, fostering stronger connections and loyalty
  • Targeting the right audience – different archetypes resonate with different audience segments. By identifying its archetype, a brand can better understand its target audience and tailor its messaging and marketing efforts to appeal to them effectively
  • Creating differentiation – in a crowded marketplace, brands need to stand out. Identifying and embracing a unique archetype helps a brand differentiate itself from competitors by emphasising its distinct personality and values
  • Guiding brand strategy – brand archetypes can inform various aspects of brand strategy, including product development, advertising, and customer experience. They provide a guiding framework for making strategic decisions that are consistent with the brand’s identity.

Building brand equity – over time, consistent portrayal of a brand archetype builds brand equity. Consumers come to associate the brand with certain characteristics, values, and emotions, which strengthens the brand’s reputation and perceived value.

Articulating your USP

You’ll have heard it a hundred times – tell us your USP (unique selling proposition). It’s an essential brand foundation and critical for several reasons:

  • Competitive advantage – in a crowded marketplace, having a clear USP helps a brand differentiate itself from competitors. It highlights what makes the brand unique and why consumers should choose it over alternatives
  • Consumer attention – with the abundance of choices available to consumers, capturing their attention is crucial. A strong USP grabs consumers’ attention by highlighting the specific benefits or advantages of the brand’s products or services
  • Value proposition – identifying a USP allows brands to articulate their value proposition clearly. It communicates to consumers what sets the brand apart and what they can expect to gain from choosing that brand over others
  • Brand positioning – a well-defined USP helps establish the brand’s positioning in the market. It determines how the brand is perceived by consumers and shapes its identity in relation to competitors
  • Targeted marketing – understanding the USP enables brands to target their marketing efforts more effectively. By focusing on the unique benefits that resonate most with their target audience, brands can create more relevant and compelling messaging
  • Building brand equity – consistently delivering on the promise of the USP helps build brand equity over time. Consumers come to associate the brand with specific qualities or advantages, which strengthens their trust and loyalty
  • Long-term success – brands with a strong USP are better positioned for long-term success. By continuously innovating and refining their unique offering, they can maintain their relevance and sustain their competitive edge in the market.

Your brand promise

A brand promise is a commitment made by a company to its customers. It encapsulates what customers can expect from the brand in terms of products, services, and overall experience. Articulating a brand promise is important in brand strategy and marketing for several reasons:

  • Establishing trust – a clear and compelling brand promise helps build trust with consumers. When a brand consistently delivers on its promise, it creates a sense of reliability and dependability, fostering trust and loyalty among customers
  • Differentiation – in a competitive marketplace, a strong brand promise sets a brand apart from its competitors. It highlights the USP of the brand and helps differentiate it in the minds of consumers
  • Guiding decision-making – a brand promise serves as a guiding principle for decision-making across the organisation. It informs product development, customer service standards, marketing messaging and other aspects of the business, ensuring alignment with the brand’s core values and objectives
  • Setting expectations – articulating a brand promise helps set clear expectations for customers. It communicates what they can expect from the brand in terms of quality, service, and overall experience, reducing uncertainty and ambiguity
  • Driving consistency – consistency is key to building a strong brand. A well-defined brand promise helps ensure consistency across all touchpoints, from advertising and marketing communications to product delivery and customer interactions
  • Building brand equity – consistently delivering on the brand promise builds brand equity over time. Positive experiences with the brand reinforce its reputation and perceived value, leading to increased brand loyalty and advocacy
  • Connecting emotionally – a compelling brand promise resonates with consumers on an emotional level. It speaks to their needs, desires, and aspirations, forging deeper connections and fostering brand affinity.

Your target audience  

There’s no doubt that you know what a target audience is, but what you may or may not have considered is exactly how defined it is. Getting specific, and refining this as much as possible will only help your brand and marketing efforts as you grow. 

Ask yourself these questions to determine who your target audience is:

  • Who currently uses our brand’s products or services?
  • What problems or needs does my brand solve?
  • What demographics are most relevant to my business?
  • What is the psychographic profile of my ideal customer?
  • Where does my audience spend their time online?
  • What does my ideal client/customer find challenging, and what do they aspire to?
  • What are their primary sources of information?
  • What are their hobbies/interests outside of work?
  • What are their values and beliefs?
  • What are their purchasing habits?
  • Who influences their purchasing decisions?

You have your brand foundations – what next? 

Only once your brand foundations have been identified and articulated should you move into creating a visual identity for your brand. As you see from the above, there’s so much to consider before jumping into simply  “getting a logo.” By taking the time to establish strong agricultural branding, you’ll not only differentiate your agribusiness in a crowded marketplace but also build a solid framework for long-term success and growth.