Although many studies have been performed regarding marketing effectiveness and efficiency, and although some have covered the benefits of cooperative marketing, none were found specific to the unique Farm Credit segment.
The research conducted in this paper was designed to fill this void. A statistical sampling was taken, utilizing e-mail surveys, to discover as much as possible about each institution's advertising needs. The research conducted was exploratory in nature, rather than specific, and was used to quantify the need for a centralized advertising and marketing service for the Farm Credit System.
Open-ended questions were utilized in order to solicit detailed answers from the small group of respondents. The researcher focused on how each institution was now acquiring their advertising materials, if they were through their own organization or through advertising agencies. In addition, gaps in the resources they had available were identified (See Figure 1).
Secondary research was conducted through the use of the Internet. This research focused on the gathering of related information about the use of in-house, single source marketing agencies. This research was then applied to the Farm Credit System industry, to uncover how it may be of use to their segment.
The researcher discovered that there was limited access to the Farm Credit System institutions' marketing and advertising budget information. This information would have been useful in comparing an in-house (AgFirst) single source of marketing materials, as a cost effective solution. However, without these numbers, this aspect of the topic could not be studied.
For this reason, this research focused on the convenience factor of using an in-house single source for the institution's marketing and advertising needs. In addition, whether or not a resulting unified message and consistent look would occur, if an in-house single source, such as AgFirst, were utilized for their advertising materials, was explored. These topics were examined in length, rather than the cost saving issues that still may result.
In addition, the sample size of this survey was inadequate to draw any firm conclusions. 3 System institutions responded to the e-mail questionnaires, out of 97 total associations, for a response rate of 3.09%. However, despite this small sample size, the consistency of the answers from the respondents, suggests that the researcher's theories are correct and support further future research on this topic.
The final limitation of this study may lie in the essay format of the questionnaire itself. Although the open-ended questions allowed for respondents to expound upon the issues presented, they were not useful in quantifying subjective material. As such, a Likert-type scale, giving a numerical range of choices to the respondents such as: on a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the highest likelihood of the effectiveness of a unified Farm Credit marketing approach, rate your opinion, may have been more appropriate for some questions. This would have allowed for a quantitative analysis of the response received for some of the questions, as opposed to the qualitative analysis that follows, that may be prone to subjectivity.
As the institutions comprising the Farm Credit System are made up of a group of diverse, cooperatively owned members, each institution is unique. However, each of these institutions is a part of the larger Farm Credit System family. As such, it is hypothesized:
Many institutions do not have an in-house advertising and marketing service
System institutions would benefit from a single source for the attainment of their marketing and advertising needs.
And, a unified message for the Farm Credit System is a preference that System institutions have.
Furthermore, this paper will discuss why so many disparate messages being conveyed to the consumers are having a negative effect on the Farm Credit System and its institutions. In addition, what drawbacks there may be to a 'national brand' will be discussed, as will any roadblocks to the success of such an advertising campaign.
In Sullivan's article, Farm Credit Banks Turn up Heat in Agriculture Lending, the author describes the late 1990s push for System institutions to become competitive with the rest of the mainstream lending industry. As of 1998, Sullivan notes that the Farm Credit System only held 25% of the agricultural lending market. Clearly, more aggressive, more efficient, and more effective marketing is needed to gain valuable market share in an industry that should be dominated by the specialized System.
This aggressive, efficient and effective marketing can be presented as a unified message for the entire Farm Credit System. Lewczak and Starr point out just how effective this type of cohesive industry wide advertising can be, in another agricultural industry, the dairy industry. The 'Got Milk?' campaign, complete with milk mustaches, of the Dairy Council has been very successful in the promotion of milk products, as was the 'Beef: It's What's for Dinner' and 'Pork, the Other White Meat' campaigns. However, the challenge, of these campaigns, lies in the mandatory nature of the industry wide advertising, where farmers were actually forced to pay for this advertisement. For this reason, institutions, so as not to infringe on First Amendment rights, should voluntarily undertake any System unified advertising.
Lastly, the agricultural lending industry is a natural fit for cooperative pooling of advertising and marketing needs, given the nature of the customers they service. Dempsey, Ashish, Loyd, and Loula noted that nearly 20% of agricultural business uses agricultural cooperatives. With these cooperatives, farmers across the nation are able to increase their market power in both buying and selling. These co-ops have traditionally offered farmers a very valuable service, it is only logical that an industry that serves solely the agricultural community could cooperatively find that same value in a centralized source for advertising and marketing.
Data Collection & Methodology:
The research conducted in this paper was designed to fill this void in research regarding the use of a single source marketing entity for the Farm Credit System. E-mail surveys were sent to all of the Farm Credit System institutions (See Figure 1). These surveys included 7 questions regarding their current marketing and advertising programs, as well as their thoughts and opinions about the development of a national brand for the System and the benefits of having a one-stop source for all of their advertising and marketing needs.
97 System associations were approached with the e-mail survey regarding their current marketing and advertising programs and their opinions on a centralized source for advertising needs. Of these institutions, only 3 responded. Due to the fact that such a small sample size was recovered, the researcher is unable to put forth any firm conclusions about the industry as a whole. However, as the responses were extremely consistent in their answers, these responses suggest that the conclusions that are drawn, later in this paper, are correct, and, in fact, support the need for further and future research.
Secondary research was conducted through the use of the Internet. This research focused on the gathering of related, contemporary research that has been previously completed about the use of in-house, single source marketing agencies. This research was then applied to the Farm Credit System industry, to uncover how a similar program may be of benefit to their segment.
Due to the nature of the Farm Credit System, and its lending institutions, this is an exceedingly specialized topic. In addition, in order to have a better understanding of the System as a whole, a detailed definitions section follows.
Agricultural Credit Association
The Agricultural Credit Associations make both long-term loans for the purchase or improvement of real estate or refinancing of debt on real estate and short- and intermediate-term loans to finance expenses related to the production processing and marketing of our nation's food and fiber, as well as for equipment, facilities and livestock ("Banks").
Farm Credit Administration
The FCA is an independent agency in the Executive Branch of the United States Government. System institutions are required to be examined periodically by the FCA. These examinations may include, but are not limited to, analyses of credit and collateral quality, capitalization, the effectiveness of management, and the application of policies in carrying out the Farm Credit Act, in adhering to FCA regulations, and in servicing eligible borrowers ("Federal").
Farm Credit System is a nationwide network of cooperatively owned banks and lending associations established by acts of Congress to assure farmers and ranchers with a reliable source of credit at reasonable cost. The original legislation establishing the System was passed in 1916 ("Frequently").
Farm Credit Debt Securities
The Farm Credit Debt Securities are the joint and several obligations of the System Banks. The System, unlike commercial banks and other depository institutions, obtains funds for its lending operations primarily from the sale of Farm Credit Debt Securities. The System Banks, through the Funding Corporation, currently issue the following types of Farm Credit Debt Securities:
Farm Credit System Financial Assistance Corporation
In the late 1980s, the Farm Credit System Financial…