Modern marketers and brands can learn a thing or two from steadfast faces, like John Deere. 186+ years of success isn’t earned by just “getting by” — it demands innovation and a dedication to excellence.

John Deere, and other brands with a long-standing track record of achievement, are innovators in their industries. And, a lot of them (John Deere included), used content marketing to build their brands from the ground up. Whether it was called “content marketing” way back then is questionable, but that’s exactly what it was.

Here, we’re talking all things John Deere, including how they got their start, why content marketing has been such an integral part of their journey and what the brand is up to these days in the marketing world.

A Brief History and John Deere’s Initial Approach to Content Marketing

John Deere, the iconic agricultural machinery manufacturer, was founded in 1837 by John Deere.

While the brand today is known for its iconic green tractors rather than the man behind the figurative wheel, it may surprise you to learn that Deere was first a well-known blacksmith in Grand Detour, Illinois. That’s right — he actually made the first pieces of John Deere farming equipment by hand. Talk about forging a path to success!

His inaugural steel plow revolutionized farming practices and laid the foundation for the company that would become one of the largest manufacturers of agricultural equipment in the world.

So yes — Deere was an incredibly talented man with the skills and drive to build equipment that made farming easier. That alone is a massive contributor to the initial success of his company.

But to cultivate even more success (and there has been a lot of it), the brand used techniques that today fall under the umbrella of content marketing.

But how did John Deere use content to sow fruitful seeds that would no doubt deliver delicious results to both the brand and its customers? Let’s find out.

The Furrow Magazine, 1895

We can’t write an article about John Deere’s content marketing without briefly mentioning The Furrow magazine.

The publication was first printed in 1895, providing farmers with valuable information about agriculture, including farming techniques, machinery, and industry trends. The people behind it knew exactly what the audience was interested in and gave it to them from the get-go.

Over the years, it has evolved into a highly respected publication that, still to this day, reaches farmers and agricultural enthusiasts worldwide.

So, why did it work then and why does it continue to work today?

The short of it is that The Furrow offers high-quality content that addresses the niche needs and interests of its target audience. Through constituency, John Deere established itself as a thought leader and trusted resource in the agricultural industry which inevitably helped strengthen brand loyalty and engagement among farmers and others involved in agriculture.

What happened next? Profit. Kinda.

Okay, content marketing isn’t that easy — but a commitment to quality and consistency in content certainly carried the brand far.

John Deere Content Marketing Today

Not much has changed these days in terms of how John Deere approaches content marketing. Quality and consistency are still core tenets of its strategy — as they should be. But, there was obviously a need to adapt as technology got better and its audience was starting to congregate in different places. We’ve come a long way in 128 years.

Here’s how John Deere produces and distributes content in the 21st century:

Other Publications

John Deere didn’t stop at The Furrow. Today, the brand maintains a comprehensive online content hub — new editions of The Furrow included! It took the wild success of its first magazine and branched out, developing more publications for adjacent and niche audiences. Examples include:

  • The Dirt, which focuses on the construction industry (yes, John Deere produces more than farming equipment these days).
  • The Landing, a publication all about forestry.
  • Power Connect, a compendium of articles all about John Deere power solutions (i.e., engines).

Social Media

You can’t do modern-day content marketing without social media. Well, I suppose you could, but why would you? When used properly, social platforms are such a valuable tool — especially for marketing. John Deere, among many other reputable brands, understands this and has taken advantage.

The brand has built a strong social media presence across all the popular channels (X, formerly Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, etc.) where they share informative content, success stories, tips and updates on their products and services.

Video Marketing

Video is powerful. In fact, 89% of consumers want to see more videos from brands in 2024. John Deere takes video seriously and has amassed more than 300,000 subscribers on its YouTube channel.

There, you can find videos that highlight their products, employee spotlight-style videos, how-to’s and more.

What Other Brands and Marketers Can Learn From John Deere

If you learn anything from John Deere, let it be this: Content marketing works. If that realization lights a fire under your brand’s marketing department, well, there are many more things you can learn from this behemoth of a brand to apply to your own content marketing strategy:

Knowing Your Audience Is Paramount

John Deere deeply understands its audience — farmers, agricultural professionals and, more recently, construction professionals and forestry gurus. That’s step one in any content marketing strategy and John Deere does it exceptionally well.

Armed with the knowledge about how exactly to appease its target audience, the brand tailors its content and messaging to address their specific needs, challenges and interests, which helps build trust and credibility.

Providing Value Is… Valuable

Yes, John Deere wants to sell its products just as much as any other sales-oriented business. However, rather than focusing solely on product promotion, John Deere prioritizes providing value to its audience through educational and informative content.

Are John Deere’s products promoted while providing that value? Absolutely. But it’s seldom the main focus of the material. Instead, they explore real-world topics and problems, offering practical advice, insights and solutions, further establishing themselves as a trusted resource in their industries.

Being Authentic Is Key

John Deere’s marketing efforts are characterized by authenticity and integrity. When reading, watching or interacting with a piece of John Deere content, it’s almost immediately apparent that they genuinely care about the success and well-being of their customers — and the sincerity shines through in their communication.

Take this recent press release, for example, titled Deere Joins AI Safety Consortium.

“Since our customers utilize technology on their farms and jobsites, we remain committed to ensuring that AI systems will continue to improve their livelihoods.” – Jahmy Hindman, Senior Vice President and Chief Technology Officer at John Deere.

Building Long-Term Relationships Is a Winning Strategy

It’s unlikely John Deere would have made it this far, and grown as large as it has, if all the company ever did was prioritize short-term gains. Instead, the brand invests in building long-term relationships with its customers, prioritizing customer satisfaction and loyalty over nearly anything else. The results? Repeat business and positive word-of-mouth referrals.

With such a hold on the market, John Deere has a lot of power — and there are times when the brand has let it get to its head. For example, for years it was front and center of the right-to-repair debate. Essentially, the company has placed software locks on its equipment that only authorized dealers could unlock, effectively barring farmers from fixing their own, purchased equipment.

Finally, in recent years, the brand has begun to realize that was wrong and has committed to providing farmers with the tools they need to repair their own tractors.

That’s a winning strategy and we hope they continue down that path; it’s what John Deere himself likely would have wanted.

More Historic Content Marketing Successes

Of course, John Deere isn’t the only historic example of expert, early content marketing. While they are one of the most notable, there are a few others — even some more modern brands — that are worth mentioning, because they get content marketing so right:

Michelin and The Michelin Guide

This prestigious annual publication originated in France and was first published in the year 1900. Its main intent back then was to promote road travel and encourage people to use cars (to sell more tires!). However, it slowly and effectively evolved into something much more than a compendium of practical information for motorists, eventually including things like restaurant and hotel reviews.

Red Bull

Red Bull, the energy drink company, produces a wide variety of content, including videos, articles and social media posts, that strongly align with its brand image of energy and excitement. They create content that resonates with their target audience, often featuring extreme sports, stunts, and other adrenaline-fueled activities.

Furthermore, Red Bull has cultivated a community of loyal fans and supporters through its content marketing initiatives, like sponsoring events and supporting athletes.

Want more content marketing examples? Read these case studies and be amazed!

Well, there you have it! A historic example of top-tier content marketing that launched a small, community-based brand. foraging farming equipment by hand, to a household name across the globe. That’s the power of content marketing, people!

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