How to Market Good Eggs (or anything else)

generic carton of eggsPeople who type “egg marketing” into a search engine often land on my website,  I hatched my company name because I like to think of myself as a “good egg,” not because I raise chickens. But since I call myself an EGG-spert, it’s time I shared my thoughts about how to market them.

The secret to marketing eggs (or anything else) is to turn them from an interchangeable commodity to something special.

Like many people, I’m horrified by the way that the conventional egg industry treats chickens, so I go out of my way to try to buy “good eggs.”  When I go to the supermarket, I’m overwhelmed by the number of terms used to market eggs, such as humanely-raised, free-range, pasture-raised, cage-free, organic, and/or hormone- and antibiotic-free. Unfortunately, these claims aren’t all they’re cracked up to be.  In fact, many so-called “organic” industrial egg farms keep their chickens as confined as the conventional farms.

So why aren’t local farmers trying to decommodify their eggs? Almost everyone at the farmers markets sells eggs, but hardly anyone crows about them. At best, they have a small sign stating that their eggs are pasture-raised, cage-free, or organic. Why not entice me to come over and find out why your eggs are special?

Karl Johnson of Pete & Gerry's
Karl Johnson of Pete & Gerry’s

Recently, I had a table at the NOFA Mass. Winter Conference. I was across the aisle from Pete & Gerry’s, the New Hampshire-based egg company. A multi-generation farm, their business took off when they started selling organic eggs. Rather continuing to raise more chickens themselves, they started working with contract growers along the East Coast to produce eggs that meet their standards.

Karl Johnson, Pete & Gerry’s former marketing director and now their Partner Farm Outreach Director, did an egg-cellent job of attracting my attention with the “guess how many eggs are in this glass vase” contest at his table. I was also impressed with how informative their signage and packaging were. “Our market research told us that what people cared about the most was humane treatment,” Johnson told me. “People also like the idea that the eggs are produced on small farms.”

Pete & Gerry’s does a great job expressing that information and their brand values. From the folksy name–(sound like Ben & Jerry’s, anyone?) to the logo with the snow-capped Green Mountains to the Certified Humane Raised & Handled seal to the recycled packaging, you get a strong sense of who they are. If they treat the farmers they work with as well as the chickens, I’d say we’re in good shape.

Pete & Gerry's Organic EggsPete & Gerry’s eggs aren’t unique. What makes their eggs SEEM special is that they provide so much information on the package (and more on their print and digital materials). They make it easy for me to know who they are and what they do. And now I’m passing the info along.

While most farms and small businesses don’t have the resources or expertise to produce such well-designed packaging, even simple signage and materials can convey a lot of information. Educate me about why your eggs are superior to anyone else’s. A laminated photo of chickens scratching at your feet gives me a feel for life on your farm. If you’re using generic egg cartons, why not sticker them with your logo and web address? Or color them with a magic marker. Give me something to cluck about.

And, of course, this doesn’t just apply to eggs. When you give me lots of information and put your personality behind the products you produce, they go from generic to special. So do something EGG-straordinary!