Opinion: Learning from the world’s leading marketers

June 26 , 2017

By Oster & Associates president Bev Oster

Marketing is an area of business that continually evolves and it is now a subject of high importance to the produce industry.  Gone are the days when consumers saw only piles of apples, bananas, lettuce and tomatoes in the supermarket. 

Today, each apple or banana has a sticker, lettuce is often in bags and tomato varieties such as cherry or grape tomatoes come in handy plastic clamshells.  These are all identifying bits of marketing that help both businesses and consumers pick brands, and they give the produce industry an opportunity it didn’t previously possess.

Packaged goods, clothing, tools and toys have carried branding that represent a brand promises for many years.  Consumers specifically look for brands they found in Vogue, Sports Illustrated or Popular Mechanics.  But do shoppers come into supermarkets with the idea they want avocados, grapefruit or beets with a brand name?

Perhaps the time has finally come where we can look at learning something from other industries – something that will help individual produce companies expand their sales, providing they have the supply and categories increase overall sales.

Today’s marketers in all industries use a variety of tools to create brand awareness. They continue to use mass media such as television, radio and print publications and these are often the places they put the largest portion of their marketing budgets.  Most of the advertising they do in mass media is focused on building brand awareness, and in doing so, it makes consumers request the products they’re selling. 

These high-profile commercials need to be creative, they need to gain attention and they need to create enough of an emotional connection with the viewer or listener that the connection, over some amount of repetition, will motivate the consumer to go into a store and request that particular product. Think, for example, of Lego. Their TV ads targeted at young children get their customers excited about the challenge of building new characters, spacecraft or full towns.  It’s the excitement that’s created by the marketing that motivates the purchase.

Other conventional marketers, relying more on a grass roots approach, will use out-of-home experiential marketing that gets the consumer involved in something bigger than both the product and the consumer. 

Perhaps that something is King Kong overtaking New York, or Coca Cola dominating the attention in your local movie theater.  These are not all buying ads and creating commercials. They are ideas that make a part of a culture.  Why can’t oranges, eggplants and broccoli be a part of the culture?

When we think of marketing fruits and vegetables at an agency, we don’t only focus on the produce industry.  We think about the ideas we use for promoting extreme sports (Mountain High Resorts), gardening (Proven Winners) and fine dining (San Diego’s Marine Room).

We take those ideas and put them to work for produce companies.  We study the big boys of technology, such as Apple and entertainment such as Marvel. Then we look at grass roots efforts, such as today’s fidget spinners and how they grow virally. Can we make people love kabocha squash with some of these same methods? I think so.


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