I've noticed that some of my fellow cow columnists have taken to endorsing products to supplement their income from ag periodicals and weekly newspapers that, up until now, have made it possible for all of us to live such lavish lifestyles.
I guess the hope is that farmers and ranchers will see the columnist's picture, read their endorsements, and that goodwill will then be transferred to the products being promoted. These celebrity cow-y endorsers are quoted as if they are Plato, Socrates, or George Clooney.
I suppose you've noticed that I have not loaned my name or image to any company in return for cash. There are several reasons why, No. 1 being that no one has ever asked. It doesn't help that I absolutely hate having my picture taken and I'm not exactly what you'd call "photogenic.”
Seeing my photo attached to a product could have negative consequences. For example, if some squeeze chute manufacturer made me the face of their company and put my picture on the tailgate of their chutes, you can imagine the increased difficulty you'd have in getting cows to voluntarily enter the squeeze chute.
Likewise, if a manufacturer of cattle trailers put my picture on their products, you'd never get your cattle loaded. You think your horse is balky now about loading – just wait until it takes one look at me on the trailer!
If a supplement maker put my mug on their tubs, cows would stay away from them in droves. This could be a huge selling point to cattlemen, in that it could reduce ranchers’ yearly supplement costs dramatically, but I doubt the supplement makers would see it this way.
I think big business is really missing the boat, like the constipation industry. Why wouldn't a big drug company that sells anti-constipation remedies think of me first as their spokesperson? Just one look at my photo on the label of a product would be enough to scare the you-know-what out of any constipated cow.
If Oprah can advertise for Weight Watchers and Lindsay Lohan for some rehab joint, I can surely be the face of constipation.
I know you're going to find this hard to believe, but not a single cattle breeder has ever asked me to endorse their bulls. I see other well-known people being quoted using so-and-so's bulls, and it really hurts my feelings that no one has ever asked me.
Oh – that's not entirely correct, as I did have one "sort-of" endorsement deal with a top-notch Angus breeder. For years I worked ring at his annual bull sale. I really liked his bulls but never owned one because they were way out of my price range, which topped out at $50 over beef.
But one year when the cattle market was in the doldrums at the end of his sale, the bulls started selling within my price parameters. After I bought my first bull and announced the buyer as U.S. Cattle Co., which all the locals know is my outfit, I noticed the breeder got flush in the face and had to be revived.
I ended up buying eight bulls and immediately after the sale, the owner came running over to me and whispered, "We have to talk. If word ever gets out that you're using my bulls, it could ruin me. Please promise me you won't tell the auctioneer when you sell your puny calves at auction that they were sired by my bulls."
"I think we can come to some sort of financial arrangement," I said. "How much are you willing to pay me for not keeping your bulls in my front pasture where everyone can see your brand?”
"But that's blackmail," he replied.
"Oh, that's harsh! I prefer to think of it as an un-endorsement.”
Despite his protests, we came to terms and the deal proved quite lucrative for a while, but the purebred breeder fell on hard times and just a few years after I bought his bulls he dispersed his herd. (I hope the two incidents were in no way connected.)
This was such an eye-opening example of the marketing power of me that I decided to capitalize on it. So, to any business owners who know that I use your products … please be advised that I've acquired the services of an agent and I am now signing what I refer to as "anti-endorsement deals.”
The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of Farm World. Readers may log on to www.LeePittsbooks.com to order any of Lee Pitts’ books. Those with questions or comments for Lee may write to him in care of this publication.