Branding in current times is one of the most discussed phenomena of market research. Brands are recognized to provide quality to customers, distinction within a market and financial gains to an organization. A successful brand leads to a permanent trademark.
The American Marketing Association defines a brand as a ‘a name, term, sign, symbol, design or a combination of all, intended to identify goods and services of one seller or group of sellers and to differentiate them from those of other sellers’. A brand can be characterized as a product, corporation, person and place.
Branding is a marketing concept that aims at increasing a product’s (goods and/or services) perceived value to the customer with the aim of encouraging purchase and consequently increase frequency in repeat purchases leading to increased sales (thus increased profits) and customer loyalty.
Organisations engage in building brands because the benefits of branding are enormous. According to Bernhardt et al. (1991), branding among others helps to confirm credibility of either the product or the organization where the product originates, it increases ease acceptance of an institution and its products, minimizing the activities for curbing competition.
Branding also helps in penetrating in a new market or a new market category, and also a source of demand and the competitively superior quality image justifying premium price.Branding, therefore, has become a very significant concept in just about all businesses and the agricultural sector is no exception.
The world market for agricultural products has been growing rapidly during the past years. In spite of this huge demand, products from developing countries like Ghana continue to face rejection from developed countries who are the major purchasers or importers of our produce.
According to Professor Eugene D. Jaffe and Israel D. Nebenzahl in National Image & Competitive Advantage (2006), "in general, American consumers are more receptive to products from developed countries and less so from developing countries.” However not everyone agrees with this statement as Thomas Cromwell, President of East West Communications in Washington, DC. He believes that “because agricultural products are natural, and people associate quality with natural factors, such as climate, soil quality, and organic growing methods, the positive association with agricultural products has little if anything to do with the overall level of development of the country from which they come,”.
Experts believe that branding a country’s agricultural produce will go a long way to erase the negative perception the Western world has against agricultural products coming in from developing countries. Although agricultural commodities are harder to brand than manufactured products, there are nevertheless success stories for developing-country-based agricultural brands.
Take for instance, a developing country like Brazil which has one of the most advanced agricultural branding programs than any developing economy in this world. Through its vigorous branding programmes, the country has been able to promote its coffee industry which has contributed positively, not only to the nation’s economy but its image as well.
Due to the enormous benefits being accrued from the promotions for Brazilian coffee, the country has also instituted a number of branding programs for theBrazilian beef, Brazilian fruit, Brazilian chicken, and wines.Theseagricultural products are being exported many to other developing countries in Africa, Middle East and Asia. Russia for example is the main buyer of Brazilian pork meat, while Egypt is the main importer of Brazilian fresh beef, the Middle East in general is the biggest market for Brazilian poultry and sugar, Algeria is the main buyer of Brazilian dairy products, China is the biggest importer of Brazilian soy beans, and Iran is the main market for the Brazilian corn.
Brazil has been able to chalk all these successes in its agriculture sector mainly because of the importance it placed on branding these produce either by adding value to them or emphasizing its quality and distinctiveness from all other agricultural produce in its regional bloc.
Ghana could draw great lessons from branding acumen of Brazil to its agricultural products since a well-known, well-branded agricultural product can do a great deal to help build a nations economy and create a permanent trademark. The development of branding and marketing strategies to promote Ghana’s agricultural products internationally is imperative. To complete this, the planting for food and jobs agenda in the right direction, will offer myriad opportunities to explore strategies in developing the agriculture sector.
The successes in branding the country’s agricultural sector can be said began decades ago with the cash crop Cocoa. Even though Côte d’Ivoire remains the world’s largest cocoa producer, producing almost twice as many cocoa beans as Ghana, Ghanaian cocoa beans can sell at a significant premium on the London and New York futures markets, owing to their high quality. It is also a known fact that our Golden Tree Chocolates are the most sought after chocolates in some markets around the globe because its superior quality and taste.
However, Cocoa is not the only crop which can contribute fiscally to the country’s economy. Our starchy staples such as cassava, yam and plantain which according to the Ministry of Food and Agriculture, the country is self-sufficient in, can contribute significantly to the economy if they are branded well to attract both regional and global consumers. Building these products into world class brands means we have to place emphasis on adding value to these raw products and their packaging to be accepted and patronized by consumers. It is thus timely that the current government wants to introduce the 1 district 1 factory initiative. This venture will enable Ghana process or refine these staple foods to meet regional and international standards.
The Food and Agriculture Show (FAGRO)has begun that journey to brand Ghana’s agricultural sector to the outside world. FAGRO provides a platform for Agricultural stakeholders: small holder farmers and agribusinesses to showcase their ideas, products and services to their teeming publics, thereby reaching out to new business frontiers and increasing their knowledge in modern technologies.
The FAGRO platform has over the last seven years contributed immensely to highlighting the visibility of the country’s agricultural sector to the investment community both locally and internationally. So far the FAGRO brand and for that matter, Ghana’s agricultural sector has become known in countries such as Burkina Faso, Spain, the Netherlands and Russia.
It is an underlining factor that the country’s agricultural sector suffers from public under investment especially from financial institutions due to its unprofitability nature. FAGRO is however leading the crusade to change this perception and brand the country’s agricultural sector as a viable industry which must be tapped into by all actors of industry.
We believe that by making FAGROa household name across borders, our objective of branding the country’s agricultural sector to develop a permanent trademark can be achieved.
Alberta Nana Akyaa Akosa
General Manager – National Food and Agric Show (FAGRO)