Donald Trump, entrepreneur, billionaire and current hopeful for the US presidency, knows a thing or two about the value of a brand, once stating “if your business is not a brand, it is a commodity”.
In the Scottish agricultural survey our firm conducted earlier this year, a majority of farmers cited selling prices as the single biggest concern for their business, an issue amplified here and across the continent through a series of protests in recent months. To help address this challenge the Scottish sector might consider Mr Trump’s views on the power of brands.
Indeed, the creation of a set of industry-wide agricultural brand values could give Scotland’s farmers and producers an opportunity to enhance demand and increase the value of its produce within an increasingly competitive marketplace.
Agriculture remains an important economic sector in Scotland. According to NFU Scotland, the industry directly employs 65,000 people, accounting for around 8 per cent of rural jobs. Producing more than £2.3 billion in output every year, agriculture is an essential link to much of Scotland’s fast-growing food and drink sector, which is itself aiming to generate over £16bn revenue for our economy by 2017.
The food and drink sector has provided a great example of how to promote strong values around great brands. While applying this approach across a whole industry is a far greater challenge it is one that could significantly bolster Scottish agriculture.
The starting place for this journey is for the wider sector to ensure they are producing what their market requires. Food and drink processors need to be reassured that these same brand values they promote also exist within the raw producers they buy from.
In a globalised market where it is near impossible for Scottish farmers and other producers to compete on cost, it is also essential that a premium offering delivers extra value which the end user expects. Otherwise price will become the determining factor which is especially challenging given the global market and fluctuations in exchange rates.
It must be recognised that Scotland’s agricultural sector is a diverse one and not all of its producers can classify their offering as “premium” level.
However, through the creation of its own single brand the sector could be united under a banner promoting its strong commitment to the quality assurance initiatives which are already in place in Scotland. These include strict adherence to the rules covering core areas such as environmental sustainability, animal welfare and operating with respect towards colleagues and stakeholders within the work place.
While this does present a challenge for the sector, Scottish agriculture is possibly much further down this road than you might initially think.
The farmers and producers that I regularly see across the country take immense pride in what they do with many carrying on a long and distinguished family history in agriculture.
Few would consider what they produce to be a mere commodity.
Developing and uniting round a set of shared brand values would be the logical and potentially beneficial next step.
l Neil Steven is a partner and agricultural sector specialist at accountancy and business advisory firm Johnston Carmichael.