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With today's economy in neutral, agricultural marketers are using every tool in their toolbox to move their product. With advertising budgets slashed, marketers turn to product discounts and promotions to continue revenue generation; however, for many, it comes at the expense of their most important asset - their brand.

The opportunity for growth and sustainable market share centers on proper brand management. Short-term tactics must reinforce the brand promise, and the product or service must deliver on that promise.

"Producers have relationships with brands that must be nurtured," says Mark Vogel, executive vice president of brand management for Osborn & Barr Communications, St. Louis. "Companies that ignore their brand lose their market differentiation, and that can cost them market share."

To analyze the opportunity for brands in the agricultural marketplace, Osborn & Barr and Marketing Horizons, a St. Louis-based market research firm, have conducted a brand image study called the "Super Brand" since 1998. Conducted with growers in Midwest´farm states, this study not only determines which brand attributes are most valuable to growers but it also scores brands on how well they deliver on those attributes.

As reported in last month's Agri Marketing, successful brand marketers Roundup, John Deere, Chevrolet and Pioneer all led their respective categories, enjoying strong producer ratings on the attribute "best overall brand." These brand leaders received high marks on most, if not all, of the top attributes among fierce competition in their category. Vying for market share, these competing brands show tenacity - many moving their brand "pole position" significantly from the initial 1998 study.

But other categories show just the opposite. "The Super Brand study is about more than just who is leading in the market," explains Bob Jasper, president of Marketing Horizons. "It identifies category opportunities where brand differentiation is needed the most."


In categories where producers perceived most brand participants as "all the same" on each of the attributes, there is opportunity for increased brand differentiation and capture of market share. The Super Brand study identified three such categories - livestock feed, animal health and crop insurance - where no single brand held a sizably consistent advantage over another.

In livestock feed, producers report their primary brands as Land O' Lakes, Purina and Kent with 16 percent, 9 percent and 9 percent of the market, respectively. As a whole, none of these brands rate high on the attribute of "best overall brand"; however, some brand loyalty is seen among specific producers who rate their primary brand as the best.

With similar results to that of 2001, 69 percent of animal producers perceive animal health brands to be relatively "all the same." One exception to this previous study is Pfizer. From 2001 to now, Pfizer improved its position in every one of the brand attributes, with two in 10 producers identifying it as the best overall brand. Despite this movement of the Pfizer brand, the category continues to have a homogenous brand perception among producers.

New to the 2003 Super Brand study, the category of crop insurance is inhabited by undifferentiated brands. Crop insurance, a federally mandated and managed program with pricing controls, requires that companies develop their brand based on attributes other than price. Since the Super Brand study proves that "lowest price" is not as highly valued an attribute as others by many producers, crop insurance providers have a unique environment in which to manage their brand. The main competitors that registered with producers were Rain and Hail, Rural Community Insurance, American Agrisurance1 and the "local bank." However, as weak brand management suggests, only a small number of producers perceive their primary brand to also be the best overall.

"In these three categories, there is definite opportunity to build a brand that will resonate with producers," states Vogel. "As evidenced by the majority of producers rating companies as "all the same" on the 10 brand attributes, the door is open for a company to build brand equity, capture the category and develop a Super Brand."

According to the Super Brand study, a starting point for brand development focuses on what matters most to producers. Attributes most important to producers are: Stands behind their product; Most dependable; Highest quality; and Best overall value.

Producers identify themselves with the brand and the promise it makes. History has proven those companies that invest long-term in their brand realize a market that is more loyal and less price sensitive.

To learn more about the Super Brand study and how to realize the potential in your brand, contact Mark Vogel of Osborn & Barr Communications at (888) BELIEF-2. AM

Joseph Burns is a market planning manager for Osborn & Barr Communications, St. Louis.

Roundup is a registered trademark of Monsanto Company.

Pioneer is a registered trademark of Pioneer Hi-Bred International Inc.

1Since conducting the survey American Agrisurance has discontinued writing policies.

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