Creative marketing to sell smaller-than-normal fruits and vegetables

Some produce is priced per item (vs. per pound). Thus, consumers look for the largest produce they can to maximize their expenditure. Which means demand for larger produce keeps growing, so produce providers try to maximize the size of their produce. Then the cycle starts all over again.

I walk into my local grocery store, needing bell peppers (a favorite snack of mine). The red and orange bell peppers are $1.19 per pepper. So what do I do? I look for the largest, nicest pepper to get the most value for my money.

And thus I’ve become a part of an interesting cycle, one that I have a theory comes from marketing pricing strategy.

Here’s my theory:

Some produce is priced per item (vs. per pound). Thus, consumers look for the largest produce they can to maximize their expenditure. Which means demand for larger produce keeps growing, so produce providers try to maximize the size of their produce. Then the cycle starts all over again.

This theory and cycle create a lot of interesting consequences if you think about it. As someone who regularly meets with a dietician, one consequence is portion sizes; what I think is a small apple is actually a medium-large apple on the dietary scale. And, as we become more concerned with the long-term impacts of certain farming practices, encouraging ever-larger sizes may be causing ecological harm.

It also leads us with a lot of produce that could be considered “too small” for consumers. So, stores and food marketing companies are coming up with ways to combat this:

  • Selling produce by the weight vs. per item. The most straightforward answer is to change the pricing model to be weight-based vs. per item. Raise your hand if you’re “one of those” people who take the grapes you don’t need out of the bag and put them in another bag because they are sold by weight (I’m raising my hand).
  • Discounted ugly produce. Probably the most well-known version of this is Imperfect Produce boxes, but some stores have “ugly” bins. However, some critics say that this doesn’t solve the food waste problems it claims to solve.
  • Creative marketing of smaller produce. A few of my favorite examples are below. Although, the extra packaging is an obvious ecological downside. I do, however, find it interesting that they have names such as “Gator Eggs” for small avocados and “Lil Snappers” for apples which leads me to believe they are geared toward small children.

It’s an interesting theory and trend to follow.

 

Three small apples in a tennis ball canister on the grocery store shelf.
ROCKIT apples are small, sold in packaging that reminds me of tennis ball packaging.
Bags of small apples and bags of small oranges on a grocery store shelf.
Lil Snapper apples and oranges are small and come in pre-packaged bags.
Six avocados are in packaging similar to how chicken eggs are sold and are labeled "Gator Eggs" and single serving
Small avocados are marketed as “single serving” and “gator eggs.”

 

 

Breast Cancer Sponsorship, is it really a good thing?

“Of course cause marketing is a good thing,” I thought to myself. But, the counterargument, “The adoption of social responsibility through cause-related marketing as a business strategy is unethical” by Peggy Kreshel changed my perspective.

Let me start by saying that I absolutely believe in the search for a cure for breast cancer and all harmful diseases and I support any woman, family, friend, affected by breast cancer. This post is merely to discuss whether or not marketers should be involved in the process.

For my Masters in Advertising, I had to take a course titled, “Advertising and Society.” The textbook we used was “Advertising and Society. Controversies and Consequences” edited by Carol J. Pardun. The book was set-up with a point and counterpoint for every argument. At first, it struck me as odd that there would even be a counterpoint to cause marketing. “Of course cause marketing is a good thing,” I thought to myself. But, the counterargument, “The adoption of social responsibility through cause-related marketing as a business strategy is unethical” by Peggy Kreshel changed my perspective.

Why is breast cancer such a popular sponsorship choice?

One of the most popular causes to sponsor is breast cancer. Everywhere you look, particularly in October because it’s Breast Cancer Awareness Month, there are pink ribbons, pink shirts, pink products, etc. Kershel points out that there are three main reasons breast cancer is the end-all, be-all of organization sponsorship:

  1. Breast cancer is a safe bet when it comes to corporate sponsorship. Who really is going to be against curing breast cancer? Pretty much no one. But, another cause, such as AIDS, is not such a safe bet. There are a lot of sexual connotations about AIDS and what lifestyles contract AIDS. So, by supporting AIDS research, corporations risk offending some of their consumer base who have negative views about AIDS and those that contract AIDS.
  2. Breast cancer has an easily recognized symbol and color. Everyone knows it and knows what it means to attach a corporation’s name to it.
  3. Women have significant buying power when it comes to their families and their home. Breast cancer sponsorship is an easy way for a corporation to show middle-aged women that they are their friends.
breast cancer pink ribbon pin and reflection
“Breast cancer reflection” by Williami5, via Flickr Creative Commons is licensed under CC BY 2.0

What’s controversial about corporations sponsoring breast cancer?

