The Rural Thanksgiving...

Tomorrow most Americans will gather around tables for Thanksgiving.  This week has been full of shopping, cooking, cleaning and getting ready for the "big day".  We, likeTable and Chairs many of our friends, will also mark the date with as many traditions as we can.

Over the years Thanksgiving has changed from being a day set aside to be thankful for the blessings of a good harvest to simply being, "thankful".  That's not surprising because, today, there are so  many folks that have never had a farming experience.  So, I thought I'd infuse a little "rural thanks"...into Thanksgiving.

Tomorrow the kitchens and dining rooms located in the farm homes and acreages that dot this country will be wild with activity.  Folks will rise early to finish chores and then help where they can to prepare the meal.  There will be chopping, slicing, dicing, pie-baking and mixing.  The houses will smell of fresh bread, sage and pumpkin.  Even if it's cold, windows will be open and the smells and sounds will drift out to the pasture, across the fields and a mile down the road to the next home-place where the activity is just as intense.

And then, at a time agreed upon by the adults in charge, people will make their way, quietly to the place where the meal will be served.  And there they will bow their heads and offer a prayer of gratitude.  And some, looking out the window, will see the images of livestock and field stubble and they will forget the hard work, the bills and the struggle it takes to be in agriculture.  With heads bowed and a sense of pride in their hearts coming from the knowlege that they have fed thousands of others...they will quietly say, "Amen".

Thank you...thank you for what you do.




Social Media for FEMA?

Three friends came to Atlanta to tell members of the Farm Equipment Manufacturers Association (FEMA) about Social Media.  Roughly 150 business people listened to Willie Vogt of Farm Progress, Tom Flynn and Josh Fleming from Lessing-FlynnMan Doubt , an ad agency in Des Moines, tell them about making sense out of Social Media.

I'm not sure it worked...I'll be able to let you know more following my session with them on Saturday.

I'm not sure it worked because while they were able to talk about it, they failed to show the power of social media.  I'd suggest that many in the audience would like to have you think they are from Missouri, "Show Me".  Show me what it looks like, how it works, how it can put me in touch with others.  Show me what people are saying about farming, farm machinery, farm safety, farmers.  Show me how to use it, show me how to set a Google watch on my company, my future.

Show me...

Part of the overwhelming trouble with doing social media events and having digital generation folks do the event is...a failure to speak the same language.   This event was OK...but I'm not convinced they picked up many disciples.  We'll see...on Saturday.

Thanks for reading...from Atlanta - Michael Libbie - Insight Advertising, Marketing & Communications.  Follow us on Twitter @MichaelLibbie or @InsightADV

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Internet Sales - Tell Me Again Why You Are Not...

This past Sunday on our radio show, Highway 6 - Your Road to the Country we Smith Family Truck talked to Brad Smith of The Smith Family Farm out of Gainsville, Virginia.  We met through Twitter.  His family farm website looked interesting and he had a compelling story about staying in business as a fifth generation farmer in the shadow of Washington, D.C.

During our discussion I asked him about the power of the Internet and how using it has impacted his life and his farm.

Here is that brief 90 second conversation.

Now tell me again why you, as a business, are not using the Internet for sales activity?   As you heard, for the Smith Family, it's made the difference in their ability to live the life they love...and they are selling farm products for cryin' out loud!

Thanks for reading and for listening...

Michael P. Libbie - Insight Advertising, Marketing & Communications where we can help you get more ways than one.




Trouble In The Heartland...

At our advertising agency many of our clients are tied to agriculture so we tend to keep an eye in that direction for them and for our rural lifestyle radio show, Highway 6.  And, my friends...there is trouble brewing in the Heartland.Farmer Field

Four months ago a barrel of crude was being traded at $170.  Last night it fell to under $41.  While that may seem like good news for those of us driving gas vehicles it spells trouble for the emerging ethanol industry that has been a major factor of improving the rural economy.  Corn based ethanol is dead in the water unless the government approves an increase in the blending.  Here is a story from Brownfield

Corn prices are now under $3.25 a bushel.  (Four months ago it was trading at $7+.) However the price for fertilizer is still strong, diesel fuel is much higher than gas (think tractors and transportation) and cash rent for land was based on $7.00 corn...not what farmers are getting today.

The problem...even for city a major instability for the rural economy.  That means manufacturing jobs, transportation jobs and yes, even a shortage in commodities.  And that will impact everybody even if you don't have a clue what a PTO is.

So answers?  Here are a couple:

  • Increase the amount of ethanol to 20%
  • Diesel Fuel costs are out of line...why and fix it

Fight the desire to buy food grown outside of the United States

As always...somebody is getting the shaft and one need simply follow the money.

For our clients, we continue to believe they are well positioned to go either way.  But if I were advising farm equipment manufacturers I would suggest they start bragging about value and how they can improve yield.  Otherwise...big trouble ahead for them. 

Business "as usual" will not make  What a difference just four months makes.

Michael Libbie - Insight Advertising, Marketing & Communications - Yep...we love agriculture.


Man suitcase Back in the United States and anxious to get BACK to work.  I've been in Israel for the past eight days.  And, as always, there were more stories then there is time for you to read them.  However, allow me one brief review of what is really troubling the airline industry and perhaps your business as well.

As we all know, traveling by air is a hassle.  My standard rule of thumb is that if the trip is shorter than 700 miles.  I'll drive, thank you.  Why is that?  And, the better question might be:  Why would YOUR customer rather switch than stay with you?  We think the answer is pretty simple:

Nothing is "special" and the employees don't have a clue.

Airline employees, as a whole, are very professional folks and they never miss an opportunity to let you know.  Are your employees the same?  You know, do they know plenty about the product or service but fail at the ability to engage the customer?

It makes for a very impersonal adventure.  It's not to say we require employees to 'gush" each time a customer asks a question but it would be nice to have them be warm and interested.

So, perhaps the lesson we should learn from this is to remain focused on not only our professional relationship but also our personal lives.  Care a little more perhaps and engage.

Beats flying!

Michael P. Libbie - Insight Advertising, Marketing & Communications

An Amazing Journey - Israel

Jerusalem By the time you read this on Monday I'll be in Israel for a lifetime trip.  It's something I thought I'd never be able to do but thanks to some wonderful folks, including my wife, it's happening.  Though I'm a little nervous about leaving the office for such a long stretch.

I'm going for several reasons.  First I want to experience what my brother and son have already seen.  Hey, my turn!

I'm also profoundly interested in agriculture in Israel.  I have a feeling it's a long way from agriculture here in Iowa.

I'm also going to represent a client with a visit to Yad Vashem and several other places where we might interest folks in The Sparks Fly Upward.

I am hoping to keep in touch through this BLOG.  And, share with you, first hand, some of the experience in agriculture, marketing & advertising that goes on here.  We'll catch you later and thanks for reading!

Michael Libbie - Insight Advertising, Marketing & Communications


Sunday Morning Coffee - October 12

Coffee_cu_ps Sunday mornings usually find me writing last minute items for our radio show, Highway 6 - Your Road to the Country.  It's a rural lifestyle show coming out of Central Iowa and this nation's only full hour talk show about living and loving small farms and acreages.

Sunday Morning Coffee was, in a way, the the radio show before we started the show.  In it we look at several topics in quick bites.

Let's go:

There seem to be few bright spots in the news these days.  One of the scary things for farm states is the drop in the price of corn and soybeans.  In the past sixty days the commodities markets have lost 30% with corn dropping back to around $4 on the heals of the USDA estimate of a larger harvest that previously reported.  So, what does that mean?  1)  Slower economy in rural areas; 2)  Reduced prices but increased costs to farmers.  However, lower crop prices should help livestock farmers/ranchers.  We'll see.  Monday the government is closed (Columbus Day) but the markets are open.

Iowa_chops_sign The Iowa Chops have won their first two games of their American Hockey League (AHL) debut in Des Moines.  Both wins are come from behind victories.  The Chops (farm team for the Anaheim Ducks) replaced the Iowa Stars (farm team for the Dallas Stars) this season and play a very different style of hockey.  The Stars were a skating team...the Chops are a physical team and it's got the fans excited.  Not a hockey fan?   Come on...  Go once and get hooked!

Man_what Who is in charge?  With Americans disapproving of nearly everything going on in the country it's clear there is a profound lack of leadership.  And, when the conservative talk show hosts are relentless in their attacks on the Bush Administration...  Well, none of this looks good for John McCain.  The real question is can Obama turn the millions of young voters out on election day?  As David Yepsen from the Des Moines Register said today, "Don't count McCain out just yet."  David also said McCain won the first debate.

On a related note...Iowans can vote early and 14% of the voters already have.  The numbers:  65% - Obama, 31% McCain.  The Daily Kos has early numbers from some other states like Georgia and North Carolina.

100_miles Yesterday my wife rode her bicycle 127 miles.  That is NOT a typo!  It would have been a little less, but she made a wrong turn.  Here is the proof in the form of a phone photo she sent to me still 27 miles short of being home.  Amazing and yep, I'm pretty proud of that.  Nice job!'s 7:15...time to head to the studio 983wowfm for the show.  Thanks for reading.  A reminder Highway 6 - Your Road to the Country can be heard by using your computer.  Just head here and click in.

Michael P. Libbie - Insight Advertising, Marketing & Communications 


Marketing to "Larry the Cable Guy"?

Man_cartoon_farmer Getting back from The Farm Progress Show had me thinking about how some companies try to market to farmers as if they are one step away from being "Larry the Cable Guy".

Nothing could be further from the truth.

Today, like always, producers come in all levels of ability.  But, when you consider many of these folks park their butts inside tractors costing a quarter of a million bucks, run a business that has gross income of several million dollars, react to market pressure quickly and operate highly technical equipment...much of it way outside the pay grade of some advertising's hardly the image many marketers "dream up".

This year, at one of the largest outdoor farm shows in the nation,  technology was everywhere.

But some companies still market their product or service as if they are talking to an 8th grade graduate.

Those days are gone...and companies that continue to think they are doing the right thing with their "rube" approach...they too will soon be gone.

Great show...and lots of exciting things for the future!

Michael P. Libbie - Insight Advertising, Marketing & Communications

Yesterdays Marketing - Todays Reality

Farm_progress_digital Wednesday I went up to Boone, Iowa to the Farm Progress Show.  Anybody who thinks we can market to this very small segment the same way we did fifteen years ago better wake up....or quit.

Digital was everywhere.  Here at the Pioneer Seed display it was like Vegas met Iowa.  And this was not the only example of how companies are using very different means to impact consumers with a message.  It's no longer OK to simply hand out literature and "stand around" waiting for somebody to ask a question.  Marketers are taking an "in your face" approach while they start to impact younger demographics.

Hindu_temple_north It was a great day!

One other thing about Iowa and how we are changing:  I've not driven up Highway 17 for some time.  It's a beautiful ride if you like the simple wonders of the Iowa countryside.  You can top a hill and see corn and soybean fields that stretch for miles.  There is peace here and something very simple and secure and familiar.  Some things never change...or do they?   This is a photo taken today looking north.  Corn needs some help here's corn.

Hindu_temple I then rotated 180 degrees and shot this photo looking south.

It is the Hindu Temple and Cultural Center about 8 miles north of Granger and 3 miles south of Madrid.  For those of you who think Iowa hasn't changed much...  We'll here's proof we have.

The point of this article is if you are marketing ANYTHING the way you were fifteen, ten or even five years ago...we better have a talk.

Michael P. Libbie - Insight Advertising, Marketing & Communications where we're lovin' the future.


Thank You Central Iowa!

Business_people_clappingWe love radio!  For some it might be "old school" but it's one media that has room for nearly everybody. 

Sixteen months ago after seeing a report from the National Association of Farm Broadcasters (NAFB)  that highlighted the growing rural lifestyle segment of the population, we decided to start something really different. 

"Let's do a radio show dedicated to news and information about living on small farms and acreages!"

Yeah...sure.  We had to "sell" the idea to a local talk radio station (98.3 WOW-FM) who looked at us like we had a third eye.  They are more accustomed to political news/talk and "traditional Farm Shows". 

Man_hay_bale_microphone But we hung in there and started in the fall of 2006.  The first show through the tenth show nobody called.  "Hello...hello out there!  Anybody listening?"  The answer was "NO!".

The show aired at 7am on Sunday morning! (May have been a problem.)

The numbers were lousy.  In the day-part we didn't even show up.

The next book told us we had maybe 300 people listening and we moved from dead last to 15th in the market.   Great.

We kept at it...went to dozens of events, handed out lots of media at various meetings, were faithful to the shows dedicated online publication and continued to build audience. 

Hwy61_image The reward...we've now climbed to seventh place and the next stations in line are well within striking distance.  In addition we've attracted top notch advertisers like Allied Insurance, Kubota Tractors and Acreage Magazine.

Was it cheap?  Nope.

Did it happen overnight?  Nope

Did we stick with the message?  Yep

Bottom line...when starting any new venture not many things become an "overnight success".  Make sure the message is on target, the vehicle is right and follow up with plenty of collateral.

Michael P. Libbie - Insight Advertising, Marketing & Communications