BrandChannel: Analysis- To Succeed With 'Farmer,' Ram Must Acknowledge U.S. Diversity, Reality


Analysis via BrandChannel

The Ram brand has seen a boost following its Super Bowl ad. reported a 55 percent increase in search activity for Ram, the trucks division of Chrysler's Dodge; the official YouTube video of the ad had registered more than 6 million views by Wednesday morning, along with more than 12,000 comments. "God Made a Farmer" seems to be this year's "Imported From Detroit."

Ram's site dedicated to the campaign, which declares 2013 the "Year of the Farmer," expands well beyond the Paul Harvey-narrated ad with a section on the late radio broadcaster himself, and information on Future Farmers of America and campaign partner (which made a 2011 ad almost identical to Ram's). The site also pledges Ram will make donations to FFA and to "assist in local hunger and educational programs" each time the "Farmer" video is watched or shared, or when a social media badge depicting farmer life is shared.

But the campaign could easily lose its power if Ram doesn't capitalize on it — probably in unplanned ways. 

After all, Ram's ads are not designed just to stoke truck sales to farmers. Ram would have to sell a truck to nearly one of every three of them in America just to match its reported 2012 sales of nearly 300,000 pickups.

Meanwhile, Ram has declared the "Year of the Farmer" at a time in the United States when the number of them has reached a historical low. (In 1978, when Paul Harvey gave the FFA address used in the Ram ad, there were 9,712,000 U.S. farmers, comprising about 4.6 percent of the labor force. That number itself was down from 8 percent a decade earlier. Today, according to U.S. government statistics, only about 960,000 Americans call themselves farmers — less than 1 percent of the population.) 

This profound disconnect from the urban nature of many Americans' lives may explain why Ram's message is resonating, and combines with a nostalgia for the recent past that also made Chrysler's "Imported From Detroit" 2011 Super Bowl campaign with Eminem and 2012 follow-upwith Clint Eastwood resonate. But especially given that the national attention span is famously short-lived, sustaining the "Year of the Farmer" will require more of Ram. The question is whether it's able or willing.

So far, commentary and criticisms related to the "Farmer" ad have ranged from jokes about corporate farmers and government subsidies to pro-farmer worries about the late Paul Harvey's views on animal rights.  But none of the criticisms have plowed as deep and true as those pointing out how white Ram's ad is — especially since a recent National Agricultural Workers Survey showed that more than 70 percent of the nation's farmworkers are from Mexico or Central America.

One video response (top) produced by Cuéntame, a Latino advocacy organization, reworked Ram's original spot by adding images of Latino farmers and farmworkers to the mix.  

It is impossible for Ram to avoid the racial dimensions of its campaign — not only because most working in American fields are nonwhite, but because statistics provided by the FAA — which stands to directly benefit from the campaign — show the group itself is 73 percent white, while Hispanics and Latinos comprise 15 percent of its membership.

Meanwhile, crafting messages that appeal to Hispanic consumers is a major new focus of everyone from big box retailers to the Republican Party.

For Ram, this could mean that, indeed, its campaign should be just beginning. But it must evolve to truly succeed in today's increasingly majority-minority America.

For instance, what kind of incredible press and positive cultural currency might Ram receive if it retools its message (maybe spun as a "second stage") that focuses on the contributions — and factual realities — of the modern farmer?

For guidance, Ram need only look to the FAA itself. While the organization is predominately white, it has stated a committment "to intentionally include National FFA’s historically underserved and underrepresented communities." And like Pepsi and other brands heavily invested incrowdsourcing, it can look to the comments on its own YouTube page — where brutal barbs freely join the laudatory — and use them to define the "Year of the Farmer," too.

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