A success story harnessing the power of two seed brands
Vegetables by Bayer is more than a name: As a unified family within the Bayer brand architecture, it brings together two revolutionary seed brands for a renewed voice, purpose, and a way to transform the business.
Seminis and De Ruiter are two seed brands, each with a proven and trusted history with their customers. When Bayer completed the acquisition of Monsanto, the two brands now existed together as part of the larger organization. The challenge: bring them together and make them unmistakably Bayer without compromising their unique strengths and brand attributes.
“The businesses were together but not connected,” says Miechele Catt, De Ruiter Global Brand Lead, Marketing Excellence Vegetable Seeds. “We had two leading, global brands operating separately and not sharing equity or uniting in their strength. We knew how powerful the Bayer brand is and that brands receive an uplift in trust from being associated with it. Our challenge was to work out how to get there in a way that took the best care of our brands.”
The team knew that growers responded to variety names over the brand. They cared about the next generation of Delisher or Completo, but they didn’t have the same level of engagement with the company behind the variety. Miechele refers to it as an “inverted” brand structure, emphasizing variety names rather than the lighthouse or corporate brand. One option was to tie the variety names to Seminis and De Ruiter. But the team went a step further and associated the varieties with a master brand, maximizing the equity of the vegetables portfolio. It was a reimagining of what the brands could do and how they could drive meaningful conversations with customers.
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The balancing act of branding
What happened next was a considered process of working out the top priorities from every angle. What would work best for legacy teams who relied on the popularity of Seminis and De Ruiter brands? What about the overall strategic goal of uniting the two businesses? Different avenues were pursued, and others ruled out. If – for example – the existing brands were simply replaced with a monolithic Bayer vegetable brand, there was a risk of losing more than was gained. Ultimately, this had to be a process of taking all the branding successes to date and building on them, rather than losing them and starting from scratch.
When Vanessa Devermelle joined Vegetable Seeds as Seminis Global Brand Lead, she joined Miechele and a cross-functional team, bringing diverse and valuable perspectives. “We did a lot of analysis and interviews internally,” Vanessa explains. “We also did a study with our customers across eight countries and tested creative in five countries. It was a rigorous, and collaborative, process.”
They settled on a transformative idea: a full global campaign where brand architecture, positioning, and master creative assets were aligned across every territory. As Vanessa explains, this bold approach carried some risk: “We anticipated that various stakeholders might no longer feel close to the brands. We addressed this with one-to-one sessions with different functions – supply chain, R&D, regional marketing, and countless others.
Everybody was aware of what was about to be announced. That was a key aspect of the integrated approach: making it clear that we are on this journey together.”
The brands had a new hierarchy, unified in one family under the Vegetables by Bayer ‘master brand’. They also had a new style, with the De Ruiter and Seminis logos and overall brand guidelines updated to have a consistent look and feel. The logos set the tone for the entire brand repositioning, using Bayer colors while expressing their individuality within this consistent and strong framework.
New look, new structure, new recognition
The real test would be how customers and value chain partners reacted. Would they buy into the new brand? Would they take some time to adjust?
“The regional teams led education work with distributors to help them understand the brand, supported by a global Q&A and external guidelines,” says Miechele. “On top of that, we emphasized that we are still very much focused on customers and their success under the new brand hierarchy. We are a purpose-driven brand, and we translate that purpose into tangible value. The only way we will improve lives and advance health and nutrition is when our growers succeed. So we tie our brand to their success: high marketable yields, which can be sold into retailers and which consumers want to eat because we breed for the best taste and shelf life.”
“The headline for our communication campaign was, ‘Healthy for the world, healthy for your business’. Being seen as Bayer, rather than disparate seed brands, gives us the authority to make that claim.”
Vegetables by Bayer is launching its first brand health monitor at the end of the year, which will give an objective breakdown of how well the brand is performing. But creative testing conducted before launch was very positive. “Growers said, ‘I can see this is a company with my best interests at heart. I am happy partnering with someone who has this level of vision.’ There is an overall feeling that we have the right tonality and that this resonates,” says Vanessa. “Meanwhile, the internal engagement with the brand is creating a real sense of energy – nowhere more than in the regions, who have blown us away with the enthusiastic brand activations they have already implemented.”
The Vegetables by Bayer platform has done much more than unite two seed brands. Its holistic vision goes beyond the seed and transforms the vegetables business. It brings the focus back to the customer and serves as an umbrella for a full range of innovative offerings, including tailored solutions, crop protection, and digital services that benefit the entire value chain.
“From our industry-leading R&D to tailored solutions that go beyond the seed to meet the evolving needs of the market, ‘Vegetables by Bayer’ reflects our commitment to helping our customers grow their businesses so together we can foster a healthier, more sustainable world,” said Inci Dannenberg, President of Global Vegetable Seeds at Bayer.
Miechele and Vanessa are continuing to build upon the success of Vegetables by Bayer. Through a series of campaigns, they will bring the brand’s four strategic hallmarks to life – Sustainability, Innovation, Performance, and Partnership. The hallmark campaigns allow the brand to address and solve real customer challenges.
“By locking in with Bayer, we show that we are a global powerhouse with R&D and innovation capabilities,” concludes Miechele. “The Vegetables by Bayer unifier is a big step to embrace a wider set of customer benefits – to, on, and beyond the farm. As brands need to communicate with purpose more than ever before, our powerful vegetable seed brands now speak with one voice and one purpose, powered by aligned and motivated teams. We are ready to get involved and engage with many different topics and opportunities.