My grandfather’s name was Ingram B. Howard and he was a dairy farmer.
Now, when I tell most people that, they automatically get a mental image. Usually a photogenic cow and a stool for milking into a shiny bucket. That’s a nice visual. But as anyone a farm will tell you, that’s not reality. That’s (actual) bullshit. And let’s be honest – whether you’re selling to farmers or pharmacists – nobody pays attention to ads that are inauthentic. And no matter who you’re selling to, it’s critical to really understand your audience.
I’ve worked in advertising long enough to know the power of a compelling stereotype. Everyone would like to believe their food comes from a kindly old man in a straw hat who carries around actual bushels. Maybe he even has an adorably rickety old tractor. That’s a great image for selling food. But it’s not reality for farmers.
Truth is, our family farm had hundreds of heads of cattle. They didn’t have names, they had numbers. We milked them in a parlor that held 20 cows at a time. And it was grueling work.That’s the only detail the stereotypes usually get correct.
So before you do anything, you have to get beyond your preconceptions. Luckily for me, I learned to drive a tractor before I got near an automobile. So I felt ready to learn more. So I went and talked to more farmers. And here’s three things most ad guys don’t know about them.
Every farmer is a practical scientist.
It takes more than determination and grit to farm for profit. Every farmer I’ve met knows a ridiculous amount about plant and animal health and nutrition, soil and crop chemistry and seed genetics. They have to. Today’s agriculture is complicated science. And no one understands how it all works more than a farmer who puts his entire business on the line every time he makes a decision on how to manage his fields.
Every farmer is more tech-friendly than you think.
Okay. You might not see them embrace Snapchat for awhile. But that rickety tractor I mentioned earlier has been replaced by a fleet of self-driving precision agriculture machinery. Designed specifically to maximize farmable acreage, farm equipment is now GPS guided, allowing growers to text and surf the web on their phones, while they monitor their progress.
Every farmer is essentially a CEO.
There’s no boardroom. Only wear a coat and tie on Sunday. But the margins of this business are unbelievably tough. And the only way to turn a profit in today’s agriculture is to run your farm like a business. Sure, most of the time, it’s a family business. Like my grandfather, most farmers grow up on a farm. They raise their sons and daughters and grandchildren there. For that very reason, they are always trying to minimize risk and increase output. Every advantage is worth considering. Because no matter what you do, mother nature and the market are almost impossible to predict.
Advertising has been my passion for my entire career. But agriculture is in my blood. Every time I’ve worked on a job marketed to farmers, I always imagine what my grandfather would say about it. If he didn’t laugh at it or throw it in the trash, then I’ve got something. If not, then it’s time to learn from your audience and figure out what’s real. And this holds true whether you’re selling tractors or tracksuits.