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CORE ORGANIC "Farmers Consumer Partnership" Report on the Elaboration and test of new communication concepts (Deliverable n. 3 - WP4)

Zanoli, Raffaele and Naspetti, Simona (2010) CORE ORGANIC "Farmers Consumer Partnership" Report on the Elaboration and test of new communication concepts (Deliverable n. 3 - WP4). Università Politecnica delle Marche, Ancona, Italy.

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Document available online at: http://fcp.coreportal.org


Globalisation and growing anonymity of trade with organic products causes farmers in Europe to see themselves forced to lower their production standards in order to stand up to world-wide competition. Furthermore, consumers criticise food products, which were produced under unsatisfactory social and environmental conditions. Thus, this project investigates marketing and communication strategies by which organic farmers try to include higher ethical values in their production than the statutory ones. The aim is to know, which communication arguments for ethical aspects have proved to be the most promising from the consumers’ point of view in different countries.
In the first part of this project, promising communication strategies and arguments of farmers’ organisations will be identified. Selected arguments will be tested in different regions by a so-called Information Display Matrix (IDM). With this tool, the best ranked alternative product attributes and sales arguments will be detected. Advertising companies will then develop product labels and leaflets with information using the best-ranked arguments per country. Afterwards, different proposals for labels and leaflets will be tested in a two step approach with consumers by using Focus Group Discussions and a sales experiment in a so-called Consumer Choice Test. The experiment will be used to analyse consumers’ buying behaviour and willingness to pay by presenting real products in a close to realistic laboratory setting.
The results will provide a valuable tool for the strategic positioning of organic companies and farmers’ initiatives to differentiate their products from the mass market of organic products and improve their products’ image and the consumers’ willingness to pay. The results will also be interesting for policy makers to gain a better understanding of the country-specific attitudes of ethical consumers.
With regards to the testing of new coomunication arguments, a national public call to advertising companies for the production of a communication tool (product label) was used to test for the most promising national organicPlus arguments of WP 3 (Animal Welfare, Local Food Production and Fair Price) through Focus Group (FG) discussions (three FGs per country). Both FGs (consumer jury) and questionnaires were used to capture the variability of consumer reactions to the communication tools in the five different EU countries: Austria (AT), Germany (DE), Italy (IT), Switzerland (CH) and the United Kingdom (UK).
The organicPlus arguments were expressed in words, symbols and pictures on the egg labels. Later, to measure the effectiveness of the labels, a total of 18 FG discussions were held to investigate the consumer attitudes and preferences towards the advertising labels. To test the different egg labels, the consumer juries discussed the labels, after which the participants were asked to fill in individual questionnaires. These were designed to measure participant reactions and responses to the label arguments and their general attitudes towards advertising. After ten days, telephone interview were carried out that were designed to measure the participants’ recall of the labels. Five different measures were used in the questionnaires to evaluate participants’ attitudes towards the egg labels: emotional quotient (label liking), believability, effectiveness (willingness to buy), and recall, and a general measure of attitude towards advertising was also used.
Only organic egg consumers and buyers of organic eggs, as either regular or occasional, were included into the survey sample.
Although the intention of this advertising label test was to examine the organicPlus arguments via a common communication tool, the results provide a particularly dissimilar picture of participants’ attitudes towards the egg labels across the five different EU countries. Although previously tested and selected by the research teams, the label layout, the graphical elements, and the colour of the labels were widely discussed by the FG participants. Most participants disliked the layout. This negative perception towards all of the labels could have biased the organicPlus argument perception analyses. What is quite clear that arose from the CH and DE discussions was that participants did not like to be emotionally touched by the labels/ arguments. The only particular wording that the participants from all of the countries liked to see on the labels was: ‘6 fresh organic free-range eggs’, which made them trust the quality of the eggs.
The bad perception of the labels is confirmed by the emotional quotient and believability measurements of the organicPlus arguments. In some cases, translation issues and label style were the reasons behind the participants’ bad opinions about the labels: many of the participants emphasised the unprofessional styles of the labels.
Animal Welfare was the most liked argument. Local Food Production was generally scored second. Fair Prices showed the lowest scores. Particularly in DE and CH, the participants complained about the lack of relevant information versus “empty and meaningless” label claims. Despite the generalised low level of liking of the labels, one communication concept (headline, body copy, and related symbols) for each argument was preferred (or less disliked) in all of the countries. Animal Welfare 1 was preferred to Animal Welfare 2, Local Food Production 1 to Local Food Production 2, and Fair Price 1 to Fair Price 2.
In summary, most consumers:
•are not happy to ‘support’ farmers;
•are ready to treat cows “with love and care”, but cannot associate strong emotional bonds to hens;
•are not happy with vague and overblown statements (100% organic), in all of the countries except IT;
•need to associate the term ‘local’ with a specific place;
•cannot positively associate the term ‘tradition’ with primary production, but only with processing methods.
The results support the use of a green label for organic egg packaging, while care needs to be taken with the addition of any extra organicPlus claims. Labels naively appealing to emotions were not accepted in most of the countries under scrutiny, while pure price information is not enough to promote some arguments, especially the Fair Price one, if the consumer cognitive dissonance is too high.

EPrint Type:Report
Keywords:advertisng; consumer; focus group; Core Organic FCP
Subjects: Food systems > Markets and trade
Food systems > Processing, packaging and transportation
Values, standards and certification > Consumer issues
Research affiliation: Italy > Univ. Politecnica delle Marche (prev. Univ. Ancona)
European Union > CORE Organic > FCP
Related Links:http://agrecon.univpm.it
Deposited By: Zanoli, Prof. Raffaele
ID Code:16678
Deposited On:01 Feb 2010 12:15
Last Modified:12 Apr 2010 07:42
Document Language:English
Refereed:Not peer-reviewed

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