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PRODUCT MARKETING MANAGERS: THE BOTTOM LINE OF THE BRAND
Editor's Note: Product marketing managers play a key role in agribusiness and agrimarketing today. Many in our industry know that market managers are key decision makers but are unaware of what this group does behind the scenes. Agri Marketing has interviewed six of the industry's product marketing managers to identify their place in agriculture corporations. They are: Doug Durand, general marketing manager, AGCO Corporation; Scott Gibson, director of business development, Delta & Pine Land Company; Rick Istead, crop manager, Syngenta Crop Protection Canada; Jennifer Ozimkiewicz, marketing manager, Monsanto; Forrest Roberts, marketing manager, Pharmacia Animal Health; and Marc Tullemans, product manager, Polaris Industries.

How would you describe your position as a product/brand manager?

Durand
Durand:
The general marketing manager is like the hub of a wheel that has many spokes. To be successful, we must be able to work with nearly every other department within the AGCO organization at any given time. For example, one minute you will be dealing with financial issues; the next, product development issues. Most importantly, we are action-oriented and results-driven.

Gibson
Gibson: In a nutshell, the position represents the fulcrum of the marketing effort. A brand manager develops the strategy, coordinates the implementation of that strategy and, ultimately, is responsible for the success of that strategy. This is achieved by understanding and leveraging today's market dynamics - trends, the competitive landscape, opportunities for your brand and threats to the business. In particular, it's about understanding your customer and the benefits your product provides that differentiate it from others. It's also about building relationships with industry partners that benefit you, your partners and your customers.

Istead
Istead: My responsibility is to develop and execute short- and long-term crop/product plans and provide strategic direction for the Seed Treatment (ST) business unit. Our goal is to optimize crop and product market share, sales and contribution of the product portfolio within defined markets.

Ozimkiewicz
Ozimkiewicz: I manage the marketing strategy and tactical plans for all of Monsanto's U.S. corn trait products, which includes developing the positioning, pricing, promotion and programs, and executing the plans with our sales channels.

Roberts
Roberts: As the U.S. marketing manager for the beef business unit at Pharmacia Animal Health, I act as the "offensive coordinator" for our portfolio of products. I interact with multiple areas of the organization, from research and development to the sales force, in developing value-added solutions for our beef customers.

Tullemans
Tullemans: As the Polaris RANGER product manager, I am responsible for the day-to-day profit and loss management of the product line. This includes marketing, product, financial and channel management.

What are your main responsibilities?

Durand:
The marketing manager has several core responsibilities including the development and implementation of a marketing plan, the definition of the brand's product mix and specifications (in conjunction with the product development group), and coordination with other key operations within the organization. I provide complete competitive product and pricing analyses, provide manufacturing forecasts and work with marketing communications to create a broad range of communications programs. I am also responsible for profit and loss statements and budget management.

Istead: The position requires that I create annual and long-term strategic marketing plans for the Canadian seed trait business. Through involvement in the product development team, I also lead the development of new products and the enhancement of existing ones. I then design and implement product communication and promotion plans in cooperation with the advertising agency. The job also includes tracking annual product sales and expense budgets to optimize use of resources and to achieve financial targets.

Roberts: My ultimate accountability is to manage brand gross profit margins, which helps our beef business unit achieve its overall financial objectives. To accomplish that, I lead a marketing team who develops the strategy for our business that delivers the promotional tactics, market research, support programs and sales materials to maximize the value of six brands within our portfolio.

Tullemans: My responsibilities include product planning, production, and retail and sales forecasting. I also handle marketing management including media planning, collateral and advertising, financial management, market research, and development of event and dealer promotions.

How do you interact within the company?

Durand:
To be successful all AGCO general marketing managers must have the ability to build productive relationships with people in all functions and at all levels within the organization. It is imperative that we communicate clearly and effectively with all levels of the organization.

Gibson: It's essential that a brand manager be a team player, calling on the strength of the organization and its business partners to achieve success. For me, my "A-team" consists of a knowledgeable field staff, an experienced technical service group and a capable strategic communications team. My role, then, is to call on and get the most value out of each of these team members to support my brands.

Ozimkiewicz: Because many of the traits are related to the rest of Monsanto's portfolio, I work very closely with my marketing, technical, stewardship and product management counterparts in those functions. In addition, I work with our commercial development teams as we continue to develop new traits to bring to the market, as with YieldGard Rootworm, which is currently in a pre-launch phase. In order to successfully gain input and implement the marketing plans, I spend time working with our field sales organization and distribution channel, including retailers, farmer dealers and seed companies who license the traits.

Roberts: Through project team participation, I work with stakeholders from research and development, global marketing, finance, global product supply, industry affairs, technical services, distribution managers and customer service, as well as agency partners in advertising, public relations and database management. External customer interactions are just as critical to our success. We are focused on keeping our finger on the pulse of the market through advisory boards, educational seminars and training programs. This is accomplished by working with end-users, influencers and key distribution partners.

Tullemans: My interactions include everything from quarterly business reviews with executive management to biweekly visits to our manufacturing facilities in Minnesota.

