Free marketing series offers comprehensive tips for those in the ag business

Candace Krebs
The Ag Journal
Kuvy Ax, right, founder of Root: The Good Food Agency is shown here with Josephine Agrawal, a social media strategist and trainer with the agency. The Boulder-based firm is currently conducting a series of informative marketing videos that can be viewed on the Colorado Proud website.

Looking for top-level professional marketing advice that’s available free of charge?

With farmers markets re-opening and the growing season in high gear, direct marketers of all sizes can benefit from a series of webinars offered by Colorado Proud and aimed at helping food brands and growers position their companies and products in a crowded marketplace.

The videos feature the expertise of Root: The Good Food Agency, a marketing and public relations firm based in Boulder that works with many food and beverage related entities including the Boulder County Farmers Markets.

The final installment in the series, a discussion of overall marketing strategy, will be held on June 17. Previous webinars are available for viewing on the Colorado Proud website at ag.colorado.gov/markets/colorado-proud by clicking on the calendar of events tab.

Agency founder Kuvy Ax and her team cover a wide range of topics, including how to pitch media stories, how to create a social media content calendar and what goes into a comprehensive branding process.

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Clarity and consistency are at the root of building a successful brand, according to Kristine Root, a marketing and branding strategist.

Root started her career at a large marketing firm in Minneapolis and later went to work for a nonprofit with a fraction of the advertising budget. For the last 14 years, she’s dedicated her prior experience to assisting natural and organic brands.

She quoted famous ad strategist Dan Wieden, the inventor of Nike’s Just Do It tagline, as saying, “People do not buy goods and services. They buy relations, stories and magic.”

She estimated 80% of small businesses make the mistake of skipping the brand strategizing process, however, and go directly to promotion and marketing communications.

Branding is not a logo, identity or product, she said. It goes deeper, to an examination of culture and ethos.

“It’s the core of who your company is,” she said.

It’s also “the gut feeling people have about your company,” she added.

Companies can’t entirely control public perception, she said, but they can do a lot to shape it.

Branding sounds like a vague concept, but Root broke it down into manageable chunks by sharing a simple planning formula.

Begin by examining four specific areas, she said.

First, research the industry. What are the trends and where is it headed?

Next, it’s time for a competitive analysis. What does the playing field look like? What other companies are operating in the same space and what options do they offer?

The third area is consumer insights. Who is your ideal customer, what do they want and need, and what problems can you solve for them? This can often be determined through a combination of consumer interviews and industry data, Root said.

Last, but not least, is self-exploration: what are your values and what is your vision for the company?

“Take these four areas where you’ve gathered information and start building on that knowledge,” she said. “You can make it very easy for consumers by setting a clear strategy, and this allows you to communicate more effectively.”

Root suggested writing out a purpose statement, a promise to customers and three or four truths about who you are as a business.

After crafting a foundational strategy, these guiding principles can be applied across logos, colors, design, images, videos and other marketing assets. They can also be used as the basis for future product lines, business partnerships and philanthropic efforts.

“You want to create clarity and consistency in everything you do,” she emphasized.

Roots in food

Agency founder Kuvy Ax is a Boulder native who found a way to merge her life-long passion for food with public relations 20 years ago. She has represented many well-known Colorado companies over the years including Door to Door Organics and Lasater Grasslands Beef.

She rebranded her original agency with the name Root in 2013.

In the introductory webinar in the series, she describes public relations as creating a positive image by emphasizing successes and downplaying failures.

Media relations includes writing and distributing press releases for important company announcements, but also developing a list of media contacts, pitching stories and preparing a media kit with easily accessible resources.

The media landscape is changing rapidly, according to Emily Tracy, a journalism school graduate who presented a separate webinar.

Tracy noted the decline of old standby weeklies and dailies in many markets, accompanied by a rise in hyper-local online publications. She also noted the emergence of paywall-protected niche publications, featured on websites like Patreon and Substack, and another new player, Clubhouse, which allows users to drop in on multiple live audio chats.

“I think this is the future of journalism,” she said, adding that media outreach is increasingly informal and more fragmented and diverse than ever before.

No aspect of marketing looms larger than mastering the use of social media.

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Fully 9 in 10 people follow their favorite brands or businesses, which means customers are seeking information and open and receptive to receiving it, according to Josephine Agrawal, a social media strategist and trainer.

Currently one of the most downloaded apps is Instagram. Agrawal covered how to get the most “bang for your buck” from the popular, visually oriented platform.

Instagram now boasts 1.2 billion monthly users worldwide. It’s especially useful for local businesses because of its geo-tagging features, which allow users to monitor postings in the local vicinity, she said.

“They are using it like a Yelp or Google Business, to see what your business looks like or what food you are serving,” she explained. “If you’re a food brand, it’s the mecca, because of the visual nature. You can get on it and show how delicious your food looks.”

Find more marketing resources from the team at Root, as well as a blog, on their website at RootMarketingPR.com.