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The year 2001 marked the beginning of a new generation of post-emergence herbicides with the introduction of CallistoTM. More than 20 years of research culminated with the registration of this all-new chemistry. Now it was time for the newly formed company and its partner agencies to introduce Callisto to the U.S. corn grower.


Despite the flurry of activity surrounding the merger of Novartis and Zeneca to form Syngenta Crop Protection, work on introducing Callisto to the market continued forward.

Working with Pat Willenbrock and Susan Morris at Syngenta, marketing research studies conducted by Tom Thul and Dave McLinn of Directions Research Corp., Mason City, Iowa, provided guidance for the Callisto campaign, covering everything from target customers to geographic focus to brand strategies.

"Syngenta's goal was to understand the cognitive space Callisto might occupy within the mind of the grower, including the potential competitive set (brands/practices occupying the same space) and the dimensions that would ultimately drive Callisto into the ideal position within that space," Thul says. "The qualitative work also focused heavily on the best language for moving Callisto quickly and easily into the ideal cognitive space." Marketing research also was called upon to help identify effective advertising concepts for delivering the message about Callisto.

Prior to registration, publicity features focusing on field trials and research plots set the stage for Callisto. Meanwhile, advertising created a theme announcing "The Secret is Almost Out," prompting curiosity about the Callistemon citrinus plant.

The plant appeared everywhere from billboards to direct mail to collateral. "Syngenta wanted something that spoke of Callisto's origins," says David Pinon, Syngenta communications manager. "My predecessor, Janet Dinsmore, ensured that the natural story was woven into all aspects of Callisto's communications. The story is original and allows Callisto to stand out in the crowd."

It was the Callistemon plant that heralded the introduction of Callisto to the U.S. corn grower with the words "The Secret Is Out." The registration of Callisto in June 2001 for weed control in field corn, field production seed corn and field corn grown for silage represented a breakthrough for corn growers who sought to improve post-emergence control of weeds.


As additional launch preparation, the Syngenta sales force received extensive training on Callisto through online modules and a campaign meeting. The preparation was invaluable as EPA registration hit right in the middle of post-herbicide application season. While Syngenta worked to get product to the field, the new agencies, selected by Syngenta a mere three months prior to launch, added fuel to the publicity fire.

"There is more to a product introduction than simply advertising," Pinon says. "A successful product introduction requires every team to meet their goals - market research to drive positioning, publicity to gain awareness and develop brand name recognition, and sales force to get the product adopted and consumed."

Immediately upon registration, a news release was issued, direct mail to retailers containing a small Callistemon citrinus plant went out, and advertising covered publications, billboards and radio.

"Driving awareness was key," Pinon says. "We also had the added challenge of receiving registration during the middle of application season. Heightened awareness was critical even if the grower wasn't going to be able to use Callisto that season. Ideally, we wanted the grower to view Callisto in fields and demonstration plots that season, then ask for it by name the following year."

To elevate brand name awareness, the Gibbs & Soell/Raleigh team handling Syngenta's public relations initiated media coverage during 2001 that focused on plot tour demonstrations and field events. Top print media journalists were invited to the Syngenta research station in Illinois to speak with university and Syngenta researchers, as well as see for themselves the weed control Callisto provides. This one event reached nearly 2 million growers and retailers. Over the course of that year, Callisto appeared in more than 30 publications and online resources.

Even with the shortened application window, Callisto was used on more than 500,000 acres in its first year out. "The majority of those acres were seed corn growers, due to the later application timing," says Pinon. "The crop safety message carries a significant amount of weight when seed companies are recommending the product to their growers immediately upon registration."

With use on seed corn, crop safety, proper application and weed control performance are particularly critical. To provide growers and retailers with the necessary information, several technical bulletins were created, as well as a comprehensive technical video utilizing third-party researcher interviews and data.

Callisto performance far exceeded grower expectations and made believers of the sales force as well. Documentation of phenomenal performance drove publicity work into the 2002 season - the first full use season. If Callisto was destined to be a top performer, 2002 was the year to prove its worth.


Once awareness was achieved and buzz generated about the product's amazing performance, Callisto faced its first real challenge in 2002 - use on all types of soil, all levels of weed pressure and in varying weather conditions.

