How to Pick a Fruitful Marketing Strategy: Three Juicy Takeaways from Walmart’s “Picked by Farmers" Campaign

Recently, Walmart has launched a series of video spots they call “Picked by Farmers, Guaranteed by Us,” featuring the farmers who grow and supply their produce. Each of these vignettes focuses on one individual farmer and one specific variety of fruit or vegetable. Additionally, each spot is centered around one of three themes: the personal story of the farmer and his experience working with Walmart (“Growers’ Stories”), helpful tips for how to select, store and prepare a particular type of produce (“Tips from the Farm”) or Walmart’s money-back guarantee. At first glance, these spots seem rather simplistic. There’s no trendy music, no rail-thin models indulging in the products, no Hollywood-worthy camera tricks or special effects. After all, we’re not selling iPads or BMWs here. But delve below the surface, and you’ll discover true marketing genius at work. Let’s look at the three core principles that make this campaign powerfully effective and how you can apply the same concepts to your own marketing strategy:

1. Serve before you sell.

Of course, these spots are designed to sell produce. As Walmart continues to take a bigger bite out of the grocery market with the aggressive expansion of its “Neighborhood Market” and “Walmart Express” concept stores throughout the country, they need to make sure that consumers think of them as their go-to destination not only for tires and diapers but also for tomatoes and dairy products. However, in the “Tips from the Farm” series, Walmart eschews using an overt sales message in favor of providing valuable, relevant information to their customers to help them make better buying decisions. For shoppers, there’s nothing more frustrating than spending their hard-earned dollars on fresh fruits and vegetables only to get home and find that their watermelon has no taste or their tomatoes have a mushy texture. With this understanding in mind, Walmart offers helpful tips on how to select, store and use these items to help their customers make the most of their grocery budgets (Don’t wash your strawberries until you’re ready to use them! Don’t put your tomatoes in the refrigerator! Pick an avocado with a firmness similar to the palm of your hand!). And who better to give this advice than the farmers who have dedicated their lives to understanding everything there is to know about these crops? To apply this principle to your own marketing strategy, think about your area of expertise and how you can put your inside knowledge to work to help your customers. For example, let’s say you own a home renovation business. Any homeowner who has undertaken a remodeling project knows how quickly all of the choices they must make can become overwhelming. Give these potential clients a hand by producing a series of videos that explain the advantages and disadvantages of different materials for countertops or flooring or showcase trends in lighting and other decorative fixtures. You’ll likely find that by dishing out a little free advice, you can earn major trust points with potential customers.

2. Be human.

One of the criticisms most often launched against Walmart is that it’s a big, unfeeling corporate giant with no face and no heart. But the Growers’ Stories spots show us that behind the Goliath, there are many Davids, and when we buy watermelons from Walmart, we’re actually buying them from third-generation farmer Jack Wallace in Edinburg, Texas. And we’re buying tomatoes from Scott Rush in Florida and strawberries from Mike Ferro in Oxnard, California. These are honest, hard-working Americans who care deeply about putting a quality product on your dinner table. The lesson here is this: Branding is important, always. But your company must be more than a brand. It must be human through and through. Whenever possible, you should remind your customers that they’re working with a team of people who are passionate about what they do, driven to exceed expectations and honestly apologetic if and when mistakes are made.

3. Counteract your brand’s vulnerabilities.

To sell anything – whether it’s a tomato or a tablet or a total kitchen remodel – you first must overcome the psychological objections of your customer. The current trend among foodies is the local food movement, which is focused on buying and using fresh, locally sourced ingredients. As cited previously, one of Walmart’s biggest branding challenges is their perception as the enemy of Main Street and the nemesis of the Mom-and-Pop. Therefore, Walmart is the antithesis of all things local, right? Not necessarily. As their Growers’ Story spot on tomatoes demonstrates, Walmart partners with small farmers around the country to distribute locally grown produce to nearby stores. And, in the end, if a customer is not satisfied with the quality of the produce, they can get their money back. The combined effect of these two messages is that Walmart has implicitly defended itself against a commonly held negative perception about its brand while negating any risk for customers in giving their products a try. What can you take away from this approach? Every brand has its weaknesses. While you don’t want to explicitly acknowledge these vulnerabilities, at every step along the way in the sales process, you should be aware of the red flags and concerns that might be giving your customer pause, and proactively counteract those inhibitions by providing  helpful (and true!) information that will help them make a confident buying decision.