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Expert Q & A

Inside John Deere's UGC Machine

April 15, 2021
Mae Rice

On Instagram and TikTok, everyone wants to show off their John Deere tractor. Why? And what does that mean for the in-house marketing team? We asked John Deere's director of PR and social, Jen Hartmann.

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As the John Deere slogan goes (sort of): Nothing UGCs like a Deere.

“UGC is really the foundation of our Instagram,” Jen Hartmann, director of PR and social at John Deere, told MarketerHire.

Their Instagram account reposts tons of photos from its almost 1M followers, showing John Deere product cameos at Christmas, graduation and Easter.

And the #JohnDeere hashtag on TikTok has 2.8 billion views and counting — even though John Deere doesn’t have a TikTok account.

What makes John Deere’s UGC empire tick?

It’s powered by pride and natural light.

The core reason Deere owners make UGC, Hartmann argues, is “pride of ownership.”

John Deere is the BMW of tractors; Deere and BMW literally have a design partnership.

But why is the UGC so beautiful?

“The lifestyle [our customers] live is so ripe for beautiful photography,” Hartmann said. “You've got people working outdoors with sunsets and sunrises and nature and crops and construction sites.”

It’s a logistical marvel.

They’ve made it easy for customers to build their UGC pipeline.

Customers can submit their photos and videos through a web portal, JohnDeereStories.com, Hartmann explained, or give the company permission to share via Instagram DM with a simple “#okdeere.”

It’s complicated sometimes.

Not all UGC can be reshared. TikTok tightly regulates how brand accounts use trademarked music, for example.

Some TikToks don’t show best safety practices, either. “They've got kids around the equipment or they're dancing on the planters,” Hartmann said.

So for now, the social team appreciates John Deere’s earned TikTok clout from afar.

But it’s also delightful.

“Our audiences really appreciate either seeing what other farmers or customers are doing, what kind of equipment they operate, where they're from.”

It turns the brand’s social accounts into a community — one that can make farmers and landscapers social media famous for a day.

Our takeaway?

UGC is a powerful marketing tool — a tractor, you might say? — that can build community around your brand.

But it only works with curation, the right permissions, and a product your customers feel proud to use.

Mae Rice
about the author

Mae Rice is senior editor at MarketerHire. A long-time content marketer, she enjoys interviewing marketing experts and learning about the weird and wonderful feedback loops that connect marketing and culture. She also loves any ad that makes her say "Huh?!" — especially Tim and Eric's ad for Totino's pizza rolls, which she watches way more often than you would think.

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