One of the things I constantly hear from equipment brand representatives is that for them to have a presence at the numerous farm equipment shows across North America, the associated costs chew up a lot of their annual marketing budget.
That topic came to the fore at Canada’s Farm Progress Show in Regina a couple of years ago. That’s when the city changed the rules for exhibitors who need to get equipment to and from the show site on the city’s exhibition grounds. Access to it for oversized loads was restricted for the first time, and equipment could only travel in and out of the city in organized convoys with police escorts.
According to exhibitors I spoke to, each spot in a convoy could only be had if they paid around $1,000 in fees. Multiple machines meant multiple spots. And there were a limited number of spots each day, meaning some equipment had to get in earlier than usual and stay on site longer than required. So paid employees had to stick around longer and wait until the equipment could get out again after the show.
So you can see how just that cost could add up. Then they had the expense of buying space at the show aside from the cost of paying, housing and feeding staff.
A couple of those exhibitors who expressed real frustration—no, come to think of it, it was actually anger—at what they saw as trumped-up fees told me they wouldn’t be back to that show ever again because of that. And so far, I haven’t seen them back there.
Even without extra fees like that, the costs of getting big equipment to any show are high. Brands may not mind spending big on marketing efforts when overall national sales numbers are high, as they were in the five years or so beginning in 2008. But the market has cooled a bit since then, and so, it seems, have marketing budgets.
At the Commodity Classic farm show in the Southern U.S. this week, John Deere is using an interesting display technique that might be a sign of things to come. It was showing off a scale model of its C850 air cart and new 1870 seed drill at its display. If anyone wanted to see the machine in action, there was a virtual reality feature that allowed anyone to hold an iPad up to the display, focus on the component and see a virtual image of it working.
That scale model was about the size of your kid’s farm toy Christmas gifts. So carting that to a show site costs almost nothing in comparison to bringing the real thing.
One of the criticisms of static displays of machines at farm shows is they show how pretty it is, but they really don’t provide much insight into how it performs in the field. That’s why so many farm shows now have a demonstration component to them, where machines go into the field and get dirty.
But that isn’t always possible. Some shows just aren’t in the right place to do that.
So, will Deere’s virtual display idea gain some steam and become a common substitute to showing the real thing? After all, we’re living in a world where people are consumed more and more with digital media. To millennials who’ve grown up with that kind of technology—and who will run the world in a few years—it might seem more normal than actually looking at the real thing.