Anatomy of a Brand Story: Seeds They Sow

Story: “Seeds They Sow”
Client: Massey Ferguson tractors
Magazine story:
Web package:

Why it’s compelling:

Bob and David Bartlett

Bob and David Bartlett

Everybody knows about the potato industry in Idaho. “You know, Idaho does a great job of advertising,” says Bob Bartlett, who along with his son David makes up one of the most well-known and well-seasoned potato operations in one of America’s other potato capitols, northern Maine. We visited Barlett Farms in Littleton, Maine, just as Bob and David were beginning harvest.

Though potatoes are not necessarily a unique crop, they are unique when compared to the corn-soybean-wheat trifecta typically grown on North American commercial farms, which is one of the main audiences for content from FarmLife, the magazine and content marketing program Red Barn Media Group creates for Massey Ferguson tractors.

Adding to the unique and compelling nature of the piece is that Bartlett Farms produces seed potatoes. Potatoes grown for seed and those grown for fries and chips (process) or the produce department at your grocer (table stock) have only subtle differences. Seed stock is grown only to a range of 1.5 to 3.25 inches in diameter before each potato is harvested and stored or shipped. Seed stock also undergoes a more rigorous inspection process, both in the field and after harvest. Disease or fungus issues that wouldn’t affect process or table stock spuds can be the ruin of a seed crop; customers who buy the seed stock need to trust that it is disease-free and otherwise ready for propagation. Seed potatoes make up one-fifth of the production in Maine and 100% of the Bartletts’ business.

Our research tells us that farmers like to read about unique crops and their production. Besides that, one of the highest engagement rates we see in web and social content is around legacy equipment and its restoration, and the Bartletts have that covered in spades; more on that in a moment.

Why it’s credible:

A great many of our story sources are recommended by Massey Ferguson’s extensive dealer network. In this case, it was hard to find someone in the Northeast who wouldn’t recommend the Bartletts. Bob is something of a local legend. He has served on both the Maine and National potato boards, and he still serves on Littleton’s board of selectmen.

Besides the credibility of the story source, the sheer size of the Bartlett Farms business is notable as well. Given that seed potatoes are a good but smaller than their table and process counterparts, the 7 million pounds of product shipped each year by Bartlett Farms is all the more impressive.

How it’s connected:

Talk about brand ambassadors: Bob and David have run Massey Ferguson tractors for more than four decades. They not only run the tractors in their business, but Bob has one of the best and most well-restored collections of early Massey equipment in the Northeast. As Bob told me in one of my first calls to his farm, “I could talk about Massey Ferguson all day.” His story about a 30-year-old tractor that has “never had a wrench in it” says it all about the value customers can expect from the product.

FarmLife stories and the sources featured in them don’t try to convince others in talking product that this equipment will make a farm successful. Connecting the product message to a credible source instead exhibits how successful farmers make the decision to choose Massey Ferguson equipment. It’s a subtle but effective difference between testimonials and brand journalism.

A consistent approach:

As per usual with a FarmLife piece, this story was made for leveraging across media platforms. It started with a magazine story, which was also on the cover for that issue, and continued online with two videos—one about the seed potato business, the other about Bartlett’s tractor collection. Once the story and videos were shared on Massey Ferguson’s Facebook and Twitter feeds, both the Maine and National potato boards picked it up and shared it on their social channels as well, connecting new potential customers to a brand that the Bartletts are so proud to run.

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