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Agrimarketing : October 2012
56 Agri Marketing October 2012 Machinery | Overview | continued from page 54 most notable changes," says Angela Larson, Director, Marketing and Communications at Woods Equipment. "Over the past 50 years, the industry has changed from a network of small independent dealers to today's environment that includes classic one-location dealers, large corporate entities, and everything in between. Serving this diverse base of customers requires us to be even more agile and more cognizant of their unique needs." The reasons for the trend to fewer dealerships are many and include increased investment and overhead costs, and a push for more advanced machinery technologies that require greater expertise to operate and repair. The latter has also made an impact on the industry as a whole. ADVANCING TECHNOLOGIES Through the years, the basic functions of each agricultural machine or tool have remained pretty much the same. Combines still combine. Planters, plant. Rotary cutters, cut. And so on. What's changed are the ease-of use, efficiency, and accuracy with every piece of ag equipment now being sold. "One of the over-riding changes is quite simply, productivity --- the ability to move more material through the equipment more quickly, or simply to cover more acres in the same amount of time," explains Larson. "At Woods, we started working on Batwing rotary cutter designs in the late '50s, shipping the first units in 1963. Since that time, we have consistently worked to design mowing and cutting equipment that can handle greater and greater volumes of material." Another example is the DICKEY- john Manufacturing Company. In 1966, they introduced electronic monitoring devices for planters and air seeders. During the 1990s, farmers were offered similar devices for yield mapping, or measuring and displaying the quality and quantity of a harvest as the combine moves through the field. These units were among the first to indicate where mechanization was headed next: precision agriculture. Farmers began using Global Positioning System (GPS) receivers in 1994. Compared to today's standards, the systems were very basic, yet extremely useful. For the first time, farmers could record precise locations on their farms to determine which areas needed particular quantities of water, fertilizer, or pesticides. GPS promised a more-accurate, cost- saving way to farm. Since then, advancements have come at a dizzying pace, with companies offering machine telematics, soil and crop sensors, real- time kinematic (RTK) navigation, and advanced automation to reduce operator workload. BIGGER EQUIPMENT, SMALLER EQUIPMENT The move to larger equipment over the past 50 years has been well documented. As farms became larger, so did the need for bigger, more powerful, and more efficient equipment. Planters now reach up to 120 feet across (John Deere DB120). Combines feature 24-row corn heads, 50-foot draper platforms. Cotton pickers haul in six rows at a time. Rotary cutters manage pastures with a 26-ft cutting path. There is, however, a movement to smaller equipment, especially over the past two decades. Recognizing small farms and Rural Lifestyle acreages as viable markets, many equipment manufacturers added smaller tractors and attachments to their lines. Some, however, were always in that business. Kubota introduced its first U.S. tractor, the 21-horsepower L200, in 1969. Mahindra USA was established in Tomball, TX, in 1994 and began selling compact and utility tractors. Kioti tractors came to the U.S. in 1986. McCormick Tractors saw a return to America in 2001. John Deere, AGCO, Case IH, and New Holland also put a focus on this market segment, with sub-compact, compact, and utility tractor lines, attachments, and tools designed for smaller acreages. MARKETING COMMUNICATIONS Looking back, equipment advertising seemed a bit simpler. There were really only a few approaches to the farm market: print, radio, mailers, brochures, and, at times, television. Today's marketing communications landscape is much more complex. Dee Weeda, Senior Public Relations Manager at Broadhead, the agency for AGCO states, "The greatest change has been the gradual evolution away from mass media and mass media communication methods to more direct, individual and target communication practices." According to Barry Nelson, Manager, Media Relations, John Deere Agriculture & Turf Division , "At John Deere, marketing communications tactics are built around market segments. We have different ad and PR strategies and tactics to reach different customers from different market segments. While print is still the base for reaching ag customers, digital and social media continue to grow and will be new frontiers in marketing communications in the future." Angela Larson at Woods Equipment adds, "Today, we work hard to give end-users and dealers the information they want in the formats they prefer, maintaining a balance of print media, web tools, and social media. More than ever, communicating with customers is a two-way dialogue and the "corporate voice" has been replaced with authentic interactions, regardless of media." AM Mike Gustafson, a regular contributor to Agri Marketing magazine, retired from John Deere in 2009 after a 25-year career with the company. Currently, he serves as editor for the Rural Marketing News e-newsletter, as well as writes, edits, and provides other marketing support for such clients as John Deere, the AgriBusiness Educational Foundation and the Fallen Heroes Family Camp. He was President of NAMA in 2003-2004. He can be reached at email@example.com.
November December 2012