Marketers from across the produce industry discuss how to strategically use innovative formats to enhance traditional exposure platforms.
Today, it’s all about marketing to one — reaching a targeted consumer with messaging tailored to that person’s interests and needs. New-age brand marketing enables suppliers to do more with less using carefully crafted and integrated marketing campaigns.
Social Media Spreads The Word
Social media outreach continues to be the must-do strategy for many. Using Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, YouTube, and sometimes the newer Snapchat, Tumblr, and What’s App as the new “contact us,” companies talk to one customer at a time with just one posting to all.
“Dr. Frieda Rapoport Caplan, our company founder and my mother, was one of the first in our industry to put company contact information on fresh produce labels so shoppers could reach out with questions and get recipes,” says Karen Caplan, president and chief executive, Frieda’s Specialty Produce, Los Alamitos, CA. “We continue that tradition of being helpful to our shoppers via social media, sharing information, recipes and ideas.”
Melinda Goodman, managing partner, Full Tilt Marketing, Milwaukee, notes, “Each social media platform has a different audience and a different use, sometimes a different time of day or reason for use. Facebook continues to be the most popular. But a picture is worth a thousand words and quality recipe and image content on Pinterest provides for a high degree of social sharing. And the rising social darling is the image-driven Instagram. ”
“Our consumers use Facebook most, then Twitter for news and Pinterest for recipe links,” says Matthew Cornwell, agricultural marketing specialist, South Carolina Department of Agriculture (SCDA), Columbia. “We tag our posts with #certifiedsc and monitor what people are saying about us.”
“We balance our sharing on Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest by spanning the spectrum from simple to sophisticated,” says Kathy Stephenson, marketing communications director, Pear Bureau Northwest, Milwaukie, OR. “Our content connects with food trends and delivers the best value for our crop. For instance, the hot summer left us with an abundance of snack-sized pears, so we used our social media channels to highlight the health benefits and satisfaction of snacking on pears.”
“We run a social media and traditional campaign every spring during artichoke season to generate awareness, prompt in-store purchases, and drive consumers to our website,” explains Diana McClean, director of marketing, Ocean Mist Farms, Castroville, CA. “We invite them to join our Ocean Mist Farms Artichoke Club, where they receive Arti-Alerts and a monthly newsletter that encourages further engagement with Ocean Mist Farms artichokes.”
“We balance our sharing on Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest by spanning the spectrum from simple to sophisticated. Our content connects with food trends and delivers the best value for our crop.”
— Kathy Stephenson, Pear Bureau Northwest
“Social media builds awareness, brand equity, and trust. We grew our social media presence out of the need for transparency when responding to issues,” says Don Odiorne, vice president, foodservice, Idaho Potato Commission (IPC), Eagle, ID. Odiorne manages IPC’s Doctor Potato blog , a popular vehicle for answering consumer questions; IPC then posts tags and links on all social media outlets, and those are reposted by consumers.
“One of our priorities is to link social media posts back to our website so we can educate consumers on Idaho potatoes, says Elyse Perkins, marketing assistant at the IPC.
Companies often overlook YouTube as a valuable social media tool. “It is one of the most critical platforms, because it shows consumers how to do things,” says Lisa Hansen, director, business development, McDill Associates, Soquel, CA.
Companies like Chelan Fresh, Chelan, WA, also use videos to build farmer-consumer connections and share farmer stories.
“As social media continues to change and evolve, so does the interaction between brands and consumers,” notes Joan Wickham, manager, advertising and public relations, Sunkist Growers, Valencia, CA. “Highly visual posts resonate best with our fans, so we plan and design our social creative accordingly, but also with ROI in mind. By providing recipe ideas, health benefits, usage tips and flavor profiles on social media, we believe consumers are more likely to purchase our varieties when they see them in store.”
Message Multipliers Ramp Up The Volume
Marketing programs directed toward key influencers take advantage of the power of those influencers to spread messaging to their followers. “It is really about shareable content,” says Full Tilt’s Goodman. “High quality images and graphics are the most commonly liked and shared, along with recipe photos, quotes, and ‘hacks’ [hidden features] that help consumers learn about products and brands.”
“When we introduced our new cauliflower crumbles, we sent information and recipes to various influencers in the health, fitness, Paleo Diet, recipe makeover, and other arenas,” explains Jennifer Fancher, marketing director, Green Giant Fresh, Salinas, CA. “Others picked up on the product through those influencers and the word spread beyond our expectations.”
“We’ve had major success building trust with dozens of food bloggers who are a trusted resource for millions of Americans,” says IPC’s Odiorne. “We send them information, invite them to the annual potato harvest, sponsor regional events, and add their potato recipes to our website. In turn, they post our Idaho® Potato Heart Badge on their website, share our information with their followers, and communicate back to us about what their audience says.”
Supermarket dietitians (RDs) offer another avenue for promotion. Goodman notes, “they are the trusted advisors for consumers, helping them make educated decisions about new products, nutrition, cooking techniques, recipes and more.”
“Our clients provide tools, toolkits and other assets for supermarket RDs to repurpose for their shoppers,” says Hansen of McDill. “Materials have to be strategic and can’t be over-the-top branded. It’s important to respect that dietitians promote generically, and it’s okay that they’re marketing the whole category.”
Chelan Fresh created a dietitian toolkit that “was the first of its kind in the tree fruit industry. It includes scientific research summaries, ideas for consumer education, kids’ programs, recipes created by other RDs, and much more,” says Kathryn Grandy, marketing manager, Chelan, WA-based Chelan Fresh Marketing. “We also host and participate in industry organizations, trade shows, and Twitter parties, for example, to increase awareness of our resources and products.”
Guerilla Tactics Deliver More For The Money
Guerilla marketing campaigns operate in public places such as festivals and sporting events, increasing awareness, building brand recognition, and offering sponsors the opportunity for face-to-face conversations with consumers. As a perk to sponsors, organizers typically name them in on-site and pre- and post-event marketing and publicity.
The National Mango Board (NMB) recently paired mangos with the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL). Throughout the women’s soccer season, NMB partnered with teams and athletes for player appearances, giveaways, and social media engagement, with the goal of increasing mango awareness. “Our events promote sampling among our target audience of families and kids,” says Jami Kinney, marketing specialist, National Mango Board, Orlando, FL.
Marketing For A Cause
Marketing for a cause is a win-win for sponsors and cause. The 2015 Growing Forward campaign brought together an industry team of sponsors to donate and coordinate delivery logistics for 1 million pounds of fresh produce to Feeding America’s member food banks. An earlier Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs 2 campaign partnered industry members with Sony Pictures and Feeding America.
“These campaigns featured messaging on-pack, on food trucks, at food bank events, and at movie premiere events. Sony promoted our produce partners at no cost,” explains Hansen of McDill Associates. “Nobody has the resources to make a big splash alone. By bringing produce leaders together and pooling resources, we can make an impact with consumers and against hunger.”
“SCDA’s Palmetto Series, a unique promotion with sports teams at Clemson University and University of South Carolina, supports a relief effort to help growers who were hard hit by the 2015 flooding in our state,” says Cornwell from the SCDA. “We use this school rivalry to promote our farming community through social media, grocery displays with the two team mascots, and a SCDA display at each game with giveaways and materials from retailers. We also feature Farmers of the Month, many of whom played a sport at one of the two schools. Sports fans who may not agree about what’s on the field can agree with what’s grown in our fields.”
The Big Idaho Potato Truck Tour selects charity partners who help promote the truck tour and in turn benefit from publicity, food donations, and/or funds. Partners in 2016 include 4-H clubs and food banks in Boise, ID.
Industry Coalitions And Campaigns Think Big
The Newark, DE-based Produce Marketing Association (PMA) and Hockessin, DE-based Produce for Better Health (PBH) Foundation each brings together industry partners to support nationwide campaigns. PMA, Partnership for a Healthier America, and Sesame Workshop joined forces in the “Eat Brighter!” campaign to encourage young children to eat more fresh fruits and vegetables. Industry supporters, including suppliers, distributors, and retailers, are invited to include Sesame Street character images in their marketing and packaging.
PBH’s Fruits and Veggies — More Matters campaign, introduced in 2007, encourages industry partners to engage through social and traditional media, packaging, and retail advertising and promotions to promote increased consumption of fruits and vegetables.
Targeted Messages Maximize Impact
“Social media advertising may be less expensive than traditional advertising, but developing and promoting content through sponsored posts still comes with a cost,” explains Goodman of Full Tilt. “The beauty of social media advertising is the ability to reach a specific target. Everything from gender and location to specific interests can be a good fit for your brand message and products.”
“Our website houses our content; we use social media to bring audiences back to the website for information and resources,” explains Stephenson of Pear Bureau Northwest. “Social media helps us focus our strongest messages to the right audience — creating a conversation that is relevant to each consumer on the platform that he or she likes best.”
Ethnic groups can differ in their use of social media. “Social media plays a significant role in reaching the consumer we call the Nueva Latina,” explains Stephanie Bazan, director, Hispanic marketing, Avocados from Mexico, Irving, TX. “The Nueva Latina uses her smartphone not only for email, texting, and picture messaging but also to access her social networks and family every day. This is why a mobile-marketing plan is essential for this target. ”
California Giant Berry Farms, Watsonville, CA, ties every campaign to its website, where a software program captures all traffic, preferences, shopping behavior, and other information from visitors. The company monitors success by creating a new hashtag for each campaign and then following posts that use the hashtag.
“Everything is tied to our website, which has a software program enabling us to capture all traffic, preferences, and shopping behavior,” says Cindy Jewell, media contact, California Giant. “We support each of our promotions with a visual and message adapted for each platform. Consumers who provide us with demographic information can access recipes and promotional offerings. We also do a lot of email marketing through our blog, free email offers, and sweepstakes. Consumers opt to provide us with personal information as they become more comfortable with us, and we use the information to better target their preferences. We provide incentives for buying our products, and ultimately drive more traffic to the produce department.” Tracking of traditional media works too. Pear Bureau Northwest monitors the media for stories on pears and shares with consumers through social media. It then notifies retailers so that they can stock up on pears.
Focus On Fundamentals First
While new-age marketing generates excitement in-house, in-store, and with consumers, tried-and-true fundamentals need to be in place to support any marketing effort. “Wait to invest in social media until everything is in place — supply chain, packaging, B-2-B programs, infrastructure,” advises Hansen of McDill Associates. “Social media is cool, but first support your product on the shelf.”
“Don’t go straight to social or just do a charitable campaign,” advises Dan’l Mackey Almy, president and chief executive, DMA Solutions, Irving, TX. “Companies should have a solid digital presence, starting with a website that continues to attract repeat and new visitors. To realize ROI, companies can and should access free analytics to tell them more about who is visiting and what they are looking for. Then ask: What is the path to purchase for our customers; What is the value of an impression; Where can we afford to be present with marketing?”