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Within John Deere, many viewed the introduction of the new 60 Series Combines and 600 Series Grain Platforms as a watershed moment. So the decision to try to make a major splash with the product rollout and marketing campaign was an easy one indeed.

"We were very excited about the new products - the total harvesting package - that we were introducing. So we wanted to build that same level of enthusiasm with our dealers and our customers as well," says Darren Havens, division marketing manager, John Deere Harvester Works.

The new combines and grain platforms were first unveiled to more than 4,500 dealer personnel across North America at an introductory event held in Columbus, Ohio, from Aug. 6-20, 2003.
The first official unveiling of the new combines and grain platforms occurred at the dealer introduction event held in Columbus, Ohio, Aug. 6-20, 2003. During those two weeks, more than 4,500 dealer personnel from across North America came to Columbus in a series of waves to learn everything they could about the new harvesting system and several other new products from John Deere.

Each dealer wave kicked off with an exciting Las Vegas-style review to create excitement about the new products. The first evening was then followed with two days of indoor classroom sessions and hands-on outdoor training. Included were sessions on key product features and issues relating to product positioning such as:
  •  Grain handling-system improvements
  •  Feederhouse changes and single-point header latching
  •  Competitive product comparisons and the value customers should expect from the new harvesting systems from John Deere


The dealer introduction, although obviously critical, was only one element of a much larger rollout plan that extended through the fall and winter months of 2003.

"The planning for the overall program started as much as 12 months prior to the dealer introduction," Havens points out. "Another very important element was the branch exposure strategy. Each sales branch received early-build machines that they could use to generate local exposure through farm shows, demos and so on."

Bob Schebler is the division marketing manager for John Deere's Minneapolis Sales Branch, covering the Dakotas, Minnesota, Wisconsin and Iowa.

Dealer personnel learned the ins and outs of the new products at a series of indoor classroom and outdoor ride-and-drive sessions.
"Immediately after the intro in Columbus, we brought our field people to the John Deere training center in Davenport, Iowa, for an even higher level of training on the combines," he says. "We wanted to make sure they had a complete understanding of the value these new harvesting systems could deliver to producers so they could communicate that clearly and effectively to our dealers."

Following the field staff, the branch then invited dealer personnel to Davenport for more extensive training. Upon completion of the extra training, it was finally time to take to the fields.

"We had 16 demo units to cover the five states in the Minneapolis branch. That forced us to schedule the use of these machines very efficiently and effectively," Schebler points out. To do this the territory managers within the branch worked closely with their dealers, such as Rodney Legleiter, assistant manager of Brosher Implement in the north-central Iowa town of Kanawha.

"The first thing we did was develop a list of key customers and prospects for the 60 Series Combines," Legleiter explains. "Because we only had the machine for a very short period of time, we wanted to make sure we got the most bang for the buck with our field demonstrations. To do this, we'd schedule a demo at one customer's farm, then invite others in the area to come see the combine run. This seemed to work really well. We conducted 10 to 12 different demos with eight to 10 farmers at each.

"We did more demos this past year than we ever have before," Legleiter adds. "The response from customers was very good. Most of them already knew a lot about the STS, but the grain platform was completely new. The STS is a terrific machine, but the new platform makes it even better. The demos were a great tool to showcase that."


Of course, no new product introduction would be complete without a comprehensive marketing communications effort to support it. John Deere executed an integrated program that included earned and paid media along with direct marketing.

Field demonstrations during the fall of 2003 were a critical element of John Deere's aggressive product rollout for the new 60 Series Combines.
July 2003 - a new-product preview event was conducted for key national and regional ag media. The July timeframe helped ensure earned media coverage in long-lead publications would begin to appear in the same September issues that carried the first paid media supporting the new equipment.

August 2003 - on the last night of the dealer product introduction, e-mails with photos, specs, and product features and benefits were sent to registered prospects.

September 2003 - an extensive print campaign featuring "The New Superpower in Harvesting" was initiated with an eight-page insert placed in national publications such as Successful Farming, Farm Industry News, and The Furrow. This theme was continued in one-, two-, and four-page ads throughout the winter, into spring 2004.

September 2003 - dealers received marketing kits with "how to demo" manuals, ad slicks, press releases, brochures, field signs and banners.

October 2003 - a radio-advertising blitz, targeting small grain and row crop states reinforces "The New Superpower of Harvesting" messaging.

November 2003 - through an aggressive direct-mail campaign, nearly 10,000 growers across the United States and Canada received a CD that provided comprehensive information on the new combines and platforms. Also included was a personalized letter from local dealers stating they would visit these producers' farms to hand-deliver a limited edition pewter belt buckle with the "Superpowers of Harvesting" logo.

April 2004 - letters are mailed to owners of competitive combines reintroducing them to "The New Superpower of Harvesting" while also reminding them of favorable tax-depreciation laws and the advantages of buying a new John Deere combine.

"From the factory to the branches to the tremendous dealer support and promotional campaign, the introduction of our new harvesting systems was truly a fully integrated and carefully synchronized team effort," says Harvester Works' Havens. "The results are evident in the excitement these products have created and the sales that have been generated." AM

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