Since the heyday of packaged goods marketing in the 60’s, nothing has impacted the art and science of branding more than the social media tsunami. Who would have thought that brand promises broadcasted to the masses would be trumped by conversations between the manufacturer, their brand and the individual consumer. Social media is about connecting people; it is not about planting a problem in the viewer’s mind and jamming the solution down their throat via a 30 second television commercial. As for the adaptation of this new medium by old school marketers . . . many are fighting the movement every inch of the way. Not Procter & Gamble, branding’s pioneer. If in doubt, all you have to do is Google Old Spice Social Media Case Study.
My fascination with social media is rooted in the opportunity it affords the small guy. Devoid of massive budgets, unknown brands can play in the big leagues by competing with an arsenal of creativity, rather than clout. The right idea, sincerity of purpose, and superior execution can firmly imbed any brand or company within the chosen market.
You’ve likely never heard of Houweling’s Tomatoes. You are about to; not because of this blog – because of social media. In the interest of transparency, I’ll declare my bias. I’ve known the proprietor of this tomato greenhouse operation for almost 20 years. Casey Houweling isn’t known for brilliant marketing. He happens to be world renowned for introducing innovations in sustainability to the global greenhouse industry. Yet, despite the fact that his greenhouse operation may be the greenest on the planet, his brand still suffers from low consumer awareness. This happens to be the case for virtually every small to medium sized fruit and vegetable farm.
Houweling’s marketing department consists of one individual who happens to be my son. David is a big proponent of social media. In January, he launched Houweling’s Tomatoes on Facebook and Twitter. He even coaxed Casey into writing bi-weekly blog posts about greenhouse tomatoes, green business, sustainable agriculture, and pretty much anything that will help consumers enjoy tomatoes at their best, even if they are home-grown. Casey and David don’t view home gardeners as competition. They see them as fellow tomato enthusiasts and they are keen to help them improve the quality and quantity of their summer crop.
After 6 months of social media attention, Houweling’s is up to 11,000 Facebook fans and 750 Twitter followers. “The Seeds of Tomorrow are Sown Today” is the company’s first foray into the self-produced video arena. I’m inspired by the story, but then again, I’m biased. You be the judge. Watch the video and give me your feedback. I’ll gladly share your comments with Casey and David. And if you like it, kindly pass it on.