Consumer Curiosity and Why We Love It
A couple months ago, we looked at some practical tips and tricks for making an effective agricultural exhibit or display. Hopefully, that post helped give you a general idea of how to use your display to connect with consumers. But it likely left you with some questions about the specifics of making your displays fit the needs of consumers. If your goal in having these exhibits and displays is to help educate consumers about agriculture, then you’ll want to know what topics to cover. What are the “must know” matters? What topics cause confusion?
Thankfully, people are curious about agriculture, and they’ve expressed that curiosity. All we need to do is examine this consumer curiosity and use it as a blueprint. Take what they’re curious or confused about and simply start the discussion
So, today, we’ll show you how to find and respond to the issues that pique consumer curiosity. Hopefully, this post will inspire you as you develop your next ag education tool.
Woah. Where to start. Is anyone else overwhelmed?
If so, you’re not alone. As a part of the agricultural community, you’re a minority in this nation. As we learned in a previous post, only 1% of American citizens are farmers. That leaves 99% un-farmed with only a fraction of that percentage actively engaged in ag-related activities. There’s not much to connect the two distinct groups. And, as the nation becomes increasingly urbanized, the disconnect is only growing. This makes it hard for each side to hear what the other one has to say. How can they engage in a conversation if they never hear from each other?
Thankfully, even though the physical disconnect between consumers and the farm has grown, so has technology. This means that, even though it may not be easy to gather together a group of curious consumers and put them in a meeting with some farmers, consumers can express their curiosity through other means. Online forums, for example, offer a convenient location for open-ended discussions about food. Even social media is a pretty reliable place to go in order to see what’s on consumers’ minds. There are also websites where consumers can submit their questions directly to farmers. Using their questions as springboards, the farmers on these websites come up with content that helps cure consumer curiosity.
For our purposes today, we’ll be referring to some content at findourcommonground.com. There are plenty of other well-curated sites that you could use too, but I especially recommend this one. It provides a particularly nice combination of videos and blogs to help voice and address consumer questions.
So what are consumers curious about? What questions are they asking?
For starters, check out this video from the Find Our Common Ground YouTube channel. In the video, a few farming women approach shoppers in a grocery store who have some questions about food. Here are some of the questions they raise:
“I was just wondering about milk and hormones in milk.”
“Is it better to buy my groceries and my produce from a farmers market or from a grocery store?”
“I was just curious about pesticides.”
“What about organic versus non-organic?”
“I’ve heard a lot of conflicting things about GMOs.”
“What’s the difference between the grass-fed and just the grain-fed?”
With just a glance, we can see some common threads in each of these topics. As a whole, they all tend toward the question of safety (for both the consumer and the animal) as well as food benefits. There’s also some curiosity about sustainability as well.
An even more unifying thread, however, is that most of the questions relate directly to subjects that are pretty controversial. Many of them get a lot of attention in the media, and other ones have to do with the way that food companies market their food, such as with the organic label, the non-GMO label, the grass-fed label, and the “no hormones” label. In other words, for many of these topics, consumers are hearing a certain message from people outside of the ag community, and they want to know if it’s true. Their desire to find the truth about their food is what leads them to ask these questions of farmers.
It’s not just true of the consumers in this video, though. This is true of most consumers, and these questions are representative of what others are asking as well.
And it’s your job to give some answers.
The Importance of Being Real
Now that you know what sorts of questions pique consumer curiosity, it’s all on you to provide some answers.
You may consider yourself unqualified to answer these sorts of questions. Maybe you’re not a scientist and don’t really grasp the ins and outs of everything involved in genetic modification, or maybe your line of work in the ag industry doesn’t put you directly on a farm but instead in a lab or in an office.
That’s okay. You still have something to offer these people. It’s something they’ll never have: your unique perspective. You know people they don’t know. You’ve been places they’ll never been. And you’ve seen a different side of the agricultural industry. It’s just your job to be real about what you know and to use your resources to learn and share the truth about food.
When you talk, use down-to-earth language. Answer questions honestly. As the ladies in that video did, use visual examples to illustrate the processes you’re talking about. That’s where our work at Exhibit Farm can come especially in handy. Most of all, though, don’t ignore the hard questions. Those are the ones that will really transform a curious or confused consumer into a confident consumer.
So what are you waiting for? Consumer curiosity is there for you to work with. It’s your window of opportunity to tell about the ag community that you’re a part of. Just do the research, find some questions, and use your unique perspective to offer answers that will make a difference for consumers.
And don’t forget the importance of being real.