Organic Brands : UK Marketing and PR Campaign

by Julie Gibbons on September 27, 2010

You’ve probably heard of The Soil Association before – and perhaps even Garden Organic, if you’ve green fingers, but do you know about The Organic Trade Board or Organic UK?

Have you visited their website Why I Love Organic?


Well, I visited these websites last week to discover that

Sustain and the Organic Trade Board have been successful in their bid to the EU! The UK organic industry now has £2m over three years to run an integrated marketing campaign to help increase sales of organic products and promote the “organic brand”. The main advertising campaign will start in January 2011 and will include significant press advertising in women’s and supermarket magazines. Our objective? A 15% increase in sales per year for the three years of the campaign.

My first thoughts are hurrah! The organic industry does need to wage some kind of sustained, cohesive campaign to promote the organic message to individuals. There is so much adverse coverage leading to headlines which only serve to at best confuse and at worst counteract any evidence that organic produce, organic farming and organic lifestyles enhance our lives and that of the planet.

From the Organic UK site:

It will inform consumers about why they should buy organic products – how to identify organic products, what organic standards say and what the benefits of organic food production are.

The campaign will be a mixture of PR, advertising and on-line promotion. The steering group is optimistic that funds will be raised to make above the line advertising and on-line advertising a possibility for the first time.

Oh, there’s a PR Agency in charge of the campaign. You can check out the introduction to their campaign back in January 2010 (it’s already running late by a quarter) …

You will see that their plan is a “determined focus on the occasional organic shoppers” and the bulk of the advertising will appear in women’s and supermarket magazines. Oh, and they aim to create an online community for individuals to go to share their views.

Really? A whole new community dedicated to the organic movement, in which they are expecting supermarket shopping mums to congregate and swap stories. Because they have time for that. And they don’t have anywhere else to go already? Come off it.

A few supermarket magazine ads and an appearance in Marie Claire with a cute Facebook game ain’t gonna cut it. The campaign is trying to convert 80% of shoppers who contribute 10% of organic sales… with a comparitively speaking teensy budget.

Does this PR agency understand they are competing with the marketing might of Coca-Cola and Tesco? Don’t they understand that supermarket shopping mums will need more than a £2 million ad campaign and a here-today-gone-tomorrow Facebook application to convert them?

Crucially, doesn’t anyone understand that most organic shoppers don’t have their needs met by supermarkets (and I’d bet most organic brands don’t, either)?

The organic movement is already in existence. It already has its supporters and advocates.

Would it not be better for the organic brands to figure out a way to expand their reach and increase their sales values to the 60% of committed organic enthusiasts? Where money doesn’t need to be spent on education. And where you’re not fighting against some pretty dubious business ethics?

Imagine harnessing some of that budget to help match the suppliers and the consumers who choose organic for more reasons than there’s a buy one get one free deal…

The agency ends its proposal with a promise that the campaign will be “Brave, thought-provoking and smart”. I’ll bet my professional reputation that it won’t and it will fail. Or perhaps they’ll hijack Farmville and reach the masses that way and I’ll be proven wrong.

What do you think? How would you tackle this as a marketing issue?

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{ 1 trackback }

Why I Love Organic
January 11, 2011 at 11:49 am

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Chris Arnold August 31, 2011 at 1:14 am

Love your comments on the organic campaign, have to agree. I have mentioned you in my blog on Brand Republic. Check our Arnold on Ethical Marketing (


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