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UFA SHOWS CUSTOMERS 'THERE IS A FUTURE OUT HERE'
As more agricultural marketers are discovering, the closer you get to customers, the more they expect of you. Producers like to do business with people who understand the unique challenges of living on and from the land. So when United Farmers of Alberta (UFA) wanted to grow sales, they knew they would have to convince even loyal customers they get it.

Formed in 1909 to improve farm conditions and bring modern convenience to rural homes, UFA soon entered the political arena and worked to obtain natural resource rights, rural access to education and health care and equality for women. Today, UFA provides a wide range of products and services through its 34 farm supply stores and more than 120 petroleum outlets.

The real challenge, says Jimm Holland, UFA's director of brand management, was finding an appropriate way to express a forward-looking, positive message to rural Albertans at a time when all of agriculture was under a great deal of pressure.

WORK TO DO

"UFA takes its history of leadership very seriously," Holland says. "We wanted to build on that heritage and refresh what our brand stands for. We were also committed to expanding our business with two large, new retail centers in Red Deer and Camrose. As all this was happening, BSE hit and the mood on the prairie was not exactly uplifting. We had some work to do."

"One source of inspiration for us was UFA's commitment to rural communities," says Ben Graham, who leads the UFA team at AdFarm. "They've been very successful at helping make the farming lifestyle better. That showed us that core customers could relate to a shared sense of commitment to rural life."

Eventually, this commitment was expressed in the theme: "There is a Future Out Here."

"That line is just loaded with meaning," says Glenn Dawes, creative director at AdFarm. "It's authentic because of UFA's history and leadership."

The centerpiece of the campaign is a five-minute video that reflects the small town experience and values of UFA and its customers. The pivotal element of the video, which was shot on film to capture the simple beauty and warmth of the rural setting and people, is an original song:

The best things around that I have ever seen
Came from a small town-and big dreams
That's where I come from, that's who I am...


"The video was used to introduce and set the tone of the campaign at internal meetings, staff rallies and in their retail outlets," Dawes says. "It is now an important part of UFA's community outreach program, which features a truck-mounted exhibit with an interactive history of the organization."

"The reaction to this video has just been amazing," Holland says. "It has inspired our board, our employees and our customers - and it does a wonderful job of establishing the basis for our new brand identity."

An integrated advertising campaign was rolled out in March 2004. Print advertising reaching farm and ranch customers as well as petroleum users in Alberta kicked off with three dramatic spread ads featuring a rancher, a wheat grower and a trucker in their unique environments. Single page versions of the ad were used later in the campaign.

Radio spots were produced using music from the video for broadcast on community radio stations. Outdoor boards selected to be near UFA outlets completed the effort.

EXPECTATIONS MET

The campaign was honored as Best of Show - Campaign in the Best of CAMA awards competition. Awards are great, Holland says, but results matter most.

"This was not a sales campaign. Our objectives related to how well the brand message was being communicated and received," Holland notes. "The whole campaign was developed to reinforce our agricultural heritage and affinity for rural living. We wanted to strengthen customer associations with specific UFA attributes and values. Only then can you hope to have an influence on long-term sales."

"Ultimately, customers should see a brand as a series of positive experiences," says Dawes. "It's a pleasure to work with an organization like UFA that understands the power of its brand and why it's so important to keep meeting its customers' expectations." AM


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