OPPORTUNITIES ABOUND IN SOUTH AMERICA
COMMUNICATING TO MARKETS THAT HAVEN'T SEEN IT ALL
Argentina and Brazil as communications markets are different in terms of language, crops and culture. But there are also factors they share - factors that challenge marketers. For example, agricultural publications generally lack readership information beyond the numbers of copies sold at newsstand. Reliable data on computer ownership and Internet hookup are hard to come by. Direct mail is spotty, and reader bounce-back cards to build lists are rare.
One could be forgiven for drawing the conclusion that PR is generally thought of as being limited to hammering out news releases and holding press conferences, and that the creative process is the extent of the advertising process.
This assertion, while not completely true, is correct enough to give the impression that a strategically sound, well-executed and thorough marketing communications program could make relatively more of a difference in Brazil and Argentina than in the United States, where certain practices are more frequent. An overview of the two countries can help explain why.
* Brazil boasts a population of more than 160 million, making about half of all South Americans Brazilian. The rural population of Brazil is greater than the entire population of Argentina. Good data on farm ownership are difficult to find, but one agricultural publication estimates Brazil has 5 million farms, while estimates put the number of Argentine farmers at anywhere from 250,000 to 350,000.
* Brazil vies with the United States for first place in world production and export of chicken, produces about a third of all the coffee in the world, is number one in orange juice production and export, and is the second-largest producer and exporter of soy.
* Argentina is a major world producer of wheat, sunflower and beef.
* Brazil is the third-largest market for animal health products.
* Brazil is the largest potato producer in Latin America, with 2.5 million metric tons per year of production.
This sort of overview makes Brazil seem to marketers like a monolith. But regional customs and accents probably vary more than in the States. John Deereís dealer newsletters, says Leonildo Bartholdy, advertising and marketing supervisor for the company in Brazil, have to be written differently according to where theyíre sent - not only because of different crops, but because of different outlooks.
Brazil's more than 1,430 agricultural cooperatives operate differently from the U.S. co-op system. They are strong, often acting as technology supplier and consultant where government and university ag extension is weaker than in the United States.
Cooperative newsletters may be the most thoroughly read ag publications in Brazil. They are a mix of technical information and local-interest "hometown paper" style news about members. Varying greatly in production values and styles, most of these papers carry advertising and will take news releases.
At the same time, agronomists and veterinarians on staff at these co-ops have a key role to play in spreading information about agricultural products.
In the case of Deere, with 73 dealers and 100 points of sale across Brazil, local distributors help the company tailor a national message. Dealers maintain databases of best local prospects and customers.
"Our dealers used to carry nearly all customer need information in their heads," says Bartholdy. "We've translated that to a national database, entering information on crops, planted area, rotation and needs."
Elton Augusto dos Santos, with Deere's Brazilian PR agency, Intermedio, in Porto Alegre, uses e-mail bulletins to keep the dealer network informed.
"We send them sales results and company news, accompanied by a contracted article on production," he explains. This ensures dealers have exclusive, useful agronomic information to pass on to customers.
To reach farmers and influencers, agri-marketers draw on an array of tools, a few of which are highlighted below.
TRIED AND TRUE
Field Days and Other Events
An Argentine market communicator with Nidera Seeds stresses the giant ExpoChacra show every March. In Brazil, ag companies launch products and work most closely with the media at big events like ExpoInter in Porto Alegre and AgriShow in Sao Paulo state.
Jose Enrique Sole, president of Merial do Brasil, told a reporter, "As part of this (year's) campaign we contracted 45 veterinarians, who will execute more than 1,300 field days showing the economic benefits of products like Ivomec Gold."
Argentina boasts excellent-quality four-color agricultural publications like Chacra y Campo Moderno, SuperCampo and El Campo en Marcha. In Brazil, market leaders in ag magazines are Globo Rural, Panorama Rural and A Granja.
Ag PR professionals usually target big-city newspapers, such as Clarin in Buenos Aires or Estado de Sao Paulo in Sao Paulo with news releases. "A large percentage of our target audience has two residences," explains dos Santos, "one on the farm, and another in town. So they have access to the nationally distributed newspapers."
Some of the best and highest-quality creative work around is executed in South America. But targeting of ads hasn't come quite as far.
An account representative with the Argentine agency handling Ford trucks couldnít tell a reporter how many farmers saw the beautiful ad his company placed in an agricultural publication. Brazil's Canal Rural, a satellite and cable channel covering farm issues, says it has 2 million viewers, but an employee canít provide information on how many of them are producers.
It's a different story in Argentina, where a marketer for Nidera Seeds says, "We advertise on cable because a lot of Argentine farmers have it." According to one study, in fact, 86 percent of Argentine farmers have cable TV.
One of the few media companies to share useful agricultural viewership data, Canal Rural in Argentina, backs up Nidera's strategy. According to Canal Rural, 30 percent of producers in Argentina's fertile pampas obtain their agricultural news and information from television, nearly the same as those who say they get it from radio and newspapers. Fourteen percent get their information from magazines. Outside the pampas most producers say they get their ag news from newspapers.
Canal Rural executive director Alberto Naja says, "TV advertising sometimes accounts for 40 percent of (an agricultural company's) communications budget in Argentina. Seed companies in season often purchase up to 1,000 spots per month.
UP AND COMERS
According to a study by Nua (www.nue.ie) of Latin America's 5.29 million internauts, 3.5 million are Brazilians. South America's second-place prize for number of users goes to Argentina, far behind at 250,000 users. Yet Deere's Bartholdy says, aside from a company home page on the Web, Internet communications are not a part of his mix.
"The Internet is still inexpressive in Brazil," he says, "a country where less than 2 percent of the total population is wired. And most of that is in major cities."
At least one ag site, AgroBrasil (www.agrobrasil.com.br) bears this view out. "Brazilian agricultural companies still aren't aware of the Internet's importance and potential," according to site notes accompanying tables showing that less than 1 percent of the siteís registered users are companies.
The siteís average registered user is male, lives in the state of Sao Paulo and is probably an ag engineer (more than a quarter are.) Veterinarians account for 8 percent and farmers make up less than 2 percent of registered users. Four of the 917 total registered users say they are advertising or PR professionals. Of course, these are registered users only and are not necessarily a fair profile of visitors who have not registered.
In Brazil, "direct mail is growing a lot for us as a communications tool," says Bartholdy. "But whether (a direct mail piece) gets dependably delivered varies by region. In the South it is reliable. But in other regions, like Mato Grosso, for example, it doesn't work as well."
Continued growth and internationalization of agriculture - and with it, agricultural marketing - means U.S. agri-marketing professionals need to take a closer look at what's going on in world markets. Argentina and Brazil are agricultural giants whose marketing communications practices are still developing.
That immaturity provides both challenge and opportunity. The challenges include lack of dependable data and communications vehicles segmented for the market. But among the opportunities remains the fact that agricultural audiences and media havenít necessarily ìseen it all before." AM
James Thompson is with Thompson Caiapo, a marketing communications firm in Uberaba, Brazil.