NEW COMPANY, NEW PRODUCT, NEW BEGINNINGS
For Syngenta, the new millennium meant not only new beginnings but also a new company. The merger between two major agribusiness companies, Zeneca and Novartis, was complete by January 2001, and employees were beginning to adjust to a new work environment. In the midst of transition with new faces and new places, a post-emergence herbicide was being reviewed for EPA registration. It promised to revolutionize the post-emergence herbicide market and move Syngenta Crop Protection into the future of agriculture.
CallistoTM received EPA approval in June 2001, already into the post-herbicide season. Even so, Callisto was applied to more than 500,000 acres of corn in a span of two to three weeks.
The first full use season for Callisto followed in 2002. In a market that typically exceeds $200 million in terms of total treatment investment cost (grower spend), Callisto achieved almost 25 percent share of the post-emergent, broadleaf weed control market in corn, treating more than 4 million acres. To put this into perspective, Callisto's nearest competitor weighed in at only an 11 percent market share.
Syngenta carefully examined the U.S. market to determine how to best promote Callisto for favorable and rapid adoption.
"Growers have been increasingly frustrated in recent years in trying to achieve the level of post-emergence, broadleaf weed control in corn that matched their expectations," Comer explains. "Factors such as increasing resistance to common, and previously highly effective, weed control products, along with weed population shifts and lack of corn crop safety, have resulted in weed control results that were less than satisfying in many cases."
FOUR KEY BENEFITS
For the launch of Callisto, the Syngenta marketing team focused on the four top attributes that set Callisto apart from the competition: unmatched crop safety; unprecedented broadleaf weed control, including resistant species; an entirely new mode of action; and a very favorable environmental and safety profile.
The first attribute in the spotlight was crop safety. Callisto is the first product in more than a decade to be registered for use on seed corn in its introductory year.
The level of crop safety provided by Callisto makes it stand out clearly from the rest of the post-emergence herbicides on corn. In 2003, Callisto remained at the top of the list of seed company recommendations for post-emergence, broadleaf weed control.
"Crop safety is a concern of all growers, whether they grow seed corn or field corn, and crop safety is a key factor in the selection of a post-emergence herbicide," Johnson says. "Competitive products simply don't measure up to Callisto when in comes to safety."
In addition, growers continue to view effective weed control as their top brand selection criteria. Specifically, growers want herbicides that demonstrate a combination of broad-spectrum weed control and effective residual activity to control later flushes of weeds during the season.
"Weed shifts continue to complicate the grower's weed control program," Johnson says. "As an example, waterhemp and giant ragweed are quickly becoming the most troublesome weeds across the Corn Belt, while species such as lambsquarters, velvetleaf, common ragweed and pigweeds remain consistent problems in corn. Until the arrival of Callisto, post-emergence products provided only marginal control of many of these species, especially waterhemp."
As weed resistance management plays an increasingly important role in herbicide selection, Callisto brings an entirely new post-emergence mode of action that demonstrates superior control of the toughest broadleaf weeds, even those resistant or tolerant to triazine, ALS-inhibiting and glyphosate herbicides.
Inspired by naturally occurring compounds that are found in the Callistemon citrinus plant, the new active ingredient in Callisto has exhibited no weed resistance in extensive weed screenings.
"Callisto will provide excellent post-emergence control of broad-leaf biotypes that have developed resistance to triazine and ALS-inhibiting herbicides, as well as broadleaf weeds demonstrating increased tolerance or resistance to glyphosate herbicides," says Johnson. "This is a unique benefit to the customer."
Finally, favorable environmental characteristics helped to round out the marketing strategy with Callisto. With the increasing scrutiny placed on environmental impact and safety, Callisto is particularly advantageous due to a highly desirable environmental and safety profile with respect to birds, fish, honeybees and beneficial insects. Callisto was registered by EPA under its reduced-risk program and carries a CAUTION signal word.
With marketing priorities established, the next step was execution. Syngenta strongly supported the launch of Callisto to achieve rapid success. The elements of communications strategy included innovative advertising, extensive customer outreach, test plot demonstrations, company sales force training and a launch campaign team task force to keep things coordinated.
"Callisto was launched with a highly integrated advertising and public relations campaign focused on the discovery of the active ingredient in Callisto following efforts that focused on the natural herbicides exuded by the Callistemon citrinus plant," Comer says.
Aside from the communication techniques employed, one truly unique marketing aspect was the philosophy in which the campaign operated - "Under Promise and Over Deliver," meaning that significant focus was placed on customer satisfaction and realistic product claims.
"Most herbicides enter the market touting 'superior weed control and excellent crop safety,'" explains Comer. "A customer doesn't know whether to believe the claims. They've probably heard it all before, and many had become skeptical. Syngenta had no interest in falling short of our customers' expectations."
"We took a different approach with Callisto. Instead of making spectacular promises, Callisto initially promised less than it could deliver. This technique was well received by the market - adoption was rapid, brand awareness is remarkable and customer satisfaction is outstanding."
RAPID MARKET ASCENT
Market demand for a product that more effectively met grower needs, without shortfalls previously experienced with other products, can be clearly reflected in the rapid adoption of Callisto. Callisto rocketed to the number one post-emergence, broadleaf herbicide position after only one full season of use in 2002.
"As shown by market share growth, the launch of Callisto herbicide was a tremendous success for Syngenta, from advertising to public relations to marketing and sales," says Comer. "Becoming the market leader took the effort of all involved."
Much of Callisto's rapid adoption is credited to Syngenta's sales force. "Syngenta has the top sales force in the industry," says Comer. "Product success clearly lies in their hands. Callisto benefited greatly from their hard work of understanding our customers' needs and recommending Callisto where it fit."
Syngenta continues to look to the future with Callisto by continuing to invest in new opportunities such as additional crop registrations. For the 2003 use season, Callisto was registered for use on yellow popcorn. Popcorn growers, along with the IR-4 (Interregional Research Project No. 4 Center for Minor Crop Pest Management), pushed for registration of Callisto for use on yellow popcorn due to its unprecedented weed control, clearly superior residual activity and unmatched crop safety. Currently, Callisto is under review with EPA for registration on sweet corn.
Callisto will be a unique component in a number of new herbicides for corn. Both LUMAX and Camix herbicides, new pre-emergence products launched for the 2003 use season, contain Callisto. "The same benefits that make Callisto the market-leading post-emergence product will make
these new pre-emergence products attractive," Comer says.
The acceptance of Callisto by seed companies, university researchers and popcorn companies continues to validate crop safety and performance of this product
in the market.
"Callisto is cutting edge with its unique chemistry, superior performance and unmatched crop safety," says Comer. "Likewise, the launch of Callisto was also cutting edge - employing marketing ideas not typically used with a new product."
The results were immediate. Within less than two years, Callisto went from newcomer to market leader - moving the post-emergence corn herbicide market into the new millennium and helping customers improve their corn's yield potential by delivering both higher levels of weed control and crop safety. AM