The Sauce Paradox, The Funnel of Specificity and Dominant Logic: Bringing to Life the Cultural Challenge of Biologicals vs. Traditional Crop Protection
I have often highlighted some of the cultural and core competency challenges of crop protection companies shifting towards the selling of products like biostimulants, most recently last week:
If we think about what the core competency of the farmer facing staff of Corteva is, we quickly identify it is understanding pests and how to kill them (disease, insects, weeds) with synthetic products. This skill set and product focus is, on a relative basis, simple to illustrate and communicate to a farmer. See a weed, spray to kill the weed, see the weed die/disappear. Same with insects.
The competency necessary to effectively sell biostimulants and biofertilizers is actually very different. For example, biostimulants increasing “nutrient use efficiency” is less tangible to illustrate and communicate plus requires an understanding of soil fertility and complex soil interactions to position and understand where it will work best. Same with biofertilizers, for example, to effectively position their Utrisha product there is a need to understand crop yield potential, residual nitrogen levels, protein premiums (in wheat) and much more. Without that understanding, the product expectations are unlikely to be communicated effectively and the outcomes have a higher chance of being suboptimal, both resulting in poor customer experience and ROI.
I had a few questions on examples of it. While it is always challenging to illustrate without an inside perspective I think it is possible to anecdotally bring this to life a bit.
I am going to highlight UPL Canada and their Ohm product, which is the common seaweed based biostimulant, Ascophyllum nodosum. Specifically highlighting their market positioning and extrapolating that out.
Like I talked about in the above quote, “nutrient use efficiency” is not very tangible. Yet here is how UPL positions Ohm on their website and every single piece of marketing material I found:
OHM™ Biostimulant is a highly advanced, highly concentrated form of Ascophyllum nodosum seaweed extract that optimizes nutrient use efficiency for enhanced plant development and higher yield potential in cereals, pulses, pome fruit, stone fruit, berries and other crops. OHM has been globally researched and proven to optimize plant nutrient utilization efficiency. This provides enhanced plant development including larger root length and larger leaf size which ultimately leads to higher yield potential. OHM Biostimulant provides a pure formulation that is a key component of improving the nutrient uptake and use at key physiological stages of plant development.
It’s short on “so what” implications and tangible data anywhere in their material.
If you talk to most crop protection companies today, they know what diseases, insects and weeds “trigger” farmers and agronomists, so they position the product accordingly based on the product strengths - whether on their website, or equipping their staff to talk at depth about these problems or any other marketing collateral. This allows them to own a specific area of the market with their product and even price the product accordingly.
We see this on almost every crop protection companies websites and marketing messaging, and even on UPL’s site when it comes to their core competency products, like herbicides. Take their Everest 3.0 product:
EVEREST® 3.0 AG is an advanced flucarbazone-sodium formulation with new carrier technology adding greater stability of the active ingredients for unsurpassed ease of use. This advanced formulation delivers superior control of wild oats and green foxtail and other hard-to-kill weeds such as Japanese brome.
They then go on to talk about flushing control, a notable point of resonation with farmers with wild oats and one of the differentiators of that product in key market areas. They do an excellent job positioning and owning a specific spot in the market with that product, because they understand that area of the industry.
In crop input marketing there is a funnel of specificity based on understanding the problem and the market, illustrated here: