Behind The Brand Story:
A Dog-Gone Good Tractor

Story: “Local Flavor”

Client: Massey Ferguson tractors

Magazine story: http://www.onlinedigitalpubs.com/publication/?i=77456&p=11 Web package: http://www.myfarmlife.com/features/local-flavor/

It’s an old reporter’s proverb: Ask a man about his dog and he’ll tell you about his fleas. The point being: A topic like pets is a great way to get an interview started and the conversation flowing.

Another way of explaining it is that interviews for brand journalism stories—or any stories, for that matter—are rarely a linear process. If the reporter really wants to get to know his subjects, he or she needs to take the time to listen. Be patient. Such an approach makes for much richer stories, and more effective content marketing.

Robert Dasher's dog, Spot.

Robert Dasher's dog, Spot.

All of which is to say: That’s how we Red Barners met Spot.

He’s the dog in the photo, and a happy one at that, having found a guy named Robert Dasher. We were happy to find Robert, too, since he was the man we were hoping to interview.

You see, Robert is a busy man and hard to catch. He runs a family farm operation that includes timber, cattle, corn, beans and onions—Vidalia onions—a crop he helped turn into a national culinary icon. The latter effort was one of the main reasons we were doing a story on the accomplished, successful farmer. That and his being named the 2010 Southeastern Farmer of the Year. Our brand journalism client, Massey Ferguson, the single sponsor for FarmLife™, is also a sponsor of the farmer of the year contest, awarding the winner with the free use of a tractor of his or her choice for a year.

But, through research and interviews with Massey Ferguson staff, we knew all this information before we even got to Robert’s office in Glennville, Georgia. Much of what we didn’t know we learned after we started chatting with Robert about Spot.

For instance, Robert told us that he and Spot stumbled upon each other recently, when the dog, then a stray, was not much more than “skin and bones.” Robert had adopted the dog, or maybe it was the other way around. Just the same, we could see that Spot, looking like he’d had a few good meals since meeting with his new master, liked Robert and vice versa. As they sported about town in Robert's truck, the two seemed inseparable.

Robert Dasher

Robert Dasher

In addition, we learned that Robert’s father, Walter, was one of the first to grow the sweet onion now known as Vidalia, and that Robert and his older brother Gerald picked up where the elder Dasher left off, selling and promoting the onion to grocery stores, chefs and TV personalities. Robert also told us that the Dasher brothers were almost run out of their hometown of Glennville for selling their onions under the name of Vidalia, which just happens to be THE rival town to the west.

This story, it seemed, had it all: conflict, success, a gracious subject, even a dog. Then, too, applying the disciplines of Advanced Content®, it certainly offered a compelling story—the effort of Robert and others to grow and promote the Vidalia has been held up internationally as a model for agricultural entrepreneurship. And Robert’s success as a farmer lends him credibility in many fields, agricultural and otherwise.

Now, we just needed to connect Robert and his family operation to our client, Massey Ferguson. Taking time to learn about the Dasher operation allowed that to happen, and through interviews—conversations really—with both Robert and his family, we found out that, while they didn’t really have any fleas, the Dashers did have an itch. They wanted to buy a new Massey Ferguson, but logistically, they couldn’t.

As we learned, Robert and family hadn’t bought a Massey, as they and most owners call them, in about 30 years, because their previous dealer closed and there’s no new dealer that can service their now-larger operation. Yet, they still owned almost all of their older Massey tractors, including two 135s—both of them nearly 40 years old and a tractor model that holds a special place in the pantheon of farm equipment, as well as on the Dasher farm.

The family still uses the 135s to plant their onion seed, which cost them, Robert told us, about $6,000 an acre. Compare that to seed costs for other crops at less than $100 per acre and you get an immediate sense of the trust the Dashers place in those “old” tractors.

Even with their newer “green” tractors from a competitive brand—including several newer, high-dollar models—the family still trusts their Masseys with such a critical task, because, says Robert, “That 135 is the most balanced tractor. It turns around on a dime.” With such expensive seeds, he continues, “you have to do precision work. The 135 just handles so good, and you can see off it so good, too.”

That’s not just connecting a story subject to our client; that’s connecting that subject’s success directly with our client’s products. Still, how does that help sell new Massey Ferguson equipment?

Because of the tractor Robert won for being named Farmer of the Year, he’s newly acquainted with the brand and its current line of equipment, which he tells us provides that same quality and dependability as his highly valued tractors from four decades back. He also proudly notes that in head-to-head comparisons, his new, big, industry-leading Massey Ferguson—an MF8680—out performed his green tractors.

“We had the MF8680 running in the same field with two John Deeres for the same amount of time, pulling the same load.” The result of the tests? The MF8680 “out-pulled these John Deeres and the Massey used less fuel.”

That, according to Dasher, makes the MF8680 a winner and a keeper. Come to find out, Robert and Massey are about as inseparable as he and Spot.

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