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The DEKALB seed brand has a long and distinguished history in North America. In the United States, where the brand was first established in 1934 in Dekalb, Ill., DEKALB has built a strong brand identity and following. Among growers, the brand is viewed as reliable and trustworthy, and DEKALB products can be counted on to deliver consistent results year-in and year-out. Farmers have rewarded the company through their buying habits and have firmly established DEKALB as one of the leading suppliers in the U.S. seed market.

DEKALB Canada's Top Dog campaign has played a significant role in the repositioning of the brand. With innovative products such as Roundup Ready corn, the company was well positioned to claim a leadership position in the race to deliver new technology to growers.
In Canada, DEKALB was established in the 1950s and worked to carve out a similar position in the seed corn market. By the late 1990s, however, the DEKALB brand found itself in somewhat unfamiliar territory in the middle of the pack in a crowded Canadian marketplace.

"At the time, DEKALB had a solid base, good performing genetics and was developing leading-edge corn technology," says Jamie Rickard, seed marketing manager for Monsanto Canada Inc. However, when Monsanto bought DEKALB in 1997, it was apparent that DEKALB would need a significant repositioning if the brand was to truly capitalize on the emerging seed corn technology that would soon find its way into the company's product catalogue and into seed retailers' warehouses.


Through its direct link to Monsanto Canada, DEKALB was able to offer farmers exclusive access to some of the industry's most innovative seed corn products, including Roundup Ready corn. The product pipeline was also developing other technology, including stacked trait hybrids as well as technology that would protect hybrids from the damaging effects of corn rootworm. These product innovations would provide needed credibility in terms of repositioning DEKALB as a leader in seed corn technology. "If we had continued with the established positioning, we would not have been able to realize our true potential," Rickard says.

When the Adculture Group, Milton, Ontario, was asked to develop a marketing communications plan for DEKALB in 2000, it was clear that DEKALB was well positioned as an up-and-comer in seed corn technology, but grower recognition and awareness of the brand and its seed technology was very low. Quite simply, growers had drifted away from the brand over time.

According to Pierre Doyon, president of Adculture, three strategies were identified to support the repositioning objective - increase the profile of the brand, build credibility in the brand, and leverage the breadth and depth of the revamped product line.

"The first challenge was to make farmers take notice of the brand and reconnect with it," Doyon says. "DEKALB had a good platform to build on, but we needed to get growers excited about the brand, peak their curiosity and entice them to try, or in some cases re-try, DEKALB products."


Doyon adds that Monsanto's commitment to improvements in distribution, grower programs and other operational initiatives were also vital pieces of the puzzle. "For the repositioning exercise to be successful, growers had to see relevant changes at the local level where they tend to come into direct contact with the organization. That's why it's so important to have buy-in throughout the entire organization. Many well-conceived marketing campaigns are unsuccessful when companies fail to make the needed operational changes to fully implement the strategy."

Next up was development of a creative campaign that would cut through the clutter of an increasingly competitive and noisy marketplace. The Top Dog campaign was chosen for several reasons. "When we developed the campaign, we recognized the importance of developing unique imagery that would be difficult for competitors to imitate," Adculture account executive Brenda Trask says. "We chose the Top Dog for this reason, as well as a number of others, including the fact that dogs are a recognized and accepted part of the agricultural landscape. They're loyal, but they can also do the unexpected. The Top Dog is also viewed as 'a leader' or 'the best' and that's how we wanted to position DEKALB and its products. When selecting a breed of dog, we picked the collie because of its intelligence, skills and value in a farm environment."

Creative designer Margrie Wallace and illustrator Mick Coulas were asked to develop different executions of the Top Dog creative that would grab farmers' attention. The design team created several eye-catching campaign images, including the Top Dog skydiving and also racing through a cornfield.


"The creative was an integral part of the campaign. It was a lot of fun and really captured growers' attention. The skydiving and motorcycle treatments also allowed us to use ad copy to support DEKALB's position in the market. DEKALB had indeed learned a few new tricks," Trask says, replaying a line that is prominently featured in the campaign. "With products like Roundup Ready corn, the company was well positioned to claim that it was the leader of the pack in the race to deliver innovative technology to growers."

The DEKALB Top Dog campaign was awarded first place in the Print Advertisements - Series, Four Colour category at the 2002 Canadian Agri-Marketing Association awards this past November.

"The Top Dog campaign has played a key role in raising the awareness of the DEKALB brand and enhancing its credibility," Rickard says. "Our next task is to entrench our leadership position with a strong innovation message. That's consistent with our brand strategy and our goal to move to the next level." AM

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