Deere goes beyond famed brand to cultivate ties with customers

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Although the green and yellow John Deere logo is one of the most recognized brands around, Deere & Co.'s commercial and consumer equipment division doesn't rely on the brand alone to boost sales. The division has leveraged the power of its well-known brand through direct marketing.

Unlike agricultural product sales, where rural dealers have close relationships with customers, Deere's commercial and consumer equipment division had a harder time reaching consumers who are often located in large urban and suburban areas, said Dale Paschke, manager-advertising marketing communications.

"We wanted to initially go out and reinforce our brand with one-to-one direct marketing techniques, not really knowing how it would work for us," Mr. Paschke said, explaining why he began using direct marketing four years ago. "We're just very, very pleased with how it's going."

Deere's direct marketing budget has doubled over the first three years. Ted Thompson, VP-management director at FCB Direct, Chicago, began working with Deere in 1996 at CM Partners, which FCB acquired last year.

Direct marketing now represents 12% to 15% of the division's 2000 U.S. marketing budget, and FCB is working to develop direct marketing in Canada. At Deere's request, FCB also has submitted a proposal to the company's European offices regarding direct marketing there.

"We're committed to it because it does bring the results that we expect, and our customers like the one-to-one relationship," Mr. Paschke said.

Deere's direct marketing initially focused on promoting consumer products. In addition to mail pieces, campaigns often consist of print ads and direct-response TV. Last year, FCB launched a pilot project for Deere's Skid Steer loader, a commercial product often used in urban construction. The ads include a videotape offer to better explain the product.

Videotapes have proved to boost sales in the past. A consumer video offer, which was introduced in 1998, not only doubled response rates but also doubled sales, Mr. Thompson said.

"We're going to be leaning on that pretty heavily for their commercial products," Mr. Thompson said of the video offer. "It lets you get a broader array of information in front of the consumer."

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