Why we can all learn something from the Black Farmer
A few weeks ago, I was checking stuff out on my phone during a TV ad break, like we all do. Suddenly, something made me stop scrolling and give my undivided attention to the TV. I was intrigued by what I was seeing and hearing. Although not immediately apparent, I was watching the first TV screening of an advert for gluten free, RSPCA Assured sausages, from independent producer The Black Farmer.
If you haven’t seen the ad you may be wondering why something so mundane could have had this startling effect. In truth, this was no ordinary advert and it was far from boring. Already it had managed to do what all advertisers are desperately trying to achieve in today’s multi-channel, multi-tasking society, where you rarely have anyone’s full focus. It had cut through the distractions, captured my interest and made me sit up and pay attention.
So how had it done this? It was not in the style of any food adverts we are used to seeing, be they the indulgent ‘food porn’ style of M&S, the ‘welfare’ approach showing well cared for ‘happy’ animals and quality ingredients, nor was it the lifestyle ‘bringing families together around the table’ genre.
Lesson 1: Dare to be different.
To cut through the noise and grab people’s attention you need to be bold and brave. No matter what medium, break with convention – it will differentiate you from the competition in your sector and leave a lasting impression.
This advert (directed by Hollywood legend Tony Kaye) was fast moving, noisy, chaotic and quirky. It featured a voiceover in the style of a free verse poem (no set rhyme or meter) with statements including ‘I am flavour without frontiers’.
This unusual narration was juxtapositioned with blasts on a trumpet, jarring music and startling images of Morris dancers, a flamenco dancer, bucolic Devonshire countryside, the Union Jack flag, an excerpt from the national anthem and, throughout it all there was a man in a black hat. The Black Farmer himself. The mouthwatering shots of fat, juicy sausages were there too, but due to the fast moving, quick cutaway editing technique, they were almost subliminal.
Once over, the advert again managed to achieve something rare – I was interested enough to google The Black Farmer there and then, to find out more.
I discovered that the advert told the story of Wilfred Emmanuel-Jones, born in Jamaica and brought up in inner-city Birmingham. It revealed elements of his cultural identity and his passions, how he had come to be living his dream on a small Devon farm, producing award winning sausages, meatballs, burgers, bacon, eggs and cheese. At the end of the advert it says ‘This is my soul’ and certainly in the advert Wilfred bares his soul, literally serving himself up on a plate along with his sausages.
Lesson 2: Tell a story.
Successful marketing is not just about selling attributes and benefits. If you can tell the story behind your brand and give it some personality, you will capture people’s imagination. Show real passion for what you do and customers are more likely to trust your brand -but it must be authentic.
As well as telling more of the brand story and providing recipe inspiration, the website conveniently helps the customer identify which stores near them stock the products. And if you are disappointed that your local store doesn’t carry the product, the site cleverly facilitates demand by enabling the customer to petition the big chains direct, asking them to begin stocking the product locally. What’s more, Wilfred encourages the public to share videos of their own passions, under the hashtag #ThisIsMySoul by posting them weekly on his site.
Lesson 3: Think about next steps and calls to action
Once you have a potential customers’ attention and get them to visit your website, what do you want them to do next? How can you leverage your brand, keep them engaged and capitalise on their interest? Don’t waste this hard won opportunity.
The Black Farmer has reminded me of the power of storytelling and inspired me to think creatively about brands and marketing, whatever the sector or product may be. Love it or hate it (and it won’t be everyone’s cup of tea) the advert has certainly pushed the boundaries of food advertising and left a lasting impression.