Are Crop Protection Companies Wasting Money on Advertising?

Many farmers think that advertising is a waste of money. But does advertising have an impact on what farmers buy? Or are there other ways crop protection companies could invest their resources more effectively?

Early in 2019 Stratus interviewed 2,300 farmers across the US and Canada to ask about their interactions with crop protection companies; and to see how those interactions affected product use.

Crop protection companies want to grow their business.  One approach is to introduce new and better products - but that is a very long, difficult and expensive process.  In the meantime, companies want to convince farmers to use more of their existing products, instead of the competitors’ brands, with everyone competing for the same acre.  So how much impact does advertising have on encouraging farmers to buy more from a company?

In the study, we asked farmers if they remembered various forms of advertising such as direct mail, radio, magazines, etc., and we asked which products they had used in 2018.  Farmers who hadn’t seen or heard any media advertising from a company used, on average, 2 products from those companies; but those who had experienced three or more media types used an average of 2.5 products from those companies. It is not surprising that farmers are not making their decisions based on ads, but advertising does have a small positive impact on the number of products farmers are using from a company. 

We also asked farmers about the field activities they experienced with each company, including rep farm visits, demo tours, grower meetings and tradeshows.  On average, farmers used just 2 products from a company if they had not been involved in any of the company’s field activities, but 3.4 products from a company if they’d engaged in three or more of the company’s field activities.  These engaging, in-person interactions are more useful to farmers and have more impact on what they decide to buy.

So again, why do companies advertise?  First, despite the perception that it is a pricey marketing tactic, it is a relatively inexpensive way to reach a lot of farmers, especially when compared to the cost of things like reps, tours and meetings.  The study found that advertising is quite effective in getting farmers onside: Customers who have seen a company’s advertising are more likely to recommend the company’s products to others.  And even those who don’t currently buy anything from a company are more likely to consider using their new product if they’ve seen ads from the company.

In the battle to get farmers to use more of a company’s products, field activities are much more effective than advertising, but both play an important role.

For more information about the Farmer Feedback study, contact: