Last fall, Farmland Foods became the talk of the fashion industry when it called out Supreme streetwear for appropriating its logo.
Supreme, a major clothing brand known for its tendency to “borrow” famous logos for its culturally relevant collections, has a massive global following and has successfully partnered with iconic fashion companies such as Nike, Louis Vuitton, and Hanes. Supreme had just released its Week 1 Fall/Winter 2018 lookbook when Farmland’s marketing agency spotted the bacon brand’s logo on Supreme’s limited edition Horizon-5 hat.
Chad McFadden, a current Flex MBA student here at the Mason School and the brand manager for the Smithfield Foods subsidiary noted that while his first reaction was to be protective of the brand, he and his team ultimately decided to just have some fun with the situation. So rather than taking legal action, Farmland immediately responded to the logos’ likeness via Twitter with a simple callout reading: “Hey #Supreme, that logo looks super familiar. We missed the drop – what do you think about sending a few our way? #FARMLANDxSUPREME.” The post earned incredible engagement across social media platforms, leading to a 15% increase in followers and praise from influencers such as Hypebeast and Casey Neistat. And before Supreme could drop its Week 2 F/W’18 lookbook, Farmland had released its own fashion lookbook and used the photos to launch its Instagram account.
The Farmland lookbook, which featured the company’s farmers sporting Supreme’s products that bore the adopted logo, went viral almost instantly. “Since we missed the first Supreme drop, we went ahead and had a photoshoot of our own. And we found the perfect models,” read Farmland’s post. “And this Fall/Winter collection . . . looks as crispy as our bacon.” The brand’s marketing efforts earned over 63 million additional impressions on digital press and social media and outperformed all historic engagement rates on Facebook for 2018.
McFadden further commented that much of Farmland’s success can be attributed to the similar tonality of Farmland’s posts to Supreme’s streetwear culture. “You have to realize the audience you’re dealing with,” McFadden said. “Here, we’re normally talking to someone in the Midwest who’s 45 or older. So in thinking quickly to capitalize on a situation that was rapidly going viral, we tried to employ traditional streetwear language, like fire emojis and the word ‘drip,’ to reach our intended audience.” McFadden emphasized that even with this similar language, which enabled the company to skillfully mock Supreme, Farmland’s marketing content remained true to its brand image and thus allowed the company to earn the respect and admiration of the public. Employing the skills he learned during his time here at William & Mary, McFadden commented that “[Farmland’s marketing team] focused on really understanding our customer. Not only did we determine an impactful way to react to this obvious copyright infringement, but we also were able to communicate with the audience we were dealing with.” Marketing Professor Scott Swan, who previously taught McFadden, remarked that “Chad and his people did a perfect job in capturing the tone of Supreme's approach, engaging their customers, and siphoning some of their brand equity. It is an extremely hard thing to do to tweak the nose of a brand, not insult their customers, and in fact get them on your side. The Farmland team did a superb job of carefully massaging this to get the best outcome. This is not a short-term gain; This is the way you build brand equity over time."
While all of this attention ultimately raised the price of Supreme’s products displaying the reinterpreted logo, the fashion brand has yet to respond to its most recent trademark-breach accusation. Regardless, the world’s largest producer and processor of pork took the streetwear industry by a storm, and its farm fresh fashion lookbook and quick-witted marketing have since been described as the “greatest marketing response in agriculture since the dust bowl.”
While Farmland has requested “a heads up” for the “next time [Supreme’s] ready for a collab,” we’re certain its marketing team will continue to swiftly determine successful strategies to bring home the bacon.