What is your role in budgeting, sales forecasting, strategic planning, pricing and other marketing promotion and communications campaigns?

Gibson:
I believe most brand managers play a lead role in managing each of these areas. You can't really consider one without considering them all; so, in that sense, coordination of these efforts is critical. The key is to rely on the strengths of the internal organization as you develop the marketing architecture for your brand.

Istead: We take the lead in the developing, planning and implementation of all aspects of an integrated advertising and promotions campaign, while working closely with the advertising agency in the development and rollout of these plans and tactics.

Ozimkiewicz: I work with Monsanto's branded seed product group and our licensed business managers to budget and forecast trait sales for current year and long-range plans. The crop protection and seed businesses are cyclical, so we have a yearly marketing planning cycle. First quarter is devoted to analyzing the market and developing plans a year in advance for the next selling season. We gain feedback, conduct market research and develop marketing plans. These plans are rolled out to the field sales organization, seed companies, retail and seed distribution channels in second and third quarters. Third and fourth quarters are focused on implementation since the corn seed selling season is largely in the fall, post harvest. This is a typical cycle for most seed businesses.

Roberts: This position allows me to work closely with our global marketing group and marketing peers in other business units to develop a strategic plan and a value-based pricing model for each brand. This strategic brand template is used to build a specific marketing plan - a plan that includes a sales forecast, marketing budget and integrated marketing tactics. These tactical investments include promotion and communications campaigns that drive brand awareness, trial adoption and repeat business to ensure su´´tainable levels of market share growth and subsequent equity of a brand. An example of this teamwork approach is evident from the recent launch of EAZI-BREED CIDR Cattle Insert to the U.S. bovine market. Members of our business development team iden tified a strategic fit and completed the task of acquiring the U.S. marketing rights. We then developed launch plans for the U.S. approval with internal and external stakeholders.

Tullemans: I set the budgets and manage towards them. Sales forecasting is done in conjunction with sales management and is being monitored on a monthly basis through rolling forecast meetings. Strategic plans are developed late in the year during long-range planning and in conjunction with our divisional strategic planning activities. Product planning is done at the same time as strategic planning in order to establish budget needs for the next year. With the help of agencies, the marketing, advertising and media plans are finalized around October to ensure good buys in the market.

What is a typical background for this position?

Durand:
To be a general marketing manager at AGCO, one must possess a degree in marketing, finance, business administration or engineering, and have a working knowledge of the sales, marketing, product development and finance functions.

Gibson: I'd say today's successful brand manager benefits from on-the-job experience in technology, sales, brand marketing and communications. I don't think you really can be successful without having a deep understanding of the industry - including the challenges facing the market, short- and long-term trends and opportunities. Finally, I believe a solid technical background is important for a brand manager, especially given today's rapid developments in agricultural technology.

Ozimkiewicz: Typically, a marketing management role looks for individuals with a business degree or some level of marketing, sales, agricultural business or general business experience. The responsibilities require strategic planning and analytical skills, project management and operational implementation, ability to manage multiple projects, and strong communication and interpersonal skills among other things.

Roberts: Most people in animal health marketing have a bachelor's degree in agribusiness or animal science, with a minimum of three to five years of industry-related experience. My experience with the family swine and cattle operation, along with earning a B.S. degree in animal science, has given me a foundation of knowledge for a career within the animal health industry. Nevertheless, earning a MBA in marketing from the University of North Carolina has significantly helped me grasp the fundamentals of a marketing manager in my current role.

What are some of the creative ways that you are marketing products?

Durand:
We use an effective combination of push and pull-through strategies and tactics that are designed to generate awareness, interest and trial among end-users. Our Challenger brand communications programs positions our product line as "Serious Machinery" from "Serious Dealers", who are the best at providing after-the-sale service and support. We also try to use creative pricing and programming to provide the best purchasing options possible.

Gibson: Our approach to marketing won't necessarily be what many think of as traditional marketing. One strategic approach we're exploring is to partner with others who will help us create demand for our products. That includes the trade channel, in particular the distributors and retailers who provide a link to our customers. More than ever, a successful marketing program today is dependent on building bridges - to your distributors, to your customers, and potentially even to your competitors, who might become industry partners.

Roberts: Our marketing strategy is focused on building brand equity and sustainable market share growth by identifying and delivering solutions to our end-user customers. Each customer will have specific business needs that in turn will impact how our production-based programs are built. An example of this approach is how we work with feedlot customers and their influencers (consulting veterinarians) to build management programs aimed at solving problems caused by bovine respiratory disease (BRD). By incorporating key brands like Naxcel Sterile Powder into a treatment program for BRD, we deliver technical solutions focused on customer needs.

Tullemans: Besides push, we are focusing more on pull. We are in a highly competitive environment, so we use all media options available for pull campaigns including TV, radio, print advertising, Internet, direct marketing, billboards, events and partnerships. PR is also a powerful tool; it is often very inexpensive and can create a lot more repeatable promotional value. For example, providing clean-up units for ground zero provided us tremendous exposure. Also, selling vehicles for operations in Afghanistan provided us with millions of impressions by capturing the news and spreading it to media outlets throughout the world. AM


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