The National Farmers Union came into being in 1908, during a meeting held in an ante-room at the Smithfield Show. The ambition was to form a national organisation to represent the interests of farmers; 112 years on and the NFU is one of the most effective and respected trade associations in Britain.
By 2018 however, despite having a large and relatively stable base of farmer members, the NFU commissioned a piece of research to better understand the current UK farming and farmer landscape. 2018 was the year touted as pivotal for the industry as it entered the 'digital revolution' but it was also the year after the UK had given notice of its intent to leave the EU and the year a young Greta Thunberg started skipping school to strike for climate action.
With a fifty five page research de-brief, the NFU tasked S3 to re-look at its Membership Communications and recommend a refreshed design approach; one that would allow the NFU to support farmers as they navigated new advances in technology, to acknowledge Brexit and the uncertainty is was causing, and to recognise the increasing regulations and pressures of environmental groups (amongst many other factors).
In addition, we were to continue using the NFU’s existing bank of member imagery and testimonials as the focus of our new design.
When we poured over the research it became clear that there was no single way in which the UK’s farming industry was changing. In fact, the industry was changing and diversifying everywhere; be it in terms of age and gender of a ’typical’ farmer, new and different sectors of operation or even in fundamental approach to farming itself as lifestyle, business or a nuanced blend of the two.
Our first step was to explore and identify the NFU’s natural strength in the face of this rapid diversification.
The NFU’s natural strength lies in its breadth and depth of coverage; not just in terms of sectors represented and services offered, but also in terms of the diversity of members themselves.
As the industry diversified, we understood from the research that the modern farmer was having to take on many more roles than ever before. For the NFU, not only were they seeing entirely new and different types of farmers, they were also fielding new and different queries from the same farmers they had had on their books for years.
Our strategy was to celebrate the many different and diverse roles modern farmers now had to undertake, and to present the NFU as their constant, steadfast champion.
We put together a fresh, new design approach for the NFU’s Press and Digital membership communications and we also proposed an evolved brand mission and endline; from ‘The NFU. We’re here for you’ to ‘The NFU. We’re here for all of you’.
We went back through the files of member imagery and testimonials and pulled out the best, most confident and striking ‘farming heroes’. Editing down their stories, we overlaid their portraits with unexpected and contrasting ‘job descriptors', highlighting the NFU’s appreciation and support of farming diversity.
Our approach works across the three core aspects of membership comms (Lobbying & Representation; Information, Advice & Guidance; and Exclusive Member Benefits) and also across the NFU’s member base from Tenants to Student Farmers and Safety Campaigners.
Our executions are easily translated from Press into Digital Display and easily re-formatted to Welsh, for NFU Cymru. With quarterly campaigns, we are also able to create new executions to promote the new focus areas for each quarter; ensuring an evergreen campaign that farmers look out for, rather than disregard as something they’ve already seen.
NFU: Representing modern farming, for more than 100 years
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