The last few years have seen unprecedented change across all areas of society. Both agriculture and marketing have witnessed their own step-change, exacerbated by such globally significant and disruptive events as the Covid-19 pandemic and Brexit, among others. While both these occurrences are – seemingly – becoming more manageable and less volatile, change is still in the air. Severe climate events and increasing political turbulence are just two major factors that will cause waves in the years to come. What does this mean for agribusiness and marketing?

The future is not set in stone, but experts have highlighted a few emerging trends. Here are just a few that will have ramifications for 2021 and beyond.

Data data data

This is the big one. Data is the resource that will likely dominate the century. We’ve all heard the saying that“data is the new oil”. Like oil, what matters isn’t only its inherent value,but the ability to source and control it effectively. This is why more and more businesses are staking their claim in this field. As a sector, agriculture can occasionally be slow to adopt new technologies, but the rise is exponential and moving in one direction. Research agency Gartner estimates that there are 20.5 billion connected smart devices globally as of 2020, with that set to increase.[1]

This means that understanding the ways data can and will shape the agriculture industry is crucial. While brands that rely too heavily on overly “techy” jargon will potentially alienate their target audience, it’s vital that the data question is addressed head on. Make sure you have a plan and communicate that plan in your marketing.

As the acceleration of data systems and solutions runs through agribusinesses all over the world, be sure your brand is prepared to speak on what you’re doing to help your audience unlock the greatest value possible. To adapt the old saying: you may not be interested in data, but data is interested in you.

Sustainability and ethics

Covid-19 has had a shattering effect on all of us, even those who have managed to remain healthy and in relative financial stability. For the first time, the general public have been reminded of just how fragile a supply chain can be. More than that, we all face an existential crisis that slowly creeps closer and closer; catastrophic climate change, which will fundamentally reshape borders, societies, and ways of living worldwide.

Creating a more sustainable future for agriculture is not a controversial mission, but this decade will see a need for agribusinesses to take a firm lead on the issue. Public interest in where food comes from – and how it is produced – has spiked. We have also seen that change is possible, even if it can be difficult.

As consumers are given a louder voice than ever before thanks to social media, directly addressing the big issues of the day will prove invaluable for agribusinesses.

Social media isn’t going anywhere

Though networks rise and fall – with a few pretenders that fail to launch along the way – social media as a whole is here to stay. In just the last few years Instagram and TikTok have shown that there is still a hunger for innovative and engaging content via these mediums. A solid social media strategy and steady stream of strong content is still worth its weight in gold.

However, this should not be a scattergun approach. Many businesses have taken the time to analyse their engagement numbers (or work with somebody that can) and pinpoint exactly where they’regenerating engagement. It’s not worth taking a Twitter-first approach if most sales actually come through Facebook or investing time and resources into making videos that aren’t watched.

Drill down into your social media strategy and take it as a chance to declutter. Who are you speaking to and where? How successfully? Social media is always changing but treating one of the most – perhaps THE most – widely-used tool for communication today as an after thought risks selling your brand short.

Remote is here to stay

We spoke about the need to rethink events previously. With a successful vaccine roll-out and life returning to some kind of normality,in-person events will undoubtedly resume. However, remote communication tools have proven themselves to be up to the task for successful events. While they can likely never replace in-person networking and atmosphere, virtual events are likely here to stay.

What do you hope to achieve by attending an event? While there is certainly value in doing so, some businesses might justifiably use this as an opportunity for a rethink. Sometimes the return on investment is just not there and attendance has become a matter of routine rather than sense.

We will likely see more online events that exist half-way between the grand pomp of huge annual events and small digital offerings like webinars. These events won’t replace their more established counterparts, but many agribusinesses have realised they can create a targeted virtual offering that increases engagement, conveys their messages,and creates a dialogue – all with comparatively little cost.

Understanding your audience

Who are you speaking to and how? Personas are a powerful tool for understanding your customers and pinpointing how best to communicate with them. They act as a baseline for every piece of marketing collateral you create. Whether it’s a quick post on twitter or lengthy white paper, your pre-established personas will help guide the language you use, the points you address, the conclusions you draw.When created with care and deployed effectively, they are a powerful tool for agribusinesses.

Here, we loop back to the first point: data. Personas have always been informed by customer data wherever possible – after all, doing so without data is essentially just an educated guess – but data collection and refinement will only become more sophisticated.Taking full advantage of this will make sure your message is heard by the right people at the right time, in a way that drives engagement.

2021 and beyond

2021 will see some degree of normalcy return and generally be a more positive year for us all. But change is inevitable. In a sense, lists like this can confuse the issue. Here are some trends that we will likely see in the next year, true, but it won’t stop there.The future of farming will look very different and, for those businesses that take the time and invest in how they speak to their audience, is likely to be full of bright new opportunities.

Now is the time for all of us in the industry to examine what works and what doesn’t. For agribusinesses, this should mean a frank examination of marketing strategy. Are you sticking to a standard approach that, though it may have worked in the past, may not be fit for the challenges ahead? Or are you prepared to embrace change and the new opportunities that come with it?

We at RDP Marketing wish you well during this difficult time. If you would like to discuss any of the above at no obligation, please get in touch.


[1] Leading the IoT, Gartner, 2017