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PRODUCT OF THE YEAR RUNNERS-UP
Agri Marketing magazine has reinstated its prestigious Product of the Year award, which recognizes products or services that are making news today and will undoubtedly stand the test of time as major contributors to the ag industry. This year we had several notable entries that weren't named Product of the Year but deserve to be recognized as a strong second place.

A6395 HYBRID SEED CORN
by AgriGold Hybrids


In a hybrid seed corn market characterized by companies selling very similar products, producers often make their choice based on personal relationships with sales representatives. AgriGold Hybrids, St. Francisville, Ill., built on these relationships and created a strong brand identity with the introduction of A6395 hybrid seed corn & #151; also known as the Sheriff.

The Sheriff is comprised of unique, proprietary genetics, thereby helping growers spread their risk in the field. Company research showed that the Sheriff provided added profitability of nearly $20 per acre and beat competitors in side-by-side comparisons 79 percent of the time in 2003.

In order to convey these benefits to producers, AgriGold Hybrid's marketing staff and salespeople worked together to research and identify the market and develop a unique brand identity for A6395. The marketing campaign was designed to target corn producers growing more than 1,000 acres of corn annually, as research identified this group as innovative, aggressive, performance and research-driven individuals. With the target market identified, AgriGold went about creating a four-part campaign. The first three steps of the strategic plan included intensive training for AgriGold sales representatives; entering the Sheriff in hundreds of test plots, including independent and university trials; and creating a unique brand identity among producers.

An additional step in the campaign was the "Shootout" marketing program, which allowed producers to see the results of A6395 for themselves. Sticking with its previously established Western theme, AgriGold packaged the Sheriff in specially designed boxes, each containing enough seed to plant one acre. Producers were offered $50 for planting the seed, and another $50 for allowing an AgriGold Corn Specialist to record the yield data from the test strip at harvest. According to company data, nearly 950 producers were approached with the Shootout boxes, and more than 650 of them planted the product in side-by-side comparisons, resulting in 381 new accounts.

AgriGold Hybrids made the Sheriff a recognizable brand among producers not only by its unique marketing but also from the results themselves. Company records document a 9.6 bushel per acre advantage for Sheriff, making it an important addition to the hybrid seed corn market.

SAFE-ONE MICROBIAL LIVESTOCK ODOR/WASTE TREATMENT & WASTE CONSULTANCY
by Anderson BioSystems


With the increase in environmental legislation and community activism, more attention is being directed to waste handling issues. In examining these issues and the competition, Anderson BioSystems (ABS), discovered that many waste treatment companies had been trying to sell customers a "one-size-fits-all" solution. To differentiate itself from the competition, and to fully meet the needs of its customers, Anderson BioSystems recognized that it needed to provide comprehensive service and support, rather than merely a product.

Since its market introduction in January 2003, Anderson Biosystems has witnessed a 162-fold increase in annualized revenue from its services. These comprehensive services include baseline sampling, initial treatment with the Safe-One microbial formulation, installation of aeration to promote a viable microbial population, auto-feeders to deliver a daily dosage of Safe-One, post-installation sampling, analysis and reporting. In addition, ABS also offers air monitoring and community and legal relations programs as needed. Through these services, ABS is helping customers to restore and maintain their status as good neighbors and responsible operators.

To get the message out about its comprehensive solutions, ABS first aligned itself with several strategic, innovative operators and relied on their word-of-mouth success stories. The company also worked to maintain its brand strategy through involvement at several key trade shows, an annual schedule of trade industry magazine and online exposures, and a targeted direct mail campaign. The campaign's "Smell No Evil" mailers were recognized by the National Agri-Marketing Association by placing first in the Multi-Media Direct/Targeted Campaign category. The campaign carried over into its trade shows through T-shirts and custom imprinted clothespins that recipients wore for the opportunity to win cash prizes.

As a result of these efforts, Anderson BioSystems is producing 810 proposals per month for customers, with a closure rate of 98 percent. More importantly, the company is helping to improve the environmental reputation of operators nationwide through comprehensive service and solutions.

