There is one company that not only helps farmers to plow up their fields, but has also plowed up the marketing landscape big time!

“Content Marketing” is being used more and more frequently nowadays. It is quite obvious what it stands for. “Content” is the key element of this approach. In contrast to direct slogans and short-lived advertising messages, content marketing takes a different direction. The focus is on providing valuable and relevant content to a selected target group. The mix of entertainment, educational content and advertising captivates the audience, creates trust and credibility, which contributes to strong brand building and brand loyalty in the long term.

This sustainable strategy, although widespread and increasingly popular these days, is anything but new. Although not under this name, this approach has existed for well over 100 years and this is the story of one of its important pioneers. 🚜

The Blacksmith

John Deere was a blacksmith, born in 1804 in Rutland, Vermont, USA, who finally launched a self-cleaning steel plow on the market at a young age in 1837, which became an absolute bestseller among farmers due to its high efficiency. This was the basis for a flourishing company, always with a close connection to agriculture. From 1918 onwards, the distinctive green and yellow tractors were produced, for which the company “John Deere” is known worldwide today, even though the company founder died in 1886 and passed on his legacy to his heirs.

The Birth of “The Furrow”

As already mentioned, John Deere has always been close to agriculture and thus to its customers, which certainly contributed to the great success of its products. Recognising the demands and difficulties of daily working life and responding to them was a recipe for success that contributed to the continuous improvement of its products. This approach was continued and in 1895, John Deere took the visionary step of launching a magazine that pursued a revolutionary marketing approach. “The Furrow” was a publication that went far beyond the traditional sales pitch. Instead, it was designed to provide the target audience, the farmer, with insight, practical guidance and truly relevant and applicable information.

The Benefit as a Priority

John Deere’s approach was to offer added value primarily. Rather than focusing solely on selling its products, the company recognised the importance of building a relationship with its audience. “The Furrow” became an educational platform that showcased the latest advances in agriculture, innovative farming methods, and the effective use of John Deere machinery.

Further development of “The Furrow”

Over the years, “The Furrow” developed into more than just a magazine. The content and topics were constantly expanded to cater to the diverse interests of the readership. The newspaper increasingly became a symbol of expertise and reliability in agriculture.

It is worth taking a closer look at the content to gain an impression and, ideally, ideas for your marketing. Important components:

  • Articles as guides: Detailed articles with practical insights into cultivation techniques, crop management and equipment use.
  • Case studies: Success stories and experiences of farmers
  • Product information: Detailed information on the latest John Deere machines, features and technological advances.
  • Seasonal tips: Advice on seasonal activities, planting and harvesting schedules and best practices at different times of the year.
  • Market Trends: Information on market trends, crop prices and economic factors impacting agriculture.
  • Community news: Up-to-date information on local farming communities, events and activities that foster a sense of community among farmers.
  • Innovations and Research: Coverage of agricultural innovations, research findings and technological developments relevant to agriculture.
  • Readers’ contributions: Contributions from readers who share their own experiences, tips and insights, creating a sense of collaboration.

Furthermore, John Deere proved that they can keep up with the ever-changing and growing demands. A well-implemented content marketing strategy can be successful in the long term, given the necessary flexibility.

Long-term impact on content marketing

Even if at the beginning the underlying considerations were certainly rather pragmatic, in retrospect it was pioneering work and the foundation stone for what we know today as content marketing. Informative and educational content still builds trust with customers or potential customers today, and this will most likely remain the case in the near and distant future. An argument, therefore, for an up-and-coming company to also follow this path.

Content marketing in the digital age

Over the years, not only has “The Furrow” arrived in the digital age, but also content marketing itself. Countless forms illustrate the diversity of possibilities, but which formats exactly count as content marketing and which format would you choose for your strategy?

  • Text content:
    • Blog posts: Written articles published on websites provide in-depth information, insights and updates.
    • Articles and whitepapers: Long content that covers complex topics and provides authoritative information.
    • Social media posts: Short, concise written content shared on platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn to capture audience attention.
  • Email marketing:
    • Newsletters: Regular emails with updates, curated content and exclusive offers.
    • Drip campaigns: Automated series of targeted emails that deliver content over time.
  • Visual content:
    • Infographics: Visual representations of data, facts or processes to simplify complex information.
    • Videos: Engaging visual content ranging from short clips to in-depth videos.
    • Images and graphics: Attention-grabbing visuals used on websites, social media and other digital platforms.
  • Interactive content:
    • Quizzes: Interactive tools that encourage audience participation and deliver personalised results.
    • Surveys: Gathering audience insights to customise content and improve products or services.
    • Calculators and ratings: Tools that provide personalised results based on user input.
  • Audio content:
    • Podcasts: Audio content on various topics in a convenient on-the-go format.
    • Audiobooks: Annotated versions of written content that improve accessibility for different audiences.
  • User-generated content (UGC):
    • Customer reviews and testimonials: Real feedback from users describing positive experiences.
    • Social media sharing: Users are encouraged to share their experiences with a brand or product.
  • Short-form content:
    • Microblogs: Short and concise written content that is frequently shared on platforms such as Twitter.
    • Short videos: Short video clips are often used on platforms such as TikTok and Instagram Reels.
  • Webinars and live streaming:
    • Live events: Streaming of events, product launches or discussions in real-time.
    • Webinars: Interactive online seminars that provide valuable information to a target audience.

Each form serves a specific purpose to engage audiences, build brand awareness and foster customer relationships. While the methods of content delivery have changed in the digital age, the principles laid out by John Deere are undoubtedly still relevant.

In addition, as the possibilities of the digital age have grown significantly, so too have the number of positive attributes and positive effects. The following selection gives an impression and will probably convince every marketer:

  • Increased brand visibility and promotion of brand awareness
  • Building recognition and trust among customers and potential customers
  • Improved SEO and search engine visibility
  • Long-term engagement of the audience
  • Lead generation and conversion
  • Easy and quick implementation
  • Customisability and versatility
  • High-cost efficiency
  • Extensive analysis options and measurable results
  • Wide reach, global if necessary

Conclusion: Content Marketing … a Success Story

John Deere has undoubtedly pioneered an innovative formula to strengthen customer relationships, reinforce brand relevance and attract potential customers through skillful marketing.

The comparable Michelin Guide, which followed a very similar strategy, was not published for the first time until 1900, five years after John Deere. Another four years later, in 1904, the Jell-O recipe book was published, also an early form of content marketing.

The concept of captivating an audience in this way has since been imitated by many others and has become hugely important today. Content marketing … a success story!