Philip Morris is known as a tobacco company. Few people, including farmers, recognize the companies of Philip Morris (Kraft Foods North America, Miller Brewing Company, and Philip Morris U.S.A.) as the leading purchasers of agricultural products in the United States.
In 1999, Philip Morris Management Corporation launched its Shared Solutions agricultural relations program to increase awareness among farmers and ranchers that Philip Morris is more than a tobacco company. Evaluation research conducted in 2001 showed that Philip Morris – through relationship-building tactics rather than intensive advertising – had surpassed its awareness-building objectives, increasing farm leader recognition of Philip Morris as an agricultural company.
Prior to 1999, the relationship between the Philip Morris Family of Companies (PMFC) and the agricultural community could best be described as “buy-sell,” which is, fundamentally, confrontational. In an effort to strengthen relationships with U.S. farmers and ranchers, the company, through its Shared Solutions program, made a proactive commitment to work with farmers on issues that affect both farmers and PMFC – referred to as shared issues.
Morgan&Myers worked with Jefferson Davis Associates Inc., a market research firm specializing in agriculture, to conduct qualitative and quantitative research with the agricultural community. Conducted in 1998, the initial benchmark research was both descriptive and prescriptive. It was used to define perceived needs of the agricultural community, to identify criteria on which the company could build relationships, to evaluate current perceptions of PMFC and other consumer products companies, and to establish benchmarks to be used in planning and developing objectives, strategies and specific programs.
Based on the 1998 benchmark research, PMFC developed a two-year plan and launched its Shared Solutions agricultural relations program in 1999. The primary goal was to build PMFC’s reputation and relationships with agricultural producers in a way that would enable the company to work jointly with agricultural leaders on issues of mutual concern. The research helped PMFC:
· Identify those shared issues as profitability, creation of demand, consumer education, food safety, trade and the environment
· Prescribe shared solutions to these issues
The program lists four objectives:
· Increase from 1% to 5% the number of farm leaders who name PMFC as a leading ag-based consumer products company, by April 2001 (unaided).
· Increase from 1% to 3% the number of farm leaders who associate PMFC with working with agriculture to address shared issues, by April 2001 (unaided).
· Increase farm leader favorability ratings of PMFC from 24% to 42%, by April 2001.
· Engage at least 100 farm leaders in programs that address shared issues, by April 2001.
Agricultural leaders defined as influential or politically minded farmers and ranchers who serve on national, state or regional agricultural or commodity boards. These leaders must be active farmers.
Active commercial farmers, between 27 and 60 years old, meeting minimum requirements for the size of their operations, and industry influencers.
STRATEGY and EXECUTION/TACTICS
POSITIONING: Promote InterdependenceRaise the visibility of PMFC and its interdependence with agriculturePromote PMFC’s brand-building efforts and demonstrate its value to agricultureHumanize the companyCreate and share new knowledge about shared issues Exhibited, spoke and sponsored programs related to shared issues at more than 50 American Farm Bureau Federation and national commodity association conventions across the United StatesLaunched media relations effort at two national ag media conventions and encouraged media to broaden its reporting of issues “beyond the farm gate” through ongoing communications, media partner programs and attendance at annual meetings. In 2000 PMFC awarded a Beyond Harvest Agricultural Journalism Award to recognize broader reporting about interdependenceCreated an advertorial for use in key farm publications and as a handoutInvited dairy farm leaders to visit Kraft Foods headquarters annually to increase understanding of the issues they share with the companyEstablished the AgKnowledge Center as a resource for current information on shared issues. Material was reported in white papers
RELEVANCY: Demonstrate commitment on shared issuesThese are the shared issues identified through the 1998 benchmark research:Consumer education of modern ag & food practicesProfitability/risk managementInternational tradeFood safety Environment Created and supported the following Shared Solutions initiatives:Consumer understanding of modern ag & food practices:Gap Research with the American Farm Bureau Federation Ag in the Classroom programsDairy Risk Management program Worked with Cooperative Extension and dairy industry leaders to develop/distribute risk management curriculum and to conduct a Train-the-Trainer education programTrade Liberalization program Developed white paper on the benefits of trade liberalizationFarm Safety Sponsored and participated in Farm Safety Day CampsPork Industry Shared IssuePartnered with Vance Publishing on Pork Value Chain research program to initiate shared understanding among producers, processors and retailersShared Solutions Agricultural Contributions program Initiated flagship grant-making program that awarded more than $500,000 to 30 organizations for their innovative programs that address shared issues. Leaders of national farm and commodity associations selected worthy projects
WORKING TOGETHEREngage ag leaders to find shared solutions to shared issues Distributed Shared Issues newsletter that promoted interdependence/shared issues and asked readers to become involved with PMFC on issues of mutual concernSponsored and spoke at farm leadership training programs that encourage farmers to be active on issuesUsed trade-show exhibit to engage farm leaders on shared issues
EVALUATION OF SUCCESS
A computer-aided telephone survey of 1,000 farmers in eight crop and animal production segments – including 245 agricultural leaders – showed that the program met and exceeded its performance objectives.
1999 Plan Objective: 2001 Survey Result:
Increase from 1% to 5% the number of farm leaders who name PMFC as a leading ag-based consumer products company, by April 2001 (unaided). The percentage of farm leaders who recognize PMFC as a leading ag-based consumer products company has increased to 21% (unaided).
Increase from 1% to 3% the number of farm leaders who associate PMFC as working with agriculture to address shared issues, by April 2001 (unaided). The percentage of farm leaders who associate PMFC as working with agriculture to address shared issues has increased to 8% (unaided).
Increase farm leader favorability ratings of PMFC from 24% to 42%, by April 2001. The percentage of farm leaders having a favorable opinion about PMFC has increased to 75%. (Note: A minor wording change in the 2001 survey may explain the somewhat larger-than-expected improvement.). Of the 22% of farm leaders who were aware of Shared Solutions program and could name Philip Morris as the sponsor, 83% rated their opinion of Philip Morris as “very” or “somewhat” positive. There were no negative responses.
Engage at least 100 farm leaders in programs that address shared issues, by April 2001. A total of 158 producers volunteered to work with PMFC on issues of shared interest.