Case Study


Threat: ensure the John Deere way continues following a flood of retirements

John Deere’s vision and reach was actively expanding. Yet over a five-year period the organization peaked and was having trouble reaching a 50 billion USD revenue mark. As Deere & Company entered high-growth regions, the fight for talent with direct competitors and elite global brands was intense. Trying to recruit and hold talent in competitive markets outside of the US became a constant, sustained headwind. 

Motivating employees to learn, embrace and live the brand 

In addition to recruitment challenges, the turnover of long-serving, highly knowledgeable employees began to kick into high gear. The need for codifying practices and training with new and existing employees became the highest priority.

John Deere employees are modest. They are humble to a degree where leading with claims and proof-points are seen as characteristics of an arrogant organization. The more the John Deere brand is promoted the more employees experience intense discomfort. Convincing incredibly smart, logical, and passionate professionals to have confidence in thinking and speaking about brand as a strategic asset was a formidable challenge.

The John Deere educational platform was the starting point and everyone on the project team had to envision themselves as students navigating the John Deere University, brand portal and SharePoint sites. But before the work could proceed we needed to help our client engage and convince both leadership and human resources that the investment in time and integration into the business would not only add value but positively impact the business. 

Designing the training experience

We worked with facilitators to design the syllabus and launch a program that would build and sustain momentum over time through the John Deere Brand Center, brand ambassador network and sales and support teams. The principles guiding this experience were action-oriented and straightforward.

  • 1. Always begin with context - whether emphasizing the brand-business connection or the function-specific impact of brand, make every topic relevant to employees.
  • 2. Make the brand tangible - shatter the “brand is fluffy” perspective by backing up every concept with a tangible example so employees can see how the brand comes to life in real ways. 
  • 3. Put the brand into employees’ and dealers’ hands - interactive content and practical exercises are essential to taking brand training beyond “just checking the box.”
  • 4. End with action - empower every employee with next steps so they see the value of the training immediately. And make it easy by providing clear links to the tools they will need.

The solution

The John Deere brand curriculum was built to flex in robustness and delivery while having the agility of reaching every individual across business lines, functions, distribution channels and geographies:

  • 1. Core Curriculum - provides all employees with foundational information about the John Deere brand and why it matters to the business 
  • 2. Brand Expression & Experience Curriculum - empowers various audiences to create experiences and communications that express the John Deere brand
  • 3. Brand in Business Processes/Practices Curriculum - shows how brand is used to drive our business
  • 4. Masters Curriculum - provides employees charged with delivering brand education with the skills/tools needed

Moving brand beyond a promotional or PR consideration

Broadening the reach of the brand beyond power users in marketing and communications was the ultimate goal. This program resulted in increased interest and engagement with the John Deere brand across businesses and functions, particularly at leadership levels. Brand integration into business processes and growth plans accelerated and helped create proactive marketers and brand led business leaders. This was most evidenced with the acceleration of business acquisitions where for the first time the business development team began to look at acquisitions through both a business and customer need as well as brand lens. 

Alignment: integrating the brand and business objectives

The structure: grouping core employee segments and curriculum objectives

Content: designing the curricula and key components

Relevance: designing a portal to raise interest and understanding

Experience: dimensionalizing the brand in real word scenarios

Engagement: using environments to raise awareness and participation