WEST NILE-INNOVATOR
by Fort Dodge Animal Health


The West Nile virus first appeared in the United States in 1999 and quickly attacked horses, killing one-third of infected animals. Researchers at Fort Dodge Animal Health, based in Overland Park, Kan., reacted quickly to develop a vaccine to protect America's more than 6 million horses. The company released West Nile-Innovator in 2001, and the vaccine continues to be the dominant player in an equine vaccine market estimated to be $108 million.

According to company statistics, more than 13 million doses of West Nile-Innovator have been administered to horses nationwide, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service credited the vaccine with contributing in part to the 70 percent decline in new equine West Nile cases from 2002 to 2003.

Fort Dodge's product introduction was responding to an immediate need, and the company's marketing staff and agency worked together to reach horse owners nationwide. Unlike many other horse vaccines, West Nile-Innovator is only available through veterinarians, so many of the marketing efforts were aimed at these professionals, along with consumer advertising that directed horse owners to visit their veterinarians for more information.

The trade campaign for the West Nile-Innovator vaccine consisted of advertisements in veterinary journals, while the consumer campaign employed a more complex strategy to reach the caregivers of the 6.9 million U.S. horses. The consumer campaign included network radio advertising, video and print news releases, along with media interviews nationwide. According to the company, as a result of these public relations efforts, thousands of print items appeared in newspapers, newsletters and magazines, and hundreds of radio segments were aired.

With the re-emergence of eastern equine encephalomyelitis (EEE or "Sleeping Sickness") in 2003, Fort Dodge Animal Health responded with changes to its product and strategy. The company introduced a vaccine line combining the original West Nile protection with additional protection against up to three strains of EEE. The introduction of this new line was also complemented with national print and radio advertising material explaining the risks of West Nile and EEE.

Today, more than half the horses in the United States have been vaccinated with West Nile-Innovator, and sales of the vaccine remain strong with nearly 100 percent share of the market.

TRIMBLE AGGPS EZ-GUIDE PLUS LIGHTBAR GUIDANCE SYSTEM
by Trimble Navigation Limited


It's often hard to improve upon an original, but Trimble Navigation Limited, Overland Park, Kan., managed to do this with the introduction of the EZ-Guide Plus system. The company had first introduced its popular EZ-Guide system in 2001, but when it came time to launch a next-generation product, Trimble employees wanted to fully understand the needs of producers.

Trimble commissioned a survey that sampled 66 Midwestern producers, looking at how and why growers use Global Positioning System (GPS). Through its market research, Trimble discovered that strong market demand existed for low-cost, easy-to-use, accurate GPS-guided lightbars and steering assist products. This research gave the company the incentive and background it needed to launch EZ-Guide Plus, a product featuring competitive pricing, innovative design, simplicity, expandibility and many other handy features. The product also improves productivity and profitability by allowing operators to work faster, reducing driver fatigue and extending work hours, even at night or in heavy fog.

Trimble's marketing and sales staff worked closely with its advertising agency, NKH&W, to develop an aggressive marketing strategy, primarily based on a print campaign. The printed advertising insert, which promised "You'll be smiling from planting to harvest," first appeared in January 2004 in U.S. and Canadian grower and dealer magazines.

The marketing staff also developed material to support dealers and OEMs (original equipment manufacturers) in establishing a market presence for the system. These support materials included on-the-shelf product packaging, posters, banners, datasheets, technical and training materials. Online tools also played into the marketing mix, with an interactive Web demonstration of the product and its features.

In addition, Trimble worked to develop relationships with OEMs, including Case, New Holland (CNH), Ag Leader and HARDI North America, who are promoting the product under the EZ-Guide Plus brand name. Support material such as packaging and training CDs were customized for each OEM, and generic versions of the EZ-Guide Plus Web site were created for use by OEMs.

These integrated efforts among product managers, engineers, agency employees, manufacturers and marketers paid off. By mid-May 2004, the company exceeded all expectations for the annual sales of EZ-Guide Plus by 100 percent, making it a highly successful launch for Trimble. AM


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