Iowa producer Dave Nelson uses a SodaStream ad to illustrate the importance of innovation in building a farm's brand.
Farming is nothing new to Iowa farmer Dave Nelson, who dreamed of dropping out of school in the 10th grade to help out on his parents’ operation. But by graduating and first working at companies such as Caterpillar and Monsanto, he says, he gained insights into good business practices for building brands and improving communication before returning.
"We all have a brand," explains Nelson, speaking during the 2014 Top Producer Seminar in Chicago. "Your brand is more or less your reputation."
Today, Nelson is the fifth generation of farmers in his family, which operates as Nelson Family Farms in Fort Dodge, Iowa. It is a corn and soybean operation, complemented by Brokaw Supply Company, a fertilizer equipment business serving Iowa and Minnesota.
He explains that farm branding is important because it shapes the attitude of landlords and others toward an operation. One simple example: When you visit landlords, a clean truck makes a much better impression than a dirty one.
Above all, he says, find X factors – qualities or attributes that set you apart from the competition.
Here are additional takeaways from Nelson’s presentation about growing your brand image:
Capitalize on practices. Do you perform strip tillage? Have conservation land? Own a tile plow or an excavator? Use those tools to do custom work or other projects that differentiates your operation. Use photos to bring those practices to life in informational material.
Show off your family. Nelson’s family makes a point of not working on Sundays so they can go to church and spend time with one another. It’s not wrong to work on Sundays, he says – that example is simply an illustration of ways in which farmers can show landlords and others who they are. Keep in touch with out-of-state landlords by inviting them to visit your operation, and keep in touch via email and occasional newsletters. Conservation and technology are also important to the family.
Examine other companies. Brands such as Levi’s are a great example of branding. Among examples: 501’s are memorable because they had button flies instead of zippers, and the company produces a great range of sizes for all customers. "You’re not changing your story, but you’re formatting your story in different ways to be appropriate to so many different audiences that are watching you."
Thank you to the 2014 Top Producer Seminar sponsors:
Premier Sponsors: Agrigold, Apache Sprayers, BASF, Bayer CropScience, Cargill, Case IH, Challenger, Dow AgroSciences, DuPont Pioneer, ESN, Firestone, Koch Agronomic Services, RCIS, SFP, Syngenta, Top Third Ag Marketing
Co-Sponsors: Advance Trading, CliftonLarsonAllen, The Gulke Group, Kennedy and Coe, Michelin, Novozymes, OPI Integris, Soybean Premiums, Wyffels Hybrids