Yet another great Virginia brand seems to be going down the tubes. Yes, the venerable Royster, known to farmers across the south, is now the yeccky sounding Agrium. Take a look at the web page for the Royster-Clark company, and there are links to Agrium, which took over the company early in 2006.
Is it too much to ask that when these large conglomerates buy one of these companies that they take a hard look at their intellectual property assets, and value them accordingly? Or at all? A simple visit to a farmer in the South would tell them that the Royster name is well known, and bankable, and that new brands are confusing? The name is also known in other circles, including politicians in Virginia, local charitable and non profit leaders, and any others with any knowledge of the farm industry. For instance, the Royster Cottage, just restored, is an icon in Virginia Beach. The house is one of the last original Virginia Beach resort cottages. Like John Deere, most everyday farm folks know the name Royster, which has roots in the Royster Guano company, born in 1885. Why would a company dump that brand equity?
Interested in the history of the brand? Michael Schwartz of Norfolk’s Inside Business has a tale of the company, online at InsideBiz.com. Of course, the story has the usual ending that “the Royster name will remain; however, it is too soon to speculate as to whether that will be permanent.”
There are many options for preserving the brand. The easiest thing? Keeping the Royster Guano name on a number of Agrium products. This would please the traditionalists, but also be to the benefit of Agrium, which is certain to receive sneers from Southern good old boys as it tries to sell its product. Then there is the John Deere approach. This would mean taking a retrospective look back at the history of Royster advertising, packaging and logos, and using that history as promotional fodder (t-shirts, other freebies) for Agrium’s dealer network.