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Editor's note: We invited leading ag market research firms to provide their insights on some projects they have been conducting. Following are the comments from those who chose to participate.

Doane Marketing Research:

Seed-based Solutions Gaining in Corn Market

Now that new tools have arrived for controlling soil-borne insects in corn, growers have a choice: stick with conventional insecticides or move to seed treatments and corn rootworm (CRW) resistant seed.
Today, each method holds roughly equal acre shares of the market. However, the future of soil-borne insect control might lie with the seed.

Doane Marketing Research recently asked 450 growers, representing over one-half million corn acres, to discuss the advantages and disadvantages of each method. The study ranked attributes associated with the methods, investigated differences in insect control, and looked at reasons for switching or not switching from one to another.

Overall, growers felt that conventional insecticides had a slight edge in price and spectrum of control. However, their human and environmental safety were rated poorly. Seed treatments shared many attributes of conventional insecticides, but earned higher marks for handling safety.

CRW resistant seed currently had the smaller acreage in this study, but it is rapidly gaining in use. CRW resistant seed was generally rated higher than seed treatments and much higher than conventional insecticides on safety issues.

Growers indicated CRW resistant seed gave better, longer lasting control, was easy and convenient to use, and was safer to humans and the environment than the other two methods, especially conventional insecticides.

For full results of this study, please contact Cliff Schasch at 314/786-1674; cshasch@doanemr.

Market Directions:

Brand Performance Review

In agribusiness, as in many industries, corporate growth has come from acquiring companies, products and brands, as well as through launching new products. Today's highly competitive marketplace demands each brand must have a distinct role and clear differentiation.

Market Directions recently concluded a brand performance review for an agribusiness client that led to a significant change in its house of brands. Specifics examined included:

• Sales performance - overall revenue and margin contribution and historical sales by customer, by product

• Marketing mix performance - marketing spend and market

• Customer Loyalty

• Brand Equity

From this base of business and consumer insights, Market Directions facilitated work sessions with the company's brand teams oriented toward consensus on what brands to keep and support, what each brand's positioning should be and what products need to be realigned.

For more information, contact Susan Spaulding at 816/448-3055;

Ag Media Research:

New 2006 AMR Farmer Radio Listening Ratings

The 2006 Ag Media Research (AMR) Farmer Radio Listening Ratings Study has now been released. A participant's version of the ratings software is also being made available, at no charge, to advertising agencies and other companies marketing products or services to farmers and ranchers.

This study was conducted in the spring of 2006 in 13 Corn Belt and in 16 other states in 2004. Approximately 11,000 farmers were interviewed by telephone in 2006 and 4,600 in 2004. The listening ratings from both years, covering 29 states, are included in the AMR software.

In addition to farmer listening ratings for radio stations, consolidated, or unduplicated, ratings are also provide for participating farm radio networks of stations.

On a Monday through Friday

5 a.m. - 7 p.m. basis, marketers can determine Average Quarter Hour Rating, Average Quarter Hour Share and Cume Rating. Reports can be generated by the hour or for broader day parts including all day.

Using the free AMR software, marketers can analyze farmer and rancher radio listening in their own specific geography by grouping counties together, as long as there are at least 100 interviews in the area and commodity selected. States and regions can easily be analyzed as well.

Radio listening ratings can also be calculated by 13 different commodities produced.

For additional information or to request farmer radio listening ratings software, contact Ron Claussen 605/336-2054; A web version of the ratings software can be downloaded by

a division of MARKET PROBE

Marketing Mix Models

Discrete Choice models have been widely used in agricultural marketing research applications. To date, Discrete Choice and more recently HB (hierarchical Bayes) models have been primarily used for pricing and product design. Often combined into a single study, these applications address two of the fundamental "four Ps" of marketing (Price, Product, but not Place, and Promotion).

As insightful as these models are, they have limited applications to the "real world" for several reasons. First, by definition, the trade-off exercises establish 100% brand and price awareness, and assume that all products are available to all potential customers.