As the 2002 use season approached, public relations, advertising and market research work continued.

Market research yielded valuable information about what aspects of Callisto were easily retained and which benefits required further message development. In addition to message development, market research went one step further.

"Syngenta was not satisfied with just knowing what to say and how to say it to the target audience, they also wanted to track performance," says Dave McLinn, partner at Directions Research. "This led to studies tracking awareness and adoption of Callisto, including a look at adoption/diffusion rates, message retention and brand equity shifts against competitive products and practices."

All of the information gained from the market research guided messaging for 2002, which continued around the origins of Callisto, but stepped further into the performance aspect, and the "Brutal on Broadleaves" message was created.

With more than 70 print media insertions generating 8 million gross impressions, agricultural trade publications were the primary delivery vehicle of the Callisto brand message. Martin|Williams, Syngenta's Minneapolis-based advertising partner, developed creative units for Callisto, including z-folds, cover wraps, spreads, inserts and sponsorship of special sections, such as the Corn and Soybean Digest F.I.R.S.T. Corn Seed Trial piece.

Callisto was also a sponsor participant of the Nebraska Cornhuskers men's basketball and baseball teams. This program provided targeted radio coverage that reinforced the print media schedule.

Callisto Internet advertising used several different media to maximize impressions, including banners, skyscrapers and buttons, as well as being a participating sponsor in's SmartFarmer game.

Martin|Williams continued its direct marketing programs, with help from Synapse Technology, a North Carolina database marketing firm. The Callisto direct mail program reinforced the brand message and promoted adoption among retention and acquisition audiences in a two-part mailing. Overall, the campaign received a 21 percent response rate.

Gibbs & Soell continued its media relations thrust around newsworthy customer experience, with increasing emphasis on technical information and return on investment. "We created material, including technical brochures, Web site resources, testimonial sheets and research CDs, to highlight the more complex benefits of Callisto, such as crop safety and superior weed control that heavily impacts higher corn yield potential," says Bob Bowman, senior vice president of Gibbs & Soell Inc. "Third-party validation fueled most of our work in 2002. We wanted to demonstrate the credibility of Callisto performance claims. Therefore, customer success combined with university research became the foundation from which we launched our information campaign."

With great success in the field in 2001 and 2002, G&S worked to maintain the level of excitement among growers, retailers and the Syngenta sales force in 2003. "Over the years, we've had the privilege of launching several new products into the market, but none of them generated the end-user enthusiasm and rapid adoption that we've experienced with Callisto," says Bowman. "We continue to promote Callisto's benefits and new developments, such as expanded crop registrations. Our media relations efforts are aimed at maintaining interest in the product and keeping Callisto top-of-mind."


In addition to winning this year's prestigious Agri Marketing Product of the Year Award, Callisto has garnered several other honors since registration in June 2001:
  • Numerous awards on both the regional and national level with the National Agri-Marketing Association for both advertising and public relations.
  • The 2002 Farm Industry News FinOvation Award.
  • Selection by a panel of growers to present a "What Is New" session at the 2002 Commodity Classic. The Classic is the annual trade show and convention for the National Corn Growers Association and American Soybean Association.
  • A CEBA (Creative Excellence in Business Advertising) for B-to-B interactive advertising.


Teamwork among all participants involved, from advertising to public relations to market research, yielded a complete product launch that exceeded expectations. It has been recognized within the company as the most successful product launch for Syngenta in more than two decades. Callisto gained almost 25 percent market share - double the share of its closest competitor - in less than two use seasons.

With two seasons of phenomenal performance under its belt, Callisto is proving once again in 2003 exactly why it is the post-emergence, broadleaf herbicide product of choice.

"After three use seasons, Callisto now is a proven product," Pinon says. "Callisto is an integral part of Syngenta's product portfolio. Where it will all lead remains to be seen. We believe the future is bright as long as we can deliver products like Callisto that meet our customers' needs." AM

©2003 Syngenta. Syngenta Crop Protection, Inc. Greensboro, NC 27409. Important: Always read and follow label directions before buying or using this product. Callisto™, the Mesotrione logo and the Syngenta logo are trademarks of a Syngenta Group Company. For more information, visit

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