Two of Kreshel’s answers are the following:

  • “…decisions regarding resource allocation in some of the most vital arenas of public welfare – health, environment, education – are made by marketing professionals and corporate executives focus on corporate needs and objectives, rather than by professionals in the relevant areas…Do corporate decision-makers have the knowledge base and experience to weigh the efficacy of these approaches to solving the social problem?” (198). Basically, what we have now, through corporate sponsorship, is millions of dollars going to causes based on what will be best for the corporation vs. what is best for society. And, it’s encouraging us to only focus on causes that have marketing and sponsorship opportunities rather than those causes that need the funding the most.
  • “The fact that the disease [breast cancer] is increasing in industrialized nations suggests the possibility of environmental factors” (198). But, “[feminist] emphasis on ecological factors…is not shared by groups such as Komen and the American Cancer Society. Breast cancer would hardly be the darling of corporate American if it’s complexion changed from pink to green” (Ehrenrich as cited in Kreshel, pg. 198). This is a tough pill to swallow, but it brings up a good point. Causes that are sponsored by corporations want to stay on their good side and stay neutral so the corporations see no risks and all benefits when sponsoring them. So what if, as suggested, breast cancer was linked to environmental factors? The environment is a hot political issue right now and, if Komen and the American Cancer Society were to give those environmental factors their proper emphasis, they risk loss of sponsorships because they will be seen as swinging to one side politically. In this way, corporations are shaping the path to the cause. If true, it also creates an ethical issue for researchers of breast cancer. Will they tell the truth and risk their corporate funding or will they remain silent?

Overall, I’m glad that corporations give money to causes and I do support corporations and businesses who give money to charity. However, reading Kreschel’s full argument really has made me less-likely to jump on any cause-marketing bandwagon. Perhaps we need to find another solution that allows corporations to give money in a way that shows social charity/responsibility, but still allows the money to be distributed to where it truly needs to go while also allowing causes the freedom to do what is best for their cause.

Change the details or the scenario to see a problem differently

We’ve all faced tough situations where we weren’t quite sure what to do or we’re struggling to see the other side of the argument.

When this happens, one effective technique is to change the details or change the scenario to try to gain a new perspective.

We’ve all faced tough situations where we weren’t quite sure what to do or we’re struggling to see the other side of the argument.

When this happens, one effective technique is to change the details or change the scenario to try to gain a new perspective.

Change the scenario

This is changing the setting of the situation. Think of it like a play where the plot and the script are basically the same, but the setting is different.

This can be especially helpful if you are emotionally involved in the situation.

One of my favorite ways to utilize this technique is to think what the situation would look like on an elementary school playground.  This isn’t because I think two adults having conflict are childish; rather, it helps me get to the very basic issue of the problem and name it in a simple way.  For example, I might see two adults in conflict and use this technique to identify the fundamental problem. Such as “person a is bullying person b” or “person a is purposefully excluding person b.” Identifying the problem in such simple terms also usually makes the solution very clear.

Other ways to change the scenario:

  • What if we were having this conversation at the family dinner table?
  • What if this conversation were happening at another company? How would I advise them?
  • What if we were on a stage in front of others, would this conversation be ok? Or look the same?
  • What if a friend came to me with this problem?

Change the details

Another way to see a situation from a whole new light is to change the details.

In this exercise, you leave the setting and people alone, but change various details of the situation. So, the play scene is the same, the actors and actresses are the same, but something about the situation has changed.

Ways to change the details:

  • If the situation involves something you are emotionally passionate about, change it to something you aren’t emotionally passionate about. This can be especially helpful for anything political.
  • Or the opposite, if you’re not emotionally passionate about the subject, substitute in a subject you are passionate about.
  • Remove various elements of a situation and then ask how you’d solve it. For example, “If money weren’t a factor, how would I make this decision?”

 

 

 

Use your marketing skills to analyze your own spending habits (and save money)

Using this same framework, you can analyze your own spending habits and find what motivates you, what messages work on you, and how you might be able to change your spending habits to save money.

If you’ve studied marketing and advertising, you’ve very familiar with the analysis of potential and current customers.

When analyzing our target market, we ask:

– Who are they?

– What products are they most likely to buy?

– What messages are they most likely to respond to?

– What motivates their purchases?

– What causes them not to purchase?

Using this same framework, you can analyze your own spending habits and find what motivates you, what messages work on you, and how you might be able to change your spending habits to save money.

Two ways to get started:

Analyze your Amazon suggestions/purchase history

Amazon (or any other major online retailer) spends significant resources to understand your spending habits and predict what you are most likely to buy next. Why not use this to your advantage?

For example, a quick skim of Amazon’s suggestions for me indicates that I’m most likely to buy beauty products and kitchen gadgets from them. This makes sense, as I’m very particular about wanting a specific beauty/kitchen product and unwilling to go to 10 stores to find it. At the same time, beauty products can be more expensive on Amazon than in retail. I could save a significant amount of money by going to a brand’s website and finding the products locally in a store. Or, I could save money by being less particular with my purchases.

Analyze your debit/credit card statements

Take look at your debit and credit card statements from a third-party perspective, as if you were analyzing someone in a focus group for your product or service.

