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Agrimarketing : October 2007
October 2007 AgriMarketing 51 time when there weren't many estab- lished herbicides. 2,4-D was the main herbicide used in corn and it only controlled broadleaf weeds. In the area I was servicing, 37% of the crop acres weren't being treated with any herbicides and were being inten- sively tilled. "So, we had the double advan- tage of having a new, improved technology that provided longer- term control of both grasses and broadleaf weeds to replace com- petitors as well as developing totally new markets." Within five years of its introduc- tion, atrazine represented the most successful new crop protection prod- uct launch in North America at that time. Knight credits product enhance- ments the company as the number reason why atrazine continues to be a market leader. For example, the product was originally in the form of a powder, packaged in five- pound bags and was applied at five pounds per acre. However, Syngenta formulated it into a liquid in 1972, and use rates have decreased significantly. Over the following years, atrazine moved to the forefront of many formulation and packaging innovations including water- dispersible granules, water-soluble bags and, more recently, bulk and mini-bulk handling of liquids for large-acreage applications. In 1976, Syngenta introducted the concept of pre-mixes when another herbicide, S-metolachlor, was combined with atrazine in a single can and marketed under the brand name Bicep. "Pre-mixes allowed users the convenience of only having to han- dle one can and knowing they had the proper mixture of both prod- ucts," Knight reports. Atrazine was also facing patent expiration that year. By then, the name atrazine had become the uni- versal term for its class of herbicide (similar to aspirin for pain relief), so the marketing staff went to work and branded it Aatrex. "That way, customers could dis- tinguish between our products and others, and know that the atrazine they were using came from the com- pany they had depended on for all those years," Knight reports. The merger between Zeneca and Novartis in 2000 created Syngenta and brought new products and modes of action to the market as capabilities were aligned. More products benefited from the addition of atrazine, broadening the control spectrum and/or providing more residual control. In rapid order, Lumax, Expert and Lexar were success- fully launched by Syngenta. EFFECTIVE MARKETING Larry Spickler --- now retired from Syn- genta and living in Greensboro, NC, home to the North American headquar- ters of Syngenta --- joined Ciba-Geigy in 1973 as a Sales Rep and spent much of his career in marketing and communications positions with the company. He says that Syngenta had an effective marketing program behind the introduction of atrazine. "In the early days of atrazine, the com- pany hired a lot of new sales representatives --- many were former ag teachers --- to help educate growers. "Today, growers understand all about herbicides and weed control and they are smart about the many product options. In the early days of atrazine, however, herbicides were replacing the cultivator and atrazine could set them free from the inten- sive labor associated with several cultivation trips during the season." Spickler says all atrazine sales reps had a small tank sprayer, sprayed plots and followed up later with grow- ers to show them the results. After its first couple of years of use, retailers and customers had learned that a shot of atrazine not only controlled weeds, (more on page 53) This 1963 ad drives home the product's benefit for the elimination of mechanical cultivators. The ad also mentions Simazine, a product with similar chemistry to atrazine which, over the years, has become popular in specialty crops while atrazine is the more poplar option in corn, sorghum and sugar cane. Ad courtesy of Farm Progress Companies Knight
November December 2006
November December 2007