In October 2017, members of South Dakota-based Wheat Growers and North Central Farmers Elevator voted to unify the two farmer-owned retail cooperatives. The newly merged organization – comprised of 7,500 member-owners and nearly 900 employees across 62 locations in the Dakotas – needed a new corporate brand that would represent its bold, new future. The project operated under an aggressive timeline, kicking off after the affirmative vote at the end of October, with the need to be in-market with the new brand presence on February 1.
In rebranding the newly merged cooperative it was critical to be cognizant of the near-100-year history that each operation brought to the table, as well as the cultural similarities and – more importantly – the differences that existed between each. Individually, both companies were strong, vibrant and extremely well-respected. It was critical that the brand development process was not only strategic, but honored the legacy of the two great brands that preceded it.
The starting point was to work with our strategic partner, Street Smart, to conduct qualitative market research to help divine and identify the strategic underpinnings to:
- Develop a cohesive brand that would bring the two merging co-ops into one.
- Leverage the current positive brand equity of both organizations and optimize the perceived opportunities associated with the merger.
- Create a brand that would be unique to the merged cooperative and provide a platform for future growth.
Beginning early November we conducted 14 focus groups that included staff, board members and farmer-owners. All key stakeholder groups needed to be represented to ensure the process was inclusive and would result in a new brand that would inspire and – equally importantly – stand the test of time. By early December, we narrowed a list of 523 name options down to 12 for presentation to the board of directors. From there, we worked with the clients to test six final options with seven focus groups, resulting in the selection of two extremely strong brand options that were presented back to the board for their selection of the ultimate winner: Agtegra.
We delivered on the promise of a new brand identity by the aforementioned February 1 deadline with a brand name and tagline, brand guidelines, mission and position statements, creative brand development, a website landing page, and a host of public relations activities and collateral materials. This was a daunting mission that never would have been accomplished if we A) had not followed our clearly defined strategic process, and B) had not embedded select staff members in South Dakota and provided them with dedicated support from the team in our Kansas City office and Super Studio in Fargo, North Dakota.