Names or numbers?

Domenico Pessina,

Department of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, University of Milan – Italy

University of Milan – Italy


We live in a world where communication, it is well-known, is (almost) everything. A high quality product poorly advertised will be less successful and will be less appreciated by the consumer than a poor product advertised at the highest level. This is a perverse mechanism, but that is how it is: often (though fortunately not always…) it is important not to be, but rather to appear. For celebrities from the worlds of entertainment and sport, and sometimes even of culture, the important is that they are talked about: even badly, it doesn’t matter. What’s important is that people talk about them.

The saying that has always been attributed to farmers is “wisdom sometimes walks in clouted shoes”; this is really true, but they are inevitably influenced by advertising too, by the pressure of the media. In fact, the modern farmer is becoming, ever increasingly, a business person: someone who manages a company with a turnover of millions of euro and who is increasingly sought after by suppliers of agricultural equipment and services. Equipment which consists of machinery, primarily tractors.

Going back to communication strategies, there is no doubt that even the name of a product often makes history. What is adhesive tape commonly called in Italy? Scotch, naturally! But “scotch” is the commercial name that a leading manufacturer in the industry has given to their product. If you go to the UK and ask for some scotch, you’ll be offered some excellent whiskey. You might greatly appreciate the offer but it won’t hold two pieces of paper together… And what about Graziella? In everyday language, it means the small-wheeled city bicycle, but it is also the name given, in 1964, to the means of transport by a well-known Venetian manufacturer…

Names therefore have their importance.

For tractors, there are two schools of thought: use a made-up name, or use mere numbers to differentiate the various models. In either case, the “name” is always followed by some digits indicating the maximum engine power, strictly expressed in horsepower, which is much better known than the kW (and also because the resulting number is higher…) and often rounded up to the nearest ten or higher fraction of 5.

The power indication obviously has its uses, because it is the key feature (although not the only one) that characterises the correct sizing and type of tractor.

On the other hand, the name issue is less clear and more debated. The name gives an image of customisation, especially if what you chose has similarities with the product: “Nitro”, “Tigrone”, “Rex”, “Trekker”, “Invictus” have precise meanings, and are suited to the context. The difficulty is sometimes finding names that have not already been used for other products, which could lead to unpleasant legal consequences.

One or several digits are undoubtedly less creative and can seem merely related to engineering, but if they refer to a certain “class”, they immediately give the idea of the category (and therefore the size, power, etc.) to which the machine belongs. The prevailing modern orientation would appear to be: series 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, now even 10…

We are witnessing a sort of approval for this coding, i.e. indicating the class of tractor with a digit, followed by the power rounded up in horsepower. For example, digits 6 and 180 indicate a series 6 machine, i.e. medium-large, with approximately 180 HP maximum power. The further advantage of this kind of name is that this way it is possible to easily and immediately identify two or several models from different manufacturers that belong to the same class. It is easier, therefore, to concentrate on comparing other technical characteristics, probably just as important, if not more so, than the maximum power of the tractor.

On the other hand, the name (not just a model, but a series or even a range) should necessarily be accompanied by the brand (and then by the manufacturer). But for this reason the machine is associated mainly with the specific characteristics of the manufacturer, its history, nationality, main market penetration, etc. Well then: names or numbers?

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