Why John Deere is targeting tech by sending an influencer to farm

It’s farm to the future for the equipment manufacturer.

A combine. Photo provided by John Deere.

The term “high tech” conjures mental images of gleaming buildings of steel and glass gleaming along the northern California coastline, or piercing through the clouds of lower Manhattan.

They probably don’t conjure thoughts of Iowa cornfields.

But John Deere is working to change that.

“We’ve gone through this tech journey to try to adapt ourselves from a traditional legacy manufacturing company to a tech company,” said Franklin Peitz, tech & innovation manager for John Deere. Those efforts include major activations at CES and now, a social media campaign with an influencer better known for his cellphone reviews than his knowledge of soil conditions and corn futures.

That’s entirely the point.



With so many people living in urban areas and having less interaction with the agricultural sector, many Americans don’t take the time to think of where their food comes from beyond the grocery store. John Deere wants to change the conversation from thinking of farmers are unsophisticated and old-fashioned to cutting-edge.

“These are highly complex businessmen and women that are operating across, at some points, 30 to 60 miles of farmland, and all these different pieces of equipment in different areas,” Peitz said. “There’s a lot of money invested in a farm to be profitable and productive and also sustainable. We’re trying to get that message out to the larger community outside of just agriculture in rural America.”

That’s where David Cogen, also known as TheUnlockr, comes in. With 770,000 YouTube subscribers and tens of thousands of subscribers each on Instagram and X, he’s best known cellphone reviews, though he also offers a series called Decodr, which offers deep-dive explainers on topics like how induction cooking works.

But he also has a deep passion for farming and food that he can trace back to his pandemic binge watch show: “Clarkson’s Farm,” headlined by “Top Gear” star Jeremy Clarkson.

“I started watching that show and just was fascinated by all the stuff that was happening. And it was shortly after that, John Deere offered me a trip to a farm,” Cogen told PR Daily.

That was three or four years ago. Since then, they’ve done several influencer activations together. And as John Deere’s influencer program grew, they kept getting one specific request: have an influencer do the farming rather than just visiting a plot.

“And so we thought of this idea: It’d be really neat to give someone the whole experience from soup to nuts, right from tillage all the way through planting and crop protection and then ultimately harvest to be able to understand agriculture, the challenges that our farmers face, and how they’re using our technology today to be more productive and profitable and sustainable,” Peitz said.

By May – or maybe sooner, as the Midwest has been unseasonably warm – Cogen will visit his temporary farm, 20 acres not far from Des Moines, Iowa to plant his crop. He’ll return several times over the growing season and be responsible for every aspect of the process, from what seeds to plant to applying herbicides, harvesting and even selling the corn.

He’ll be documenting it along the way with plenty of content for his social channels. He’ll also create both Instagram Reels as well as at least one longer piece for YouTube. Cogen is confident that even though his audience tends more to city slicker than field hand, they’ll find something to like in his farm-centric content.

“I think just following along the journey is valuable to everybody,” Cogen said. “And I think as long as I feel like I can capture the experience in a very authentic way, even through my bumbling and things that I’m going to not do well, because I don’t know what I’m doing.”

But he’s not alone in figuring out what he needs to do. In addition to John Deere’s experts, Cogen has also been teamed up with an actual farmer, who he refers to as his “phone a friend.” Chelsey Erdmann, a North Dakota farmer and rancher, will be Cogen’s mentor through the experience. Right now, Cogen says she’s helping him understand the complicated world of corn futures. As part of the PR campaign, she’s also helping John Deere’s message reach their legacy audience of agriculturalists with her own 80,000+ Instagram followers.

There is an element of danger here: Cogen could fail. And there is no plan B. But that’s just part of a farmer’s life, Cogen said.

“Regardless of whether I turn a profit or I don’t, the story is still there. And the things that I want to tell and show, it’s still interesting to for people to see it. Because it’s thin margins. And rain could change everything. It’s just fascinating.”

But there’s one payoff that Cogen is looking forward to even more than the possibility of a bumper corn crop: riding in the comfortable cab of a massive John Deere combine to harvest his corn.

“There’s a weird complex when you just sit in that giant machine, and you’re just like, ‘oh, have all of the power.’ It’s just fun.”

Allison Carter is editor-in-chief of PR Daily. Follow her on or LinkedIn.



One Response to “Why John Deere is targeting tech by sending an influencer to farm”

    Bernie Barton says:

    IF ONLY American farmers were “highly complex businessmen and women”- this is what we were told would be needed as agricultural students and FFA members in the 1970s. That intellect would be at a premium in the industry. Perhaps that is the case in some areas of agribusiness, but as far as larger farmers, that’s not what I’ve found to be the case. Recent turns in American politics have only rendered this disconnect all the more starkly. I don’t know where all of these smart people are going to come from, but if we’re wanting to preserve a family farming model, there’s certainly a disconnect.

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