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When someone says the word "agriculture," what comes to mind? Cows? Corn? Innovative marketing campaigns? That last item may not be your top-of-mind association, but the truth is that the agricultural industry, though under the radar, comes up with fresh, forward-thinking campaigns.

Take a look at these four campaigns that have something to share with any marketer—ag-focused or not.

Cheese & Burger Society—Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board 

  • At a glance: The site makes milk and cheese fun and engaging. The use of Flash is a bit outdated, but an engaging mobile presence makes up for it.
  • Why you can learn from it: The microsite is visually appealing, fun, and engaging.
  • What it does right: The site's content is immediately engaging, but by including recipes and regional lists, it also gains a dual functionality: Some will use it as a reference, while others will share it with friends. For the sharing group, the placement of social icons on each "slide" is a great build (rather than just allowing for one general, sitewide share feature).

John Deere YouTube Channel

  • At a glance: John Deere knows its color is instantly recognizable—and so lets the color do much of its brand marketing. But the company also truly understands how to navigate marketing tactics.
  • Why you can learn from it: The John Deere YouTube presence is not decidedly unique; many companies now understand how to use the medium properly. Where Deere stands out, though, is that the company is right on-point in its use of YouTube specifically—making the brand, in my opinion, the industry leader. The learning here is that you must provide the right message for the right medium. Social media is all about connecting directly with your customers and engaging them to come back for more—and to do so regularly.
  • What it does right: The page skin is beautiful, and the soundtrack to the auto-play video grabs your attention from the first second. I dare you to not engage with that video. And with more than 375 uploaded videos, John Deere still finds a way to be user-friendly with separate, category-relevant playlists for ease of navigation. Many corporations use YouTube as a storage hub for their commercials and call themselves social marketers. John Deere has user-relevant information that makes sense for the medium. That's content marketing.

DEKALB's Clothing Line

  • At a glance: In an aging industry, DEKALB is an exception among seed providers in that the company recognizes—and markets directly to—the younger generations. As older generations of farmers retire, their heirs will begin making the seed purchasing decisions—and DEKALB has positioned itself well to be the preferred provider.
  • Why you can learn from it: This one is all about being unique. Because no seed producers were harnessing age-specific marketing tactics for the younger farming population, there was an opportunity—and DEKALB capitalized on it. The company created a separate identity for those younger customers while still remaining an industry leader by producing high-quality product that mattered to the older farming population. It didn't choose youth at the expense of its other customers; it just created a second presence that appealed specifically to those younger prospects.
  • What it does right: At a recent Farm Progress Show, I was taken by how different the DEKALB setup was compared with competitors'. Although it didn't limit itself by ignoring its product's technology and benefits, its presence was also decidedly "hip." Its tent came across as a mall-type shopping experience, with stylish clothing and younger-skewing employees running the store. As a result, DEKALB shirts and hats were very noticeable as the attire of choice among the younger demographic at that year's show.

2010 Pioneer Hi-Bred Corn and Soybean Commercials

  • At a glance: Recent legal issues aside, one of Pioneer's big plays is that its superior research leads to better genetics technology and crop results. In its 2010 video commercials, it used that message to create a modern, visual presence. Fun to watch while still on target, these are the most visually striking agricultural broadcast ads I've seen.
  • Why you can learn from them: Although I can't personally speak to the success of Pioneer's 2010 selling season, I imagine these commercials at least opened some new doors for Pioneer's sales force. Most ag communication focuses on hard numbers, statistics, and claims in a straightforward manner. Those stats can help sway an audience that is notoriously brand loyal, season after season.
  • What they do right: These ads don't sacrifice the product benefits message mentioned above. What they do is present that message in a visual style that generates buzz, starts conversations, and positions Pioneer as a modern leader in trait technology.

To the typical outsider, the ag industry usually evokes something along the lines of overalls, barns, and a lifestyle consistent with the world of decades past. That view extends beyond individuals' misconceptions and pervades modern media and pop culture. But it is myth.

The reality of the ag industry is that owners of small to midsize operations are, in terms of financial relevance and modern technology, on par with—and sometimes exceed—some recognized brands that we encounter in our day-to-day lives. Though there are multiple views on the issue, many hope that introducing the population at large to the knowledge and talent in the ag industry will alleviate some of the current—and misguided—perceptions.

Suppose the world obtains a better understanding of how food, fuel, and textiles make their way onto our tables and backs. The world would be more harmonious—and the ag business would become more profitable. It's all about getting the information out.

It is possible to present the unsexy in a sexy way, and the ag industry is an often-underrated—but perfect example—of doing just that.

Contributions to this article were also made by Matt Pendergrass of The Alchemedia Project.

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image of Doug Austin

Doug Austin is SVP of growth and innovation at Marlin Network, a network of advertising, marketing, interactive, insights, and culinary agencies located in Springfield, Missouri.

LinkedIn: Doug Austin

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