Four years ago, into my inbox came a newsletter from farmer Drausin Wulsin. I remember it to this day. In it, he wrote with respectful honesty and a farmer’s wisdom of caring for an ailing cow, of knowing that his efforts would ultimately be unsuccessful but that they weren’t for naught.
“After a day of struggle and best intentions, all I was able to accomplish was moving her into the barn. Her kind and gentle eyes kept surveying and boring into my growing ineptitude. After a while, I began to feel it wasn’t me she was looking at, but something through and beyond my poor purpose. I finally realized I made no difference at all in this situation. So, I put the tractor and bales of straw away, laid my hand on her great shoulder, and in heart-heavy deference, began my retreat to Batavia to have dinner with Susan. During the drive, I tried to make sense of the intimate smells of her body upon mine, the wisdom in her eyes, and her increasingly labored breathing.”
These words caught my heart. They sparked in me an even more profound gratitude for what farmers do to raise and grow food for my table. They connected me to Drausin’s Grassroots Farm & Foods and turned me into a customer.
In fact, his writing was so engaging that we published five of his stories in the Holiday/Winter 2017–2018 edition of Edible Ohio Valley. Here’s a link if you’d like to read those stories.
Drausin writes for his Farmer’s Almanac blog almost weekly, focusing on what he calls the “Five Strands of Life”: labor, heart, mind, soul and spirit. He writes about the joys of those first spring days, the miracle of seeing baby animals born, the tasks small and large that come with raising livestock for food. I encourage you to read through some of his stories from the farm.
I imagine it takes Drausin no small amount of time to write these stories. Nonetheless, he’s a talented writer. He writes regularly. But more to the point, he has created a powerful marketing tool, one that other farmers, food producers and brands can learn from.
“Storytelling” (and I use that in air-quotes) has been the flavor of the month that’s had marketing people licking their chops for awhile now. It’s become something of a cliche in business. And brand managers have latched onto it without regard to their audience, assuming that *everyone* is surely interested in the origin story behind their brand of laundry detergent or electronic device or whatever.
Storytelling is over- and inappropriately used by so many brands — but it’s the kind of marketing that food brands especially should—and can, legitimately—embrace.
“When reading straight data, only the language parts of our brains work to decode the meaning. But when we read a story, not only do the language parts of our brains light up, but any other part of the brain that we would use if we were actually experiencing what we’re reading about becomes activated as well.” — Why Our Brains Crave Storytelling in Marketing, FastCompany.com
Food marketers, here’s your golden opportunity.
Food connects people. Stories connect people. Eating and storytelling have gone together since the beginning of humankind. That synergy makes storytelling a mighty marketing tool for food brands large and small. Here’s what storytelling can do for you:
- Create loyalty among your buyers
- Give customers a sense of shared ownership
- Communicate a message of quality and integrity
- Make a strong case for buying *your* product over others
- Secure a premium price, because buyers know your story, know your quality, know what lengths you go do to produce your product.
In an upcoming post, I’ll share tips for identifying your story and ways to share it with customers and their connections. So stay tuned.
Meantime, I’ll leave you with a few more words from Drausin about life on the farm.
“As is too often the case in the rush of a day’s work, we do not see the obvious. These clouds were a magical spectacle, performed in the great hidden space above, last weekend, lasting only minutes. Fortunately, we were uncharacteristically quiet enough to witness the magic. What a fabulous few moments those clouds offered, as they passed by, so rich with presence, color, majesty, and intention. They were nature’s marching band, strutting down the boulevard of the great blue beyond. We felt lucky to have looked up in time.”