April 28, 2020

Lessons from COVID-19 for agrimarketers

Appeared in Agri-Marketing April 2020 edition.

By Julia King

We find ourselves in challenging and uncertain times as the world navigates the COVID-19 pandemic. Even in a business such as agriculture that remains essential and operational, the new challenges are sure to be far-reaching and long-term. As a marketing communications agency with 100% focus in agriculture, AdFarm has been working with our clients and partners to implement crisis planscraft thoughtful messaging, and find creative ways to best serve agriculture during these unprecedented times.  

While the daily work of farmers and ranchers continues, new challenges face the industry, from supply chain disruptions to changing consumer demand. Producers are faced with the usual busy spring season but now with unusual limitations on ag retail, input suppliers and markets for their product. For our clients and their customers in agriculture, there is currently no “business as usual. 

We know from our partners in agriculture media that time spent on agriculture news sites is up significantly, as well as social media engagement and email open rates. With producers interacting more with various forms of media, our external messaging is more important than ever. Right now, it’s about contributing important information quickly and clearly – not adding to the clutter. 

The early stages of this pandemic led us to prioritize communication of businesscritical information, like sales forces going remote or retail location closures. Customers needed to know what was changing immediately, how it was going to affect them, and how they should adjust their own plans and expectations.  

As we enter the second month of pandemic-related shutdowns, we’re working with clients for long-term, customer-focused solutions. Brands who step up to support their customers and communities, through flexibility, charity and creativity, will weather the storm better than others.  

It has also been crucial to “tone check” every piece of communication – from digital ads to press releases to emails, we have been asking ourselves the same questions. Does this reflect the current reality the audience is facing? Does it communicate only information that will help our customers do business now or in the immediate future? Does this overdeliver on our commitment to put our customers and industry first? Is it true to our brand? 

Without an emphatic “yes” to each of these questions, it shouldn’t go out the door. 

To make a prediction for the future of agencies serving agriculture clients in a post-COVID-19 world, campaigns and communications that support their customers (more than they push product sales) will become more valuable than ever. Budgets for many companies will shrink in the short term, so creative approaches that maximize impact will prevail. Customer insights will also increase in importance as we track the new normal of media consumption and decision-making.  

Finally, we find ourselves taking lessons from our farmer customers each day as we navigate COVID-19. After all, there’s no better example of remaining resilient and positive season after season than the farmer.  

Julia King is Director of Client Services for AdFarm US.