Branding for Agricultural Education

By McDonald, Amy Keith | The Agricultural Education Magazine, September/October 2009 | Go to article overview
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Branding for Agricultural Education

McDonald, Amy Keith, The Agricultural Education Magazine

What is branding, and just what does it have to do with agricultural education?

As an effective instructor of agricultural education, you may have no idea what "branding" means to a corporate authence. And, if you do know the term, you may not believe business "branding" has anything to do with you and your classroom. You may be surprised.

Branding is a word used often in corporate marketing. The American Marketing Association (AMA) defines a brand as a "name, term, sign, symbol or design, or a combination of them intended to identify the goods and services of one seller or group of sellers and to differentiate them from those of other sellers." For the sake of this analysis, consider that the product we are trying to sell is either agricultural education or FFA.

Authences have an affinity for certain brands. They are drawn to those brands, feel they have a relationship with those brands, and often choose to purchase those brands. But, as AMA points out, you must understand that branding is not about getting your target market to choose you over the competition. It is about getting your prospects to see you as the only one that provides a solution to their unique problem.

What does that mean to agricultural education? Ultimately, to provide a solution to someone's problems, you must know what those problems are and how your product, "agricultural education," might solve their issues. So, instead of saying to yourself "agricultural education is a great program, and you really need it because ..." you need to think "what does my target customer need, and does agricultural education (and/ or FFA) fulfill that need for them?"

Identify 'Warn Objective

This entire back-and-forth, "find the magic asset that perfectly fits the target's needs" works effectively only if you first have a solid understanding of your own objective. So, step one. What is my objective as an agricultural education instructor? A short statement can often help you drive your motivation and strategy for all of your activities, from coaching students on Career Development Event teams to determining whether to take students to the National FFA Convention.

As an agricultural science educator, what do you hope to accomplish? This could be a huge, far-reaching statement ... as in "I want to positively impact young people while maximizing my own contribution to the agricultural community." Or, it could be much more focused, such as "I want to maintain the respect and support of the local school board so my program's funding is never endangered." Regardless of what your objective is, you should make sure you know what you hope to accomplish from this goal. Who Do You Want/ Need to Influence?

The next step is to identify your target market or authences. Ask yourself two simple questions.

Who can prohibit me from continuing myjob as an agricultural educator, and Who can help me meet my objective?

This list may include the following, among others:

* The school board

* The school administration

* Current students/members

* Prospective students/members

* Community leaders

* Elected influencers

* Students' parents

* Prospective students' parents

Once you have strategically identified who you wish to influence, it is time to get "in their head." In other words, pretend you are this person and ask yourself: "What challenges do I encounter day to day? What would help me do myjob more effectively? What is important to me?" By asking questions and evaluating the answers, you can decide how to serve this target authence best while furthering your own ideals. Consider it an "everyone wins" scenario. Give the authence what they want or need, while capitalizing on the exchange for your own purposes.

When you cannot find a common ground, or ascertain that your product is not of benefit to the authence and solves no problem for them, then you face an entirely different set of challenges.

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