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Ritchie Industries Inc., Conrad, Iowa, began work on a new automatic watering product for the equine market in 1998. But Ritchie’s marketing team and its agency, CMF&Z Marketing Communications, soon found that market studies are few and limited in scope. Also, the equine market is highly fragmented. It includes 100 breeds, 74 national associations, 130-plus organizations, 38 audited publications and hundreds of newsletters.

"The horse market is huge and well-heeled," says Sharon Pilmer, CMF&Z senior vice president/research director. "Its $112 billion impact on the U.S. economy includes goods and services valued at more than $25 billion - equal to the apparel and movie industries."

Pilmer points out that horse owner incomes average more than twice the U.S. median family income. Average annual spending per horse ranges from $2,000-plus for recreational horses to about $8,000 for race horses.

A combination of Internet research, plus 75 in-depth interviews with horse owners in key states, gave Ritchie this sketch of top prospects:

• Geography: cold weather regions in 11 states with 50 percent of U.S. horses

• Owner profile: the 50 percent who each own 10 or more horses

• Top spending segments: racing and showing

• Key new-product benefits for owners: time and labor savings

"Horse owners told us the Internet is their second-favorite product information source - after trade publications - but most want to buy from a local dealer," says Jill Spiekerman-Carrothers, CMF&Z vice president/client services. "Veterinarians and farriers also have a big impact on distribution and sales of new products."

Thus armed, Ritchie and CMF&Z launched an integrated communications campaign in 2000 to introduce the automatic watering product. Tactics included a print media awareness campaign, extensive new product news releases and media relations, and a redesigned Web page with product information and distributor locator. These efforts also brought awareness of the full Ritchie product line to the equine market. AM

For more information about how Ritchie Industries Inc. marketed their new product, see page 48 of the September 2000 issue of Agri Marketing.

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