Last Updated on 13 July 2010

There is an agricultural practice farmers use called “fallow field farming.” It is the method of planting nothing at all to allow fields time to replenish, rejuvenate, and regain fertility. I got to thinking… this practice of waiting a season to allow for replenishment is exactly what some businesses could use…

Fallow Field Branding

This is the business practice of growing nothing at all to give the company an opportunity to replenish, rejuvenate, and regain fertility.

Rapid growth expectations are thrust upon a business by Wall Street and company shareholders.

If you were to order a brand autopsy to determine the cause of death of products or whole companies, more times than not the marketing pathologist would diagnose: over extending product lines (over planting/soil exhaustion), excessive employee churn (over-tilling), and over stretching the brand (over harvesting) until to the point of ruining their own fertility.

What about the notion of letting the business rest for a season to allow it to rejuvenate?

Instead of aggressively building new stores or launching new products – why not let that part of the business go fallow?

I’ll use Starbucks as an example, but there are plenty of businesses – maybe your own – that could use the opportunity.

What if they could stop planting new stores for a season and instead allow rejuvenation? A replenishment of their nutrients. A few benefits would include…

  • Provide an opportunity for the product teams to weed out products that aren’t the highest quality or exceeding customer expectations.
  • Ability for human resource teams to further train existing employees as well as better train new hires.
  • Opportunity for store managers to focus on their current customers – learn names and drink preferences.
  • Opportunity store managers to participate more in their community.

Should shareholders allow fallow field branding? Isn’t the short-term pause worth the long-term yield? What do you think? Is this idea genius or a bunch of manure?


It is believed that the practice of leaving fields fallow originated because some cultures were forced to return to their old fields, and found that the infertile fields they left behind had become more productive.

This led to the establishment of a rotation system where each growing season certain fields would be left alone or tilled but not planted, extending the useful production life of a set number of fields. sometimes the fallow fields were used for pasturage for animals, which had the incidental benefit of fertilizing the soil.

It was later found that certain plants, thought useless except perhaps for animal fodder, were beneficial to a field’s productivity, and seeds for these plants were planted in fallow fields.[1]

I learned about fallow field farming working at the Land Pavilion at EPCOT Center at the Walt Disney World Resort in Florida. As a Disney cast member, I started as the host at the movie “Symbiosis” – a documentary about human interaction with the land. Fallow field farming was one of the various land management systems presented. And now you know.

[1]Definition from the Rice University School of Science and Technology website.
Photo by tico_bassie via Flickr

This article was originally published on the Marketing Profs Daily Fix Blog.