“We recruit, develop, and retain the best talent we possibly can. We reinforce our purpose: being committed to those linked to the land. That means we are focused on helping our customers feed, clothe, shelter, and provide infrastructure for the world.”
John Deere has had its largest product launch in history. How have these offerings helped strengthen the brand’s point of difference in the marketplace?
With new emissions regulations effective this year and in 2012, John Deere has been able to deliver the technologies that meet or beat these standards—while improving fuel efficiency and adding functions and features that deliver greater value. The introductions have enhanced our reputation for innovation and quality.
How have the introductions of new offerings like Machine Sync and FarmSight changed the way customers view the John Deere brand? How has this changed the perception of John Deere in the marketplace?
In developed markets like the U.S. and Western Europe, these capabilities are a very natural progression of the consultative, solutions-based approach we have been using with customers. To the degree that less-developed markets are ready for this technology, it will be a differentiator for the company. Our telematics and guidance capabilities are fully integrated with our equipment (since we are the sole-source provider); whereas, the few competitors who strive to offer something similar are doing so by adding on a third-party’s products rather than integrating capabilities.
Are these new product introductions reflective of a heightened focus on innovation? Meeting a new set of customer needs? A competitive response to local companies across the globe?
Since its founding almost 175 years ago, one of John Deere’s core values has been and continues to be innovation. Each market has its own challenges that can require specific solutions. For instance, crops, soils, climates; urbanization trends and regulatory requirements; customers’ level of mechanization—all might vary significantly. So our approach is to fully understand these dynamics and deliver products that make the most sense and deliver the best value. Our ability to address these dynamic factors effectively is the best differentiator, irrespective of local or multinational competition.
While John Deere’s heritage and history is a powerful lever in the U.S., how have you achieved such success in global expansion where the brand may not have the same understanding or recognition?
We begin by understanding the customers’ requirements—not just what they need, but what they value. We work hard to select and develop the best possible dealers (for they are the customers’ primary touchpoints). We recruit, develop, and retain the best talent we possibly can. We reinforce our purpose: being committed to those linked to the land. That means we are focused on helping our customers feed, clothe, shelter, and provide infrastructure for the world. We localize the realization of this purpose to country-specific concerns (such as food security and rapid urbanization in China, water scarcity and food distribution challenges in India, and sustainable forests in Brazil).
How do corporate citizenship efforts in the U.S. translate globally in both developed and emerging markets?
Corporate citizenship is a combination of our philanthropy (through the John Deere Foundation), extensive volunteerism, and corporate governance, as well as the sustainability of the products and our facilities. The Foundation addresses three areas globally: Solutions for World Hunger, Community Betterment (the communities in which we live and work) and Education (with emphasis on programs in science, math, and technology). Our volunteerism mirrors those categories as best as possible globally as well. Our business code of conduct is applied to every employee in the company. The sustainability of our products and facilities is engineered into all that we do wherever we are in the world.
How much do citizenship efforts at a local and global level play a role in business decisions for Deere & Co.?
Our corporate purpose and citizenship are closely tied. Therefore, it is the need to feed the world or help meet the challenges of rapid urbanization that drive business decisions.
How has John Deere helped mitigate a downturn in the category, given that the organization’s performance suggests a strong and healthy network?
We introduced a concept a number of years ago called “Dealer of Tomorrow,” which provides very high performance standards for our dealers. These were developed to ensure that dealers have the ability to invest in the training and technologies required to provide increasingly sophisticated customers with great solutions and service. We have consolidated the number of dealership owners, but we have scaled the number of stores in our developed markets to ensure we can be responsive, easy to do business with and help our customers get their work done smarter.
With the volatility of global and local economies, how are you protecting and growing your dealer franchise businesses?
In markets that are newer to us, we spend a lot of time and attention to the dealer recruitment and development process. We need to ensure that they have great products to represent and that they will be profitable. Our dealers are not franchisees; they are independent business owners.
How has John Deere helped dealers create a meaningful John Deere branded experience? Which values of the John Deere brand has the dealer network embraced?
Our corporate identity system has made it much easier to establish a John Deere branded experience. It is very gratifying to walk into a dealership in a remote area in India, for instance, and see brochures and posters, product packaging, etc. that are all compatible with those kinds of materials in other parts of the world. We have spent a lot of time with dealer development managers instilling the John Deere brand positioning and its pillars of “responsive,” “easy,” and “smart.”
How are you measuring the expression of John Deere’s values through your dealer network?
To my knowledge, we are not doing so at the time.
Given the topics that we’ve discussed, what has been the single most powerful inspiration for the John Deere brand this past year? Any advice to other brands building their reputations globally? Any advice on uniting a global workforce behind a well-defined brand?
It is critically important for a company’s various communications and branding functions to speak with one voice, whether it is public affairs speaking to ministries, corporate citizenship staff with communities, public relations to media, marketing and advertising to customers, dealers to customers, recruiters to potential employees, or leadership to employees. All communications and marketing efforts need to be aligned, reinforcing one another. That optimizes the investment as well as accelerates awareness, consideration, and preference.
ABOUT FRANCES B. EMERSON
Frances B. Emerson is Vice President, Corporate Communications and Global Brand Management of Deere & Company. In her position at John Deere, Emerson is responsible for a broad range of external, internal, and brand management communications activities, as well as community relations and philanthropy.
Prior to joining Deere & Company in April 2005, Emerson was Senior Vice President, Corporate Communications, MassMutual Financial Group. Prior to that position, she was Vice President, Corporate Communications, Honeywell, Inc., where she earlier served as Director of Communications for Industrial Automation and Control. Emerson also served as associate instructor of business and technical communications at the University of Arizona, as well as associate instructor at the University of Utah. From 1971-72, Emerson taught English as a Peace Corps volunteer in Yap, Western Caroline Islands, Micronesia. Emerson is author of the college textbook Technical Writing, published by Houghton Mifflin.