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Agrimarketing : October 2007
62 Agri Marketing October 2007 AM: What is Zeba? LL: Zeba is the brand name for our patented starch-based superab- sorbent technology, which is used as a soil amendment to help crop pro- ducers enhance plant stand establish- ment and performance, improve quality, and increase yields. Its basic function is to absorb moisture during irrigation or a rain event, then release it back to the plant over time as the soil begins to dry up between irrigation cycles or rainfall. We've also discovered that Zeba helps slow fertilizer movement through the soil, keeping nutrients in the root zone longer where they are more readily available to the plant. The original discovery of starch- based superabsorbents occurred back in the '70s at the USDA, but their efforts ended when they were not able to create a physical form that could readily be applied for use in agricultural crops and turf/orna- mentals. Our founder pulled the technology off the shelf and, through continued research, was able to develop the first and still the only starch superabsorbent formulation suitable for application through stan- dard equipment. AM: Aren't there already superabsorbent products on the market? LL: Zeba represents a significant leap ahead in performance from tradi- tional synthetic superabsorbents (polyacrylamides or PAMs), which have been around for nearly 30 years. We've redefined the category. Our absorbency is twice that of the syn- thetics; but more importantly, Zeba is superior at releasing moisture whereas PAMs bind up water more tightly, similar to a disposable baby diaper. And, Zeba is a 'green' product and biodegradable, without environ- mental downsides. AM:What are some of the marketing chal- lenges for Zeba? LL: Because PAMs consistently underperform, there is a stigma attached to earlier synthetics that we have to overcome. Previous experi- ence with low-performance superab- sorbents has made university researchers reluctant to look at our technology, although the word is quickly getting out about Zeba and inquiries are streaming in. Another challenge is that Zeba itself isn't a basic requirement for a successful crop, as are some inputs, such as fertilizer or herbicide. And because the use of superabsorbents is not a standard agronomic practice, we need to sell the product to a mar- ket that is largely unaware of the ben- efits. We've demonstrated that Zeba is a way to boost yield and quality over and above a grower 's standard practices. Our challenge is to convince grow- ers that Zeba will perform. Once they use it and see the benefits, we defi- nitely see the re-orders. AM: What strategy do you use to differen- tiate your product? LL: Our 'go to' marketing strategy is built on a four-leg foundation: Effi- cacy, innovation, ingredient licens- ing, and brand. First, to demonstrate efficacy, we've developed a remarkable amount of real-world field data from trials conducted on farms, golf courses, nurseries, and other grow- ing situations worldwide. We present this data one-on-one to distributors and their customers, and use it in our communications program. Innovation is our second corner- stone. We've already created the only superabsorbent technology specifi- cally formulated for agricultural applications. Lately, we've also cre- ated Zeba LF, a 'booster ' for use with liquid fertilizers, resulting in increased nutrient uptake and slow- ing nutrient dispersion in the soil. And, we have specific formulations for such applications as seed coating, ornamentals, root dip, and turf. Ingredient licensing brings Zeba technology to end users through brands they already know and trust. Zeba is used as a key ingredient to increase the performance of products sold by such companies as The Scotts Company and Barenbrug, the inter- national turfgrass seed company. Included in our licensing agreement is a requirement that the Zeba logo appear prominently on the packaging. The fourth cornerstone of our mar- keting strategy is branding. We use brand positioning and a non-tradi- tional style of graphics for the ag trade to signal to the industry that we "think differently." Because Zeba is a fresh, new spin on this technology, it's important to convey this to the trade and our customers across all our com- munications. In our current ad cam- paign, we turn Zeba into a verb, show- ing leading growers with the quote, "I Zeba," next to their photo above the testimonial copy. The industry response has been positive, and we're pleased that so many other growers want to now 'Zeba', too. AM Name: Larry Logan Title: Chief Marketing Officer Career: A worldwide 'brand catalyst' with 25 years' success in multi-channel and B2B marketing for many of the world's most noted companies and brands, from Hollywood entertainment to healthcare, and consumer products to information technology. CREATING A WHOLE NEW CATEGORY : ZEBA/ABSORBENT TECHNOLOGIES
November December 2006
November December 2007