February 05, 2024

Corn Yield Wheel

My first two years out of college were not in retail. Noooo. They were spent at the Garst Seed Company in Slater, IA. I analyzed corn and sorghum research plots, trying to identify the hybrids best adapted to different geographic regions. When it came to people and management and Dunder-Mifflin style office politics, I was an idiot. When it came to wanting to learn about maximizing yields, I was a sponge.

On a crisp October morning, one of our Agronomists took me to a meeting to discuss "density tests". Oooooh!

A handful of analysts and agronomists stood around what was called a "wheel test", if I remember correctly. On the inside of the wheel corn was planted at a high density - seeds planted close to each other. On the outside of the wheel corn was planed at a low density - fewer seeds were planted, but were planted farther apart from each other.

Naturally, corn on the outside of the wheel was tall, with huge cobs.

In the middle of the wheel, corn wasn't as tall, but the cobs were nice-sized.

In the inside of the wheel, corn was short, crowded, with tiny cobs. But there were a lot of tiny cobs.

The agronomists showed us that the secret to high yields was to plant the seeds as close as possible without pushing the spacing too close to each other. In a world where you could have 10 huge cobs, 20 large cobs, or 30 small cobs, you wanted 20 large cobs. That's how you maximized yield.

Standing outside on a chilly October morning in 1989, you'd never guess how important that concept would be to marketing strategy in 2024.

In 2024, you have a daily or twice-daily email "blast" ... a daily Facebook post, a daily Instagram post, TikTok videos, YouTube videos, Pinterest content, something on Snapchat because Heather says you need to do it, loyalty mailers, coupons, retargeting ads hounding the customer all across the internet ... it never ends.
  • And yet, your sales don't increase.

How is it even possible that you can speak to the customer a dozen times a day and the customer doesn't spend one penny more than the customer would have spent 20 years ago?

It's the corn wheel.

If you plant a dozen seeds a day right next to each other, the yield of each individual seed is terribly low. And yes, that's what all of us in this industry are doing.

Sometimes when I'm feeling sarcastic, I want to say something like "you have 20 communications with a customer daily and the customer still visits Google and is apparently performing some level of comparison shopping ... what was the point of all of the communications?"

The apparent goal of an "omnichannel communication strategy" is to yell at the customer with a bullhorn from multiple directions. "It all works together, fueling frictionless synergy!"


If you could say one important thing or twenty unimportant things ... per day ... what tactic might you test?

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