Years ago, Cynthia Chiles’ mom made hand-lettered fliers to let people know when to come pick apples from the family’s orchards. She took out a classified ad when fruit was ripe.
When Chiles took up a leadership role at Crown Orchard 15 years ago, she still did the marketing herself. “I have a degree in marketing. And I love doing it,” she says. “But eventually, I didn’t have time for it.”
Five years ago, Chiles approached The Ivy Group to work with her and her family business. “When we first met Cynthia, she had a vision of where she wanted the marketing to go and how the business could grow,” says Pam Fitzgerald, managing director of The Ivy Group. “Together, we envisioned a real partnership where we were all committed to the process.”
The first step was for The Ivy Group to learn about Crown Orchard. “We needed to understand what the business was like day-to-day to know its marketing needs. Only then could we create a strategy,” says Fitzgerald.
The marketing strategy would be based on a brand narrative, which Fitzgerald says is a promise to the customer of a certain kind of experience. “For a brand narrative to be successful, it must be authentic,” she says. “The stories we tell about a business and the lived experience of the customer have got to match. It’s a living, evolving story. When someone goes to one of the orchards, they create a memory of the experience, which becomes part of the brand narrative.”
The Crown Orchard brand narrative arose from “looking around the orchards and seeing what memories are being made today, as well as the story of the Chiles family,” says Fitzgerald. “We didn’t have to romanticize the story because it already had everything it needed. Five generations. The best memories of your childhood or of the childhood you wished you had.”
Fitzgerald, along with Franziska “Siska” Matiuk, Ivy Group brand and web manager, and Julia Prince, digital and content manager, oversaw a brand refresh that created a new look and feel for the brand. Working with Chiles, they decided what images best represented the Crown Orchard experience.
“We wanted images that evoked those peak moments that you remember forever,” says Matiuk. “The first bite of a fresh cider donut. Sitting on a picnic blanket watching the sun set over the mountains. Carrying a toddler on piggyback through the peach trees.” The Ivy Group team created a visual design program that would be consistent across media. They overhauled the website to make it interactive, responsive, and user-friendly.
Family is at the core of the orchard experience, so The Ivy Group team has kept the Chiles family front and center. Cynthia is the voice of the orchards on radio, Henry Chiles—as “Farmer Henry”—stars in video content, and Lizzy Chiles, one of the youngest members of the family and a millennial, is The Ivy Group’s marketing partner.
As part of developing their strategy, the Ivy Group team conducted customer research. “We needed to figure out who customers were and what they liked,” says Matiuk. “We segmented the customer base and did a personas exercise where we created abstract ‘customers’ to represent the different kinds of people who come to the orchards.” Parents bring their children, of course, but young professionals come, too. Students visit on dates. And empty nesters come to enjoy the view with a glass of wine. In other words, people experience the orchards in many different ways.
Personas have invented back-stories, day-to-day lives, preferences, and opinions that allow the creative team to imagine what experiences would appeal to them.
“In the office, we’d talk about what kind of concert ‘Barbara,’ the empty nester, would enjoy. Or we’d ask what ‘Tyler,’ the young professional, cares about,” says Prince.
The Ivy Group gathered data for two years. The research confirmed many of Cynthia Chiles’ ideas about who her customers were. “It was fascinating to see the personas come to life and to have analytics to confirm that we are moving in the right direction,” says Chiles.
Chiles says that working successfully with an agency requires building a relationship of trust. Fitzgerald agrees.
“The agency-client relationship often starts small,” says Fitzgerald. “It’s like a courtship in the beginning, testing things out, learning about each other. Later, it’s more like a marriage; there is give and take. We can pick up the slack when needed. The relationship grows with you.”
For instance, Chiles isn’t a “big social media person,” she says. Instead, the team at Ivy Group keeps up with the online platforms so that Chiles can keep up with the changes at the orchards. But the relationship is close; Chiles talks or emails with the Ivy team almost every day.
“Ultimately, what we are doing is framing the saga of Cynthia and her family,” says Fitzgerald, “a great story that was always there.”