As marketers we know that these assumptions are unrealistic. In addition, these models do not typically reflect the potential impact of promotional (advertising/positioning) efforts.

Working with several agri-business clients, Marketing Horizons has refined marketing mix models to allow brand managers to simulate market reaction under various scenarios reflecting pricing strategies, product mix/competitive set, product availability assumptions, expected brand/price awareness, and even the impact of alternative advertising/promotional campaigns.

By "controlling" through an interactive simulator, more elements of the marketing mix, managers gain invaluable insight into the potential impact of marketing strategies on share and profitability measures.

For more information, contact Bob Jasper at 314/432-1957;

Caledonia Solutions:

Taking A Peek Over the Horizon

One of the important functions of a market research supplier is to keep their clients ahead of the curve on industry developments. "Frequently clients find themselves so engrossed in managing day to day that they lose sight of long-term movements in their markets" says Robert Hill, Ph.D., principal at Minneapolis-based Caledonia Solutions, a research and consulting firm.

Caledonia recently completed a project involving a technology product for farmers that took them into the field for direct interface with growers. "You learn so much about the depth and speed of coming changes when you rub elbows with the customers," continues Hill. "You can get a gut feel that there is something really important your clients need to be addressing more directly."

Caledonia spent time visiting with clients and other industry players, carefully thinking through their common needs with respect to the technology product. The outcome of this interface was a multi-client study to address the industry's needs. "Anyone can do a 'state of now' survey, but it takes special talent to peek over the horizon to see where new things are going," says Hill. The advice for agri-marketers: look for suppliers with that special knack for addressing emerging issues, products, and technology.

For more information, contact Robert Hill at 651/217-2164;

Blacksheep Strategy:
It's Not Just About Research; It's About What You Do With It

How do you develop a brand strategy that can draw on your company's advantages, and differentiate your brand in a way that is highly relevant to your customers?

Without question, in-depth qualitative research is called for. You need to understand decision-making processes and drivers, category engagement, the competitive landscape and brand perceptions. You need researchers familiar with your sector, who can dig below the surface to uncover rational and emotional needs, and the tangible and intangible benefits that customers expect from your company or product.

But don't stop there. You also need to consider practical realities, your company's capabilities, and what new products or processes you've got in the pipeline. In short, you need to bring internal wisdom into the equation.

That's why at Blacksheep, we integrate research into a strategic brand planning process, including a facilitated strategy development workshop with your people and your knowledge. We bring in our expertise and best practices to develop realistic, meaningful brand plans that will enhance your competitive position. The output is a plan that is rooted in customer understanding, and based on your company's strengths and capabilities.
Blacksheep is a strategic marketing consultancy focused on the creation of distinctive, powerful, differentiated brands.

For more information, contact Russell Jeffrey at 204/927-9306;

Kenna Group:

Transformational Research in Today's Agricultural Environment

The shrinking farm base, industry consolidation, product commoditization and global competition are all contributing to the need for agri-businesses to seek transformational insight to create a superior and differentiated experience for customers. In an environment where brand equity is diminishing, products are viewed at par, and competition is becoming increasingly price-driven; companies can no longer focus solely on traditional brand and product-based research. Successful agribusinesses today see the world through the eyes of their customers.

Transformational insights are derived from research protocols that bring organizations closer to their customers through a clearer understanding of customer needs and motivations. The idea is to better explain customer behavior and foresee opportunities before the customer can even articulate them. Differential treatment strategies and unique value propositions are developed for those customer groups that differ significantly in needs and behavior. The result is breakthrough-marketing strategies that drive greater commitment and increased profitability.

In order to nurture long-term customer relationships, marketers need to put their ear to the ground and listen to what customers are telling them. In addition to formal research, customer interaction channels like chat rooms, blogs, and special interest Web sites need to be developed and exploited with technology used to mine unstructured customer information.

Traditional product based approaches are no longer effective and new insights are required to transform organizations and bring customer focus. Business results and customer loyalty are driven by understanding, what truly delights customers and what factors can turn an ordinary experience into an extraordinary one.

For more information, contact

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