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'People buy people' - the Black Farmer's guide to marketing pork

8th May 2018 / By Alistair Driver

The Black Farmer has urged pork producers to do more to engage with consumers to market their pork. 

Black Farmer 1Invited to speak to the NPA’s latest Producer Group meeting about marketing pork, Wilfred Emmanuel-Jones delivered one of the most colourful, unrestrained and frank presentations the group had heard in some time.

He has an extraordinary story to tell – and used his invite to PG to urge others within the pig industry to open up and tell theirs.

Delivering some hard-hitting messages for the pig sector, he outlined what he sees as the pig industry’s failure to engage effectively with the consumer and to encourage a change of mindset.

“People buy people, not the product,” was the core message as he challenged the industry to find ‘champions’ to reach out ‘with authenticity and passion’ to consumers beyond supermarket own brands and industry labels.

Following a career in television, Mr Emmanuel Jones set up his own marketing company, launching a range various ‘challenger brands, which were totally different’, including Loyd Grossman sauces, Kettle chips, Cobra beer and Plymouth Gin. He eventually enough money to buy a smallholding on theDevon-Cornwall border.

“The first thing I noticed is that there is a massive divide between urban and rural Britain,” he said. “They don’t understand each other. Also, the farming industry is very insular and very conservative. The people who do all the goddamn work have no connection with the people buying the product. And I saw an opportunity.”

He explained how he wanted to create a brand and decided on sausages, although he made an early decision not to produce. He found a manufacturer but needed a name.

“It came to me. One of my next-door neighbours used to call me the ‘Black Farmer’. It has an edge to it – people are not sure if it is politically correct. You need to create intrigue,” he said.

The supermarkets were not interested in the Black Farmer’s products, however, so using his marketing experience, he embarked on a ‘below the line’ marketing campaign utilising the digital revolution to the full. This included a ‘massive sampling programme around the country’ – he asked people who took part to go onto supermarket websites to enquire why they weren’t stocking the Black Farmer’s product.

Eventually it worked and the brand has grown to become one of the best known food brands in the country, now encompassing a wide range of products and attributes for consumers.

Galvanise the consumer

Black Farmer 2“You need to galvanise the consumer, and everything I do, I make sure I look after the consumer and make the consumer feel involved,” he said.

“If there is one this industry is rubbish at, it is galvanising the consumer,” he said, accusing the sector of being more concerned about industry politics than reaching out to consumers.

The key to marketing is to connect with people ‘so they become your disciples, your messengers and champion your cause’, he said. He told the group the public’s image of pig farmers was ‘outdated’ and very different to what he could see in the room.

Identifying individuals, he urged them to become an ‘industry face and go and shout about British pork’. “Don’t use celebrities. Create your own champion to sell the passion in this industry. There is an authenticity and truth to this group,” he said.

Work with innovators

Black Farmer 4NPA chief executive Zoe Davies asked how farmers who sell large volumes for retail labels could break away from being ‘standard pork producers’.

His advice was to maintain the contract, but hold some product back to create your own brand. The key is to think ahead and not be restricted by current tastes and to try and find something different and unexpected. Working with ‘innovators’, such as chefs, can help build a brand, he said.

“Always start small and with an area you already know well,” he advised, adding that there was currently a very strong interest at home and abroad in ‘Britishness’, regardless of method of production.

“There’s lot of goodwill and a lot of good things you are doing, but you are not shouting about it.

“People buy people. That is fundamentally what you have to understand. People don’t buy the product, they buy you.”

PG members didn’t necessarily agree with all he said, but no-one could question the drive and passion behind one of British pork’s most successful brands and some of the fundamental truths in his message.

To read more about the Black Farmers' presentation to PG, see Pig World