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Marketing to Smart People – A Monsanto Case Study
Wednesday, 01 June 2011 00:00

If you enjoy looking at city rankings, as I do, than you know: Washington D.C. is constantly at or near the top of any number of lists of the smartest, most well-read, fittest, healthiest, most media-savvy, highest-earning, best-educated cities in the country.

This presents an interesting challenge and an opportunity for marketers: how does one reach this audience of super smart people? Will the messaging used in the rest of the country be effective with the Inside-the-Beltway crowd?

Take this Monsanto Ad:
Monsanto AdIs this ad effective?

The con:

When I first saw this ad woosh past me on my way home from work my gut reaction was holy crap, does Monsanto really think I'm going to buy that load of bollox?

Now, I consider myself to be a reasonably well-informed person on matters of food and agriculture. At least in the sense that, yes, I have read Michael Pollan and even Jonathan Safran Foer's new book. I even have some background in studying agricultural innovations. I could be wrong, but I am fairly convinced of a few things.

I'm pretty convinced, for example, that engineering mono-crops whose seeds cannot be re-used by farmers is a bad idea. I'm pretty convinced that reliance on enormous amounts of pesticides derived from fossil fuels is bad for food, bad for the environment, bad for health, and yes, bad for yields. I'm pretty convinced that focusing on local crops instead of importing seeds from another continent is a more sustainable strategy. And I'm pretty convinced that, in the final analysis, big agribusinesses like Monsanto do far more harm than good.

So when I see a Monsanto ad which claims to improve both lives and agriculture, I feel moved to write a blog post such as this. But hey, I imagine that is the risk of advertising in a city like Washington D.C. to an audience such as myself.

Now, the pro:

A few weeks ago, I mentioned this ad to a friend who works on the Hill. Oh, and did I mention she works on agriculture policy? She was totally ambivalent about Monsanto. She knew the company, of course. But opinions beyond that were vague an unformed. Her associations were neither positive nor negative.

I mean, wow.

Here is someone who works in Congress. Smart, informed, educated, and even more importantly – influential. And that is when it occurred to me. Could the Monsanto ad actually be effective here? Could an ad on a bus in Washington D.C. really positively influence the opinion of a Congressional aide? I had to admit: the answer was yes.

What do you think? Is marketing to a D.C. audience different than marketing elsewhere? Is the Monsanto ad effective here?

Cross-posted from RMS Strategies.