In the world of agricultural biotechnology, this story concerning claims that market leader Monsanto is keeping the science of Roundup Ready from competitors as the patent runs out is an interesting read.
What caught my attention, though, was what competitors were claiming: While Monsanto was delaying the regulatory process, the company would use that time to get farmers hooked on the next generation of Roundup so they wouldn’t need the competitor’s product (and the competition would be a step behind).
As a business strategy, it is sneaky (when you understand the regulatory rules, which are complicated at best) and an interesting stealing share tactic.
But what interested me most about it is that Monsanto would not have to go that route if its brand had enough meaning to have already hooked those farmers without new technology. Instead, like everyone else in the category, Monsanto just talks about innovation, technology and feeding people.
Nothing about the farmer.
The situation Monsanto and its competitors are finding themselves in is what we call the B2B trap: Thinking brand only matters when buying consumer products. The thinking goes that, in business, it’s only about business. It’s only about science, cost, ROI, etc. Like all choices are made from a spreadsheet.
Those things are important, but they don’t create preference and they are not what get you in the considered set (especially when all the messages are the same). Without brand, all that’s left to compete on is price and innovation. . Yet it’s the brands that give emotional reasons (like, FedEx ) that hold market leadership because they hold an important place in the minds of their target audiences.
This situation with Monsanto is complex, and also deals with access to science so competitors can build traits into Roundup seeds.
But insert other B2B company names and brands and see if this fits: If Monsanto and Roundup Ready meant something to farmers emotionally, then farmers would ignore the competitors’ products because they would all be the same. Who wins then? The one with the emotionally relevant brand.