Agriculture Company Drives Social Engagement with 'Serial'-Inspired Podcast

Sarah Steimer
Marketing News
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Key Takeaways

​What? Crop nutrition company Mosaic and marketing agency Broadhead created "The Great Yield Mystery" to reach farmers during harvest season.

So what? The podcast increased social media engagement between Mosaic and its consumers, as farmers are often using social platforms to discuss yields and other topics during harvest.

Now what? Marketers should consider peak engagement times for their customers and target them on the same or related platforms.

​July 27, 2017

Crop nutrition company Mosaic and marketing agency Broadhead created a podcast to engage and inform farmers

Mosaic sells products that aren’t very flashy. Descriptions of its crop nutrition products include phrases like “potassium oxide,” “nutrient removal” and “bushel per acre average.” However, this doesn’t mean that the marketing of those products needs to be boring. Mosaic and marketing communications agency Broadhead chose to break through the monotony of scientific jargon and the noise of the internet using a podcast and an engaging social media campaign.

Goal

“Our goal is always to educate our audience about the importance of crop nutrition, and we want to promote our company as the leader within that category,” Mosaic brand manager Mindy Dale says. “We wanted to do it in a more engaging and entertaining way to break through the clutter and see what traction we could get with a different approach.”

The company knew one of the best times to reach out to its target audience is during harvest season, when social media usage spikes among farmers. They share photos of their harvest and other yield-related information online, plus they’re able to browse as they work: Ample time in tractors allows for some extra media consumption—especially when so many of these machines almost drive themselves.

“At least 50% of farmers are on social media,” Dale says. “We also know that most farmers have a smartphone, and they use it to access the internet.”

The time was right for a social media campaign, but the company needed something that could stand out in a sea of tweets and Facebook posts.

Action

Broadhead was tasked with creating the campaign, and Wayne Carlson, a partner in Broadhead’s strategy division, Rabbit Relevance, says the team came up with the podcast concept by brainstorming about what was popular at the time. Namely, the investigative journalism podcast “Serial.”

“Somebody said, ‘It’s too bad there’s not a crime that needs solving, but the thing that was robbed was yield.’ Someone else said, ‘Why couldn’t we make that up?’ Like ‘Serial,’ but fiction,’ ” Carlson says. “One of us got up on a board and started writing things down and the last thing we wrote was ‘Twin Peaks’ meets ‘Serial’ meets ‘Prairie Home Companion.’ And that was the center of the brief.”

Harvest time proved to be the ideal time frame to get into the farmer’s mindset. This period is when Mosaic’s consumer is looking at the yield monitor in the combine and thinking about what to do differently the following year. It’s a perfect opportunity for presenting a solution in an entertaining manner.

Broadhead knew hiring voice actors for the podcast would become too expensive. Instead, the agency cast its own employees as the characters. Carlson says the creative director who devised the podcast story wrote key components of the staff’s personalities into the fictional characters. The staff actors were placed in the sound booth with talking points, the script and agronomy experts on the other side of the glass to fact check.

 

 Great Yield Mystery Trailer Video

 

“The Great Yield Mystery” wound up sounding something like a throwback radio program, Carlson says. The podcast begins its tale with a death; however, it’s not who died, but what: one farmer’s crop yield. The community is introduced as the narrator tries to solve the mystery of the low yield, and characters wax poetic on everything from weather conditions to potluck salads. The audience was encouraged to react on social media and read the case files on the podcast’s website to help solve the mystery.

Results

For the October through December period during which the podcast ran, Mosaic exceeded its social media engagement goal by 379% and saw a 20% increase in Facebook likes. The podcast had more than 2,000 downloads and the campaign received almost 2 million media impressions. The campaign also won numerous industry awards.

“As a marketer in the digital age, it’s becoming difficult to break through the clutter and find ways to leverage all the channels that are available to us,” Dale says. “This campaign was unlike anything that’s in our industry. The fact that we were able to stand out and still deliver the technical information in such a clever way made this campaign a success. Trying something new actually paid off.”

The sort of highly technical information presented by Mosaic and many other B-to-B organizations can make for dry marketing campaigns. Dale says “The Great Yield Mystery” was able to strike the right balance between technical content and entertaining storytelling.

“Our research partners are highly technical, skilled and trained Ph.D. researchers, so a lot of the information that they provide is technical. Our goal in marketing is to simplify that information and make it as easy as possible for our audience to understand,” Dale says. “This storytelling approach helped achieve that goal by creating the compelling characters and the compelling storyline that the audience could actually relate to.”

Relatability was a key component of how the podcast story was presented. The audience lives in rural America, Dale says, so the storyline was written in a way that tied the audience’s lifestyle together with aspects of the farming business.

“There isn’t anything like it out there right now and definitely not with an agriculture focus,” Carlson says. “Plus we created a place for this community to thrive. It was more than just enjoying the audio. People who enjoyed the audio could also go to the microsite—GreatYieldMystery.com—and read case files. In those case files they could find information to solve the mystery. There was also a contest component to it. It had the ability to get the audience involved. When you add those two things together, that’s kind of the secret sauce that equals engagement in my mind.”

Dale says that the response from farmers has been very positive (albeit simple: “It was pretty entertaining and informative.”), and the goal was met. Whether there’s another mystery in the future for Mosaic’s audience to solve remains to be seen.


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Author Bio:

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Sarah Steimer
Sarah Steimer is a staff writer for the AMA's magazines and e-newsletters. She may be reached at ssteimer@ama.org or on Twitter at @sarah_steimer.
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