The Challengers: Nick Darken, Chief of Brand, Farmdrop
Nick Darken is Chief of Brand at Farmdrop, the grocery challenger brand here to fix the food chain. It’s all about sustainability, and the farmers get the majority of the retail price too, helping Farmdrop distance itself from traditional supermarket fare – and helping Nick to distance himself from his previous life in agencies.
“I’m here to help create the UK’s most famous grocery challenger brand. It’s a fascinating business to be a part of as it’s not just a tech platform; we are also a logistics business and we work with farmers working the land with traditional methods handed down through generations.
“We’re trying to fix the food chain. It sounds lofty but actually it’s really simple. Mass production of food led by supermarkets has created complexity which is bad all around: for the environment, producers, animal welfare and the quality of the food. We’re going back to basics to connect local, indie farmers with people in urban cities via technology. Food and the consequences of the way it is produced is so integral to the way everyone lives. If we don’t pave the way for a more sustainable food chain we will simply not have a planet on which to exist.
“Our purpose is everything at Farmdrop. We are very cognisant of how easy it is to fall into the same practices as our competitors. Fresh food logistics is incredibly complicated, especially when dealing with independent producers. It’s easy to take short cuts which is why, when you peel back the glossy packaging, you see how messed up food production really is.
“However the grocery sector is hugely competitive and getting people to change where they shop is akin to changing bank or energy provider. Most people are also very promiscuous when it comes to grocery shopping and will mix online shops with top-ups from local stores or markets. Staying top of mind with a modest budget the role of marketing at Farmdrop.
“I’m inspired by challenger brands with attitude. Dollar Shave Club I think paved the way for online businesses to come from nowhere take a chunk out of big corporate incumbents. As a bloke I loved their YouTube video, the style of which has been much-copied ever since. It was pure swagger crafted with just enough choreographed haphazard. The fact they were acquired by Unilever shows the power of this piece.
“I think people are much more mindful about the choices they are making as consumers and how those decisions impact the world. So if a new brand can make a better product, for the same of better price, produced in a way that aligns to their personal values then why wouldn’t they buy it instead? Brands producing products which have a positive impact on the environment and society stand out. And niche products which feel more personal and crafted also play well to consumers wanting something a little different.
“I like to be provocative. Over the years I’ve learned to balance stuff which I know works, with stuff that has a degree of unknown. I like that feeling of being uncomfortable when getting a campaign out there. That means you’ve risked something – either the team’s time or a degree of differentiation in the execution or message. Challenger marketers should get out of their comfort zone and feel the fear with marketing. That’s when you know you’re doing a good job.”