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February 9, 2010

Mary Jane’s Farm: A Model of Community Building

3 minute read, in Audiences/Communities of Interest/Community/Communities of Practice / Brand Strategy / Community / Impact / Marketing / Method & Craft / Needle/Mission/Agenda / Perception

Yesterday’s news that magazine sales at newsstands are plummeting across North America should come as no surprise to those who have seen traditional media like newspapers struggle to find their footing in the face of social media. Loyalty is hard to come by in the magazine world. Magazines are a discretionary purchase. Gum? hand sanitizer? magazine?

Screen shot 2010-02-09 at 12.00.01 PMSo how to cultivate loyalty among a fickle readership. Give them something that resonates on a deep values level then they won’t be fickle. They’ll be devout.  That’s exactly what Mary Jane’s Farm has done. Imagine a magazine where readers write in to say:

“Thank you Mary Jane for reminding me what was most important in the world, who I wanted my daughters to grow up to be, and how I could return to my true self.”

True Self. Wow. Imagine a Lucky magazine reader saying that (ha!).

Mary Jane’s Farm is not just a magazine for famers or want-to-be farmers. It is for women, rural and city folk alike,  for whom the values of the farm resonate deeply. Basically those who believe in the values of homesteading–be they NY corporate lawyers or stay at home moms in Idaho. In fact, one of the magazine’s credos is “It’s not where you live, but how you live.” And they have four different bloggers; city, rural, ranch and suburban.

Screen shot 2010-02-09 at 11.53.20 AM

For Mary Jane’s Farm, no matter where you’re from, you’re part of their community if you subscribe to the following 5 core values:

  1. Want to know where your food comes from
  2. Participate in its production
  3. Care about family
  4. Create community
  5. Make something with your hands

In his book Making Meaning, Nathan Shedroff points to 15 core meanings that help create long lasting relationships with consumers.

One of the primary ways Mary Jane’s farm creates meaning for it’s readers is through the value of community which Shedroff defines as “a sense of unity with others around us and a general connection with other human beings.”

There’s an awful lot of talk about the word community these days. Throw up a facebook fan page and “bam” you’ve got a community. Those of us who have ever belonged to a community know it’s about much more than pushing a button, or being a fan. It’s about being a committed participant on a ritualized level. Think about Harley Davidson devotees or those who follow the band Phish from state to state.

When you speak to people’s core values, you are not discretionary. You are core to their lives. As one Mary Jane’s farm Facebook fan puts it “I pinched pennies to get this magazine coming this year.”

Mary Jane’s Farm leverages the power of their values based brand in several ways.

  • Content: The magazine does not suck. It does not exploit its readers by overloading them with ads. Instead, it fills the magazine with useful content on subjects that matter to its community–from preserving, to cast-iron recipes, to sharing quilting and profiles of subscribers.
  • Farmgirl Sisterhood: When you join the sisterhood you get a bunch of special perks like a newsletter and access to the online forum but you also get a badge–the first of many you can earn for things like crocheting, community service, going green, etc.
  • Real-Life Meetings: The Farmgirl Sisterhood and Chapters get-togethers where all the members get together for a good ‘ol time. I’m dying to go.
  • Lots More: There are countless ways to engage with the Mary Jane’s Farm brand. You can stay at their B&B, get their books and other products like sewing patterns, organic beef, etc. watch “Farm U” videos and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Seriously.

When you do something that is authentic and resonates on a values level a community forms around your brand. A Twitter feed or Facebook page means little if an emotional chord isn’t being struck. Would people pinch pennies to afford your product? Would they want to chat with others who also buy your product? Would they want to sleep in your B & B if you had one? Would they want to wear your badge?

This is the definition of community. As the Mary Jane’s Farm girls might say, the rest is hogwash.

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