The most powerful brands offer more than a unique, hard-to-copy and relevant value promise embracing both tangible and emotional benefits. They are also about more than the brand’s personality, although I will admit to loving beer brand Dos Equis “most interesting man in the world” personality. The best brands appeal to a shared aspiration that speaks to our deep hopes and dreams. When the organization’s actions authentically reflect this aspiration, you have a magical brand, like John Deere.
Yes, the John Deere. The heavy off-highway equipment company serving the construction, farming and other earth-moving markets. Its award-winning communications campaign, You’re On, teaches many brand and business model strategy lessons.
Start with Deere’s construction industry homepage, where you’ll see the message “Who says man cannot move a mountain?” as a Deere machine moves earth on a landscape surrounded by mountains. What a welcomed contrast to the daily visual and auditory bombardment —especially prevalent this time of year—from companies whose only message seems to be “buy more.” Increasingly, advertisers messages celebrate wealth and luxury, as the Saturday Wall Street Journal magazine next to my computer as I write reminds me. Deere brings us back to what matters in such a refreshing way.
Deere’s campaign celebrates their hard-working customers, who are the opposite of the images filling most media these days. The contrast in Deere’s messaging is so startling that its campaign is creating a movement to honor blue-collar work, so that more people will consider these important roles in our society for careers.
Of course, the media campaign never would have come about had Deere not continued its tradition of asking customers to work alongside its engineers in product design. The company put its 2012 new product line totally in customers’ hands, moving to an open-innovation business model. As part of its effort, Deere’s agency, gyro, asked construction workers to “sound off” about their needs using a “chatterbox” it delivered to construction sites. This box is not unlike those of the mobile offices found on work site landscapes, but in this case painted a bright yellow like Deere’s earth-moving equipment. Inside, a sound system and video camera captured the voices of construction workers and managers. “Isn’t it time for a little thinking inside the box?” the company asked its users.
The gyro communications campaign around Deere’s product development strategy was creatively and strategically inspired to honor and celebrate the customers who helped Deere create its 2012 product line. The campaign also gave other construction workers a chance to speak out about their work. Listen to this clip (called “Where’s your blue collar swagger?”) to experience the power of the campaign.
Deere’s new products and the related media campaign were rolled out at ConExpo, the annual construction convention. Aligned with the event announcements and happenings, Gyro launched advertising, digital marketing and media strategies that represented integrated marketing communications at its best. The agency created very few of its own words: the auditory and visual messages are all those of Deere customers because “We couldn’t say it better that our customers.”
The results – beyond the creative awards – were impressive. More than 5,000 people attended the kickoff at ConExpo, 30,000 visited the booth and 100,000 watched live on a webcast. “At the same exact moment those customers began appearing in ads and websites, they were also appearing live on stage, applauded by thousands. Additionally, social media tools were not only appearing online, but the entire booth was transformed into a social platform,” according to B2B Marketing, which short-listed the campaign as one of the best in 2012.
There are so many reasons to applaud the gyro B2B Integrated Marketing Communications campaign. First, it communicates that Deere truly cares about its customers – so much that it is giving them an important voice internally and externally. Second, by using the voice of its customers across this site, Deere’s brand personality aligns with its customers – smart, real, down to earth and doing valuable work. What construction company would not want to buy from Deere? Third, the campaign demonstrates that customers designed and love the new products, which will increase leads and speed Deere’s selling cycle, offering high return on its marketing spend.
Finally, Deere is giving its customers the opportunity to more deeply experience and communicate the pride they feel in their work. I can imagine a construction worker taking his son or daughter to this site. What a great way to build brand loyalty.
All this raises a great year-end question. What are you doing for your customers?