John Deere is one of the top brands in the world. It is a great example of innovation, core values, brand purpose and content marketing. I believe that a brand purpose that genuinely helps consumers and a content marketing strategy based on being useful are critical for building brands today. Founded in 1837, by John Deere, a blacksmith and inventor, the Deere Company has grown into one of the most admired businesses in the world. It is a brand built on integrity, commitment, quality and innovation. For over 170 years, the brand has stayed true to its core purpose of serving people linked to the land and helping to improve living standards for people everywhere. Their brand purpose guides their business strategy.
In 1836, John Deere faced difficult business conditions in Vermont. He also had a young family to care for. John took a gamble that paid off. He traveled alone to Grand Detour, Illinois to make a fresh start. His skills as a blacksmith were in high demand. The new pioneer farmers in the midwest struggled to turn heavy, sticky prairie soil with cast iron plows designed for the light, sandy soil of New England. John Deere was convinced that a plow that was highly polished and properly shaped would solve this problem. In `1837, he created such a plow, using a broken saw blade. During the months and years that followed, John Deere would work closely with farmers to listen to their needs and understand their challenges and work to continue to improve the plow. John Deere was “customer centric” long before the term was popularized. This approach has been very successful. In 2012, John Deere generated $36 Billion in global sales.
The John Deere Company was also one of the original “Content Marketers”. In 1895, John Deere started publishing a magazine for farmers called “The Furrow”. The company published the magazine in hopes of being a resource for their customers. The Furrow magazine was not designed to sell John Deere equipment directly as a catalog would do. The content featured in The Furrow was educational, and it focused on teaching farmers how to be more successful business owners. If farmers were successful, they were likely to need more John Deere products. The magazine was not filled with promotional messages and self-serving content. The content was developed by journalists and storytellers and covered topics that farmers cared deeply about. The goal was to help farmer’s become more profitable. They understood what really mattered to their customers.
Today “The Furrow” is the largest circulated farming magazine in the world. it is also available online. It is delivered to over 1.5 million farmers, in 12 languages in 40 different countries. It’s a novel concept, but if you focus on helping consumers solve problems and get jobs done instead of “sell, sell, sell” the revenue will come. It just requires a long-term perspective.
In his book “Epic Content Marketing”, Joe Pulizzi defines Content Marketing as the marketing and business process for creating and distributing valuable and compelling content to attract, acquire and engage a clearly define and understood target audience – with the objective of driving profitable consumer action. Content marketing is a strategy that focuses on the creation of a valuable experience.
As Pulizzi articulates in his book “Epic Content Marketing”, there is one thing that separates the content developed by a media company and the content developed by a brand, its how the money comes in. For a media company, content is created in order to make money directly from the creation of content through paid content sales. For a non media company, content is created, not to profit from the content, but to attract and retain customers. Content supports the business, but it is not the business model(meaning that non media companies are required to make revenues directly off the content itself.
Content Marketing is a new way of thinking about marketing that has been around for at least 120 years. Content marketing is about creating useful information for customers so they actually pay attention to you. It is marketing without selling. As Pulizzi so accurately writes, “your customers don’t care about your products, they care about themselves”.
Can you think of another brand that does a great job of providing their customers with useful content?