VIEW FROM THE TOP
SYNGENTA'S FOCUS WILL MAKE IT ACTIVE, DYNAMIC ADVOCATE FOR AG
Editor’s Note: Syngenta was created in November 2000 through the merger of Novartis Agribusiness and Zeneca Agrochemicals. The company offers the industry’s broadest product portfolio to help growers produce safe, high-quality food and has the largest agribusiness research capability in the industry. Scott Parker, vice president of strategic marketing, Syngenta Crop Protection, North America, started his career with Syngenta and its predecessor companies more than 20 years ago. He joined Ciba in 1978 as a sales representative and held numerous positions in sales and marketing. During 1998-99, Parker headed a special crop solutions marketing project. He was promoted to vice president of field crops in 1999 and was named vice president of strategic marketing for the new Syngenta last year.
AM: You’ve worked for Ciba-Geigy, then Novartis (Ciba/Sandoz merger) in 1997 and now Syngenta (Novartis/Zeneca merger). What’s been the biggest marketing challenge with your customers amid these changes?
SP: All of these changes have provided a chance to learn from the successes and failures of the past and to build something new for the future. Two principles have worked well for Syngenta in maintaining good relationships with dealers, distributors and growers. The first is consistency. We operate in all major areas of crop protection and seeds, and we have a solid track record when it comes to customer service and products to meet producer needs. This hasn’t changed with the advent of Syngenta. The second principle is communication. During the merger, we frequently contacted our key customers to give them updates - and to remind them that we would offer no less than the same quality products and exceptional levels of customer service that we’ve always offered. We retained about 70 percent of the combined sales forces from the previous (Novartis/Zeneca) companies, a move that will reinforce how committed we are to meeting customers’ needs.
AM: From a marketing standpoint, how do you plan to take advantage of your company’s "single focus" on agriculture?
SP: Syngenta’s ag-only focus will allow us to speak consistently with one voice and be an active and dynamic advocate for agriculture. As the world’s largest company dedicated solely to agribusiness, our bread and butter is the same as it is for the customers we serve. When agriculture succeeds, so do we. Our investment in research and technology - approximately $760 million on research annually, or about $2 million a day - will help us continually refine existing products and restock the pipeline. In the next three years, Syngenta plans to introduce seven global products in crop protection. Some are first-time launches for new active ingredients, and some are new developments and uses for existing chemicals.
AM: How can you create marketing synergies between the products and crops on which they are used when you are so diverse?
SP: The diversity of our product line is a big plus because we have solutions to meet virtually every grower’s total needs. We start with strong brands, focus on what works best by crop and then apply that knowledge all the way to the individual farm. Ours is not a cookie-cutter approach.
AM: You have a major effort under way looking at e-business solutions for customers. Are these efforts targeted at eventual direct selling, or are they another tool to communicate marketing information to customers?
SP: It’s the latter. Put simply, we see e-business as a way to help meet customers’ needs - both at the retail level and the producer level. For our existing channel partners, e-business can improve efficiency, drive down transactional costs and provide valuable business information online. For growers, e-business can help them with products and services specific to their geographic region. We’ll work in concert with our channel partners to make e-business viable for growers.
AM: What keeps you excited about this business?
SP: Have you ever thought how we’re going to feed 8 billion people on this planet by 2030 without access to more tillable land? Syngenta’s people and products have a very important role to play in helping make sure agriculture continues to meet the global need for food. The responsibility is sobering, and my enthusiasm comes from my interaction with people involved in all facets of our industry to fulfill that need. AM