Prior to joining Pinstone, my background was working with food brands and I appreciate how competitive that space is when launching a brand. To achieve ‘stand out’ requires a thoroughly compelling and authentic brand narrative that consumers buy into and, more importantly, trust.

Catherine had the pleasure of interviewing Wilfred Emmanuel-Jones MBE, founder of The Black Farmer. During episode 16 of the AFCC, Catherine and our guest discussed how having a strong sense of purpose had helped establish point of difference to deliver commercial success.

Be forthright and focussed

As well being a highly engaging speaker (we have some cracking out-takes that sadly didn’t make the final podcast cut!), Wilfred had some fascinating marketing insights to share.

Prior to setting up The Black Farmer, he’d run his own comms agency so is well versed in the challenges and requirements of bringing a brand to life.

Creating a brilliant product is only ever the starting point. Wilfred explained that to build a brand effectively, your key focus must be developing effective marketing strategies that generate wider awareness.

“People don’t buy ‘what’ you do, they buy ‘why’ you do it.”

This means brands must stand for and promote something that is both tangible and relatable.

One fascinating aspect of The Black Farmer’s journey over the past 15 years has been the importance attributed to building relationships with customers. Establishing a meaningful dialogue has been at the core of Wilfred’s strategic approach.

An area that can prove problematic is that even when brands recognise the importance of marketing, they sometimes choose to invest in the wrong strategies. They frequently opt for measurable routes offered by above-the-line marketing rather than building a strong foundation through below-the-line activity.

Wilfred believes that it’s been his commitment to below-the-line campaigns that have allowed him to develop lasting and meaningful relationships with his consumers. They’re relationships that need to be constantly nurtured so they don’t fizzle out.

This age-old battle between above and below line marketing is an issue that Pinstone addresses through the adoption of the PESO model. This delivers a truly integrated approach ensuring all comms activity is properly aligned through ‘paid, shared, earned and owned’ channels.

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Marketing strategy

Fortune favours the bold

What makes The Black Farmer such a compelling brand is that it encapsulates a classic ‘boy done good’ story, with the realisation of Wilfred’s childhood dream to own his own farm.

Coming to the UK from Jamaica as part of the Windrush generation, the family’s diet was supplemented by food grown in an allotment that Wilfred was responsible for. His career began firstly as a chef, before moving into TV production. He then ran his own marketing agency where he launched numerous household food brands. He then went on to buy his dream farm and set up The Black Farmer making gluten free sausages. It’s a meteoric journey that led to Wilfred to receiving an MBE for services to British farming earlier this year.

Challenger brands generate attention
We all know that mediocre marketing is a waste of money. A successful campaign demands courage and the strength of character to avoid playing it safe. To achieve this Wilfred recommends making a friend of uncertainty.

“To get people’s attention you have to put your head above the parapet.”

This is a point highlighted by the decision to ignore the market research that came back saying to avoid calling the brand ‘The Black Farmer’ in the first place!

In this as in many things, Wilfred was ahead of the curve, foreseeing the movement towards purpose driven brands. It’s the perfect example of the importance of having a strong belief system and a vision for change.

Much of this drive and determination comes down to whether you’re left or right brained. With the left favouring logic and data and right brained individuals being conceptual creatives, who are happiest relying on their intuition, talent and imagination. The current education system tends to promote left brain thinking which Wilfred believes is a mistake.

With the digital revolution diminished our ability to communicate at a personal level, Wilfred has never lost sight of the value of putting customers front and centre – initiating conversations and gaining experience at the coal face on the shop floor.

What is the 'why'?

What is the ‘why?’

Establishing point of difference is at the heart of successful comms. Brands need to ascertain what their purpose is and then stick to their guns.

For The Black Farmer that’s been about finding balance and recognising the potential the zeitgeist presents. It’s here that research played a valuable role in helping identify the opportunity and gap in the market for gluten free products.

Fifteen years ago, the free from market was in its infancy. In 2019 it was estimated at £934 million in the UK alone and has enjoyed a huge surge in growth. Growth that The Black Farmer was quick to capitalise on from the outset.

Maintaining that commercial success for the duration ultimately comes down to constantly reaffirming your brand’s presence and purpose. This can only be achieved by initiating ongoing customer-centric comms that recognise the value of that very special relationship.