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Agribusiness: Monsanto unveils Genuity branding

As the biotechnology companies prepare to introduce eight-way and even higher combinations of genetic traits, industry members have been trying to figure out how to handle all the “clutter” from the brand names that will be involved.

As part of that process, Monsanto has decided to create a new brand that will serve as the umbrella for its advanced Roundup Ready, Bollgard, YieldGard, SmartStax, drought-tolerant, cool-tolerant, nitrogen use efficiency, yield-improving and, well, you get the picture.

The new brand name is Genuity, a made-up word that Monsanto executives admit that in itself means nothing. But the executives believe the brand will both differentiate and unify the company’s technology products under one platform and make it simpler for growers to select the traits best suited for their farms.

“Genuity gives us the opportunity to position our traits as a family of innovative products that will enable farmers do what they do best, even better,” said Ernesto Fajardo, Monsanto vice-president-U.S. Commercial. “It provides a single, easily recognized brand to simplify the process by which farmers ask for our traits, to help them be more successful on their farms.”

Fajardo and Dion McBay, Monsanto’s U.S. Traits Marketing lead, spoke about the new branding strategy at a media dinner at Commodity Classic, the annual meeting and trade show for the nation’s corn, sorghum, soybeans and wheat farmer organizations. This year’s meeting was held in Grapevine, Texas.

McBay said Monsanto will begin promoting the new Genuity branding “as soon as the dust settles from the planters this spring. We will be talking about it at grower field days and other events throughout the summer and fall in preparation for the 2010 growing season.”

As new trait technologies in Monsanto’s research and development pipeline are introduced, having a consistent brand platform will help represent those products to the farmer in the most straightforward way possible and avoid the potential for confusion in the marketplace, said Fajardo.

As part of the branding strategy, Monsanto has also developed a series of icons that will help farmers see which traits are included in their seed. Those include icons for weed protection, insect protection, weather protect and productivity enhancement. (The latter two identify traits that have not been released in the market yet.

The word Genuity was selected from a list of 2,000, McBay said. From those, 18 words were selected and tested with focus groups of farmers from around the country. Three of the farmers attended the dinner.

“I really wasn’t excited about the word at first,” said McBay. “But as we conducted focus groups farmers began telling us what they saw in it — unity for bringing our brands together, genuineness for our concerns about our customers, ingenious for the new technology we’re bringing to market. So the significance of the word has grown on us.”

The Genuity family of traits will include Genuity Roundup Ready 2 Yield soybeans, Genuity VT Triple PRO corn, Genuity Bollgard II cotton, Genuity Bollgard II with Roundup Ready Flex cotton, Genuity Roundup Ready Flex cotton, Roundup Ready specialty crops and, pending regulatory approval in 2010, Genuity SmartStax corn.

SmartStax, a joint development between Monsanto and several other technology companies, will contain eight genes that will provide different types of protection against weeds and insects in corn and other crops.

Robb Fraley, Monsanto’s chief technology officer, also spoke to the group, noting that Monsanto invests more than $2.6 million a day — nearly $1 billon annually — to develop innovative, new technologies that help farmers be more productive and profitable.

Monsanto has set a goal of helping farmers double yields by the year 2030 to meet the growing global demand for food, feed, fuel and fiber, while at the same time helping farmers reduce the use of key resources per unit of output through the introduction of more traits that are currently in its pipeline.

Noting that Monsanto expects to launch SmartStax corn with a total of eight biotech traits in 2010, Fraley said, “I can see a situation in which we could be launching new varieties with 15 to 20 genes in the next four or five years.”

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