What are you spending your money on and where? What’s the repetition of your spending habits? Where are the patterns? What percent of your money is going toward various purchases or categories of purchases?

For example, after I gifted him The Total Money Makeover book by Dave Ramsey, a friend of mine analyzed his own budget from a third-party perspective and what he found was shocking: “The family” (aka him and his wife) were spending $1,400 per month on eating out!

So dedicate some time this week or weekend to taking a look at yourself as a target market and see where you spend your money and how you might change that for the better. 

Customer service: Answer the question behind the question

They weren’t really asking when the semester started; they were asking what they needed to do to be ready to start school then.

A man listening on the phone
“Customer Service Assistant on the Phone” by CWCS Managed Hosting, via Flickr Creative Commons is licensed under CC BY 4.0

In my first marketing directorship at a community college, one of my responsibilities was to oversee the switchboard for the college. When the original member of my team who filled this crucial role announced her resignation due to a family move, I asked to spend a few days doing her tasks with her so I would understand the role and know more about the personality and skills we needed to fill that role.

And that’s when I noticed it, several times per day, we would get phone calls that replicated this script:

Me: (greeting)

Caller: When does the fall semester start?

Me: August 22

Caller: Ok (long pause) Thank you.

Me: You’re welcome. Have a good day.

Was I providing good customer service?

In actuality, no. What I quickly realized was, these same people were calling back a few hours or days later and asking questions about how to enroll, how to register, etc. They weren’t really asking when the semester started; they were asking what they needed to do to be ready to start school then. And I wasn’t giving them the information or assistance they really needed.

So I changed the script:

Me: (greeting)

Caller: When does the fall semester start?

Me: August 22. Would you like me to connect you to someone who can work with you to get you set-up to start then?

Caller: Yes! Thank you, that’d be great.

Me: You’re welcome. Hold on one moment while I transfer you (transfer to Admissions)

After a few days of this, the Director of Admissions called. They had noticed the significant increase in calls and noticed that the calls were all potential students. They were curious what had happened.

This led to the Director of Admissions and I working together to identify other areas in the our communications and processes where we weren’t answering the question behind the question.

I’ll admit that it’s a continual process, it’s just too easy to slip back into being busy and not thinking-through to the actual, or next question, so I have to remind myself of this often.

When a potential or current customer contacts your organization, are you answering the question behind the question? Are you answering the question that they will call with next? Do you provide them with the information they need to move along in the sales process?

Photo: “Customer Service Assistant on the Phone” by CWCS Managed Hosting, via Flickr Creative Commons is licensed under CC BY 4.0

“Mindless Eating” book provides helpful insights into food marketing/research

in reading the book, I found it was also a very helpful guide to many of the food marketing tactics that we see used today. I’ve provided some examples below.

I originally picked-up Brian Wansink’s book, Mindless Eating: Why we eat more than we think, to learn more about ways I could positively impact my personal diet. But, in reading the book, I found it was also a very helpful guide to many of the food marketing tactics that we see used today. I’ve provided some examples below.

He discusses anchoring in terms of calories:

If you ask people if there are more or less than 50 calories in an apple, most will say more. When you ask them how many, the average person will say, “66.” If you had instead asked if there were more or less than 150 calories in an apple, most would say less. When you ask them how many, the average person would say, “114.” People unknowingly anchor or focus on the number they first hear and let that bias them. Kindle location 329

How packaging impacts our choices:

The bottom line: We all consume more from big packages, whatever the product. Kindle location 810

…they could cut the size of their meat and cheese in half, and as long as they added enough garden greens to make the hamburger look just as big, they’d feel as full as if they’d eaten the real deal. Kindle location 614

The power of timing:

At one point in the 1980s, Campbell’s developed a series of commercials for radio stations called “storm spots.”25 These radio ads referred to the rain and pointed out that soup is a cozy, warm, comfort food; that it goes so well with sandwiches that are easy to make; and that—not coincidently—the listener probably happens to have a number of cans of Campbell’s soup in the cupboard right at this minute. Radio stations were instructed that if it were raining or storming between the hours of 10:00 A.M. and 1:00 P.M., they should play these radio ads. The expectation was that people would dutifully eat their soup and buy more the next time they went to the store. Kindle location 1499

The power of smell:

Smell is big business. There are companies that exist solely because they can infuse (the word they oddly use is “impregnate”) odors into plastics. This is because odor can’t reliably be infused into food. Sometimes it doesn’t last; at other times it changes the shelf stability of the food itself. But if you infuse the odor into packaging, it’s a different story. Some day you might heat up your frozen microwavable apple pie and smell the rich apple pie aroma. Even if it’s the container that you’re smelling, you’re primed to enjoy that apple pie even before you put your fork in. Kindle location 1440

Expectation Assimilation and Confirmation Bias:

Psychologists call this “expectation assimilation” and “confirmation bias.” In the case of food, it means that our taste buds are biased by our imagination. Basically