Change Alley

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Organic: Just Another Brand?

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The use of “bland and ineffectual promotional language” puts organic food at risk of becoming “just another commercial brand”, concludes a study by the Open University’s Centre for Research in Education and Educational technology (CREET). Their report ‘The Discourse of Organic Food Promotion: language, intentions and effects‘ says that retailers and campaigners are failing to focus on the core selling points of organic food. They tend to use “poetic, vague and emotive” language in their marketing, with an “emphasis on story-telling rather than facts”. According to Guy Cook, Professor of Language and Education at the OU:

“Buyers are not as easily manipulated as marketeers seem to believe. They reacted negatively to extravagant descriptions of ‘succulent sausages’ and animals that are ‘free to root and roam’.
“People see organic farming and its benefits for the environment and economy as promoting a sense of community. Supermarkets by their very definition are not interested in the idea of small community and so cannot sell that ideal.
“Our studies [of organic food promotion] show marketing and PR departments and their received wisdom can often be patronising and out of date…. this is a key moment for the organic movement. Does it want to remain distinctive and politically committed, or go down the road of becoming just another commercial brand?”

Now I’m no academic, so I’m probably missing the point. However, I would have thought that the massive growth in demand for organic produce was the sign of a successful organic movement. Moreover, it seems to me that placing organics at the core of shopping habits is the way to go, rather than differentiating. If organic food becomes an automatic choice, rather than one that the consumer has to mull over for every buying decision, then that must be regarded as a success.


Written by Pete Smith

December 6, 2007 at 3:26 pm

One Response

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  1. Yes, I see what you mean Pete.

    I can see the dilemma though. If organic produce becomes mainstream, and the big supermarkets take over, organic farming will have to be widened, become more industrialised perhaps and “organic” will lose some of its grass roots ethics . . . community, locality, family business etc . . .


    December 8, 2007 at 11:38 am

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