Monday, August 31, 2009

Trust & the Brand

The scent of lavender and rosemary reminds me Northern California.  In my yard, there's rosemary everywhere, which mixes with the cool and warm breezes.  Every so often I would buy herbs from Eatwell Farm {w/ Lavender Farm} at the Grand Lake Farmers' Market in Oakland.  They were always helpful and had fresh-looking stuff, which is no mean feat during a hot summer Sunday morning.

I've been thinking about branding and relationships, of late, particularly with respect to buying "local."  I write reports and tell organizations of the virtues of branding.  I have a ton of anecdotes and social science factoids about how people gain meaning from brands, but I was thinking about what drives true trust.  The organic/biologique market started as a movement, but turned into a set of standards that would give legitimacy to the term organic.  In the United States, organic is defined by the USDA's National Organic Program {NOP} and it garners the trust of consumers.
Last month, I was in Kingston, Ontario and I saw a commercial advocating buying locally-grown Ontario pork.  The slogan was "put pork on your fork."  I tried to find it, but I only found this vintage ad::

I saw the Ontario trillium in the vintage commercial, so it must be an ongoing programme like Foodland Ontario.  Some of the ideas behind buying local is making local foodsheds more salient to people and for people to be more mindful of fresh foods.  Local farms try to capitalize on creating person-brand relationships.  I know this happens when I go to farmers' markets. The relationships garner loyalty, but what about trust?  Do I trust farms in farmers' markets more than I trust supermarket retailers?  What does trust mean in this context?
  • Trust in food safety
  • Trust in providing quality
  • Trust in providing economic value {value given price}
  • Trust in providing symbolic value {buying sustainable, buying with a smaller carbon footprint; buying to support local farms}
  • Trust in providing advice
Some people would say it's just food, who cares?  I think it matters.  I'd love to buy local more when I'm in Toronto.  I've always wanted to join a CSA {community-supported agriculture}, where shareholders invest up-front to capitalize farms and pick up weekly share boxes, and I just found out there are a few in the Toronto area.  It can be a pricey undertaking and even with the relatively long growing season in California, farmers have noted the problem of finding a variety of produce to deliver in the dead of winter.  Shareholders in a CSA can only use so much daikon.  On the list of Toronto-area producers, I couldn't help but notice the description for the Stoddart Family Farm::
"OUR ANIMALS DON'T DO DRUGS. JUST GRASS!"
On another note, I've seen ads in Canada for manufactured foodstuffs touting ingredients grown in Canada.  Is this meaningless differentiation?  A form of economic regionalism or nationalism?  When large corporations use "local," it runs the risk of getting away from the spirit of what "local" means.  Sustainablelifemedia thinks Hellman's {mayonnaise} is offering up more than just advertising talking points on their website.


Maybe I'm a bit jaded, but it's like when organic goes far from its roots as a social movement and towards a mass-market industrial enterprise that is "chemically organic" by the letter of the regulations.  Buying mayo made from canola oil from Saskatchewan is really stretching the buy local concept.  I wonder if consumers are parsing the messages, so that the message is more of a "buy Canadian" than a "buy fresh and local one."




Twitterversion::  Trust & the brand. Thinking about layers of meanings with respect to "buy local" fresh food campaigns. Should I put Ontario pork on my fork?
Song::  Glory Box - Portishead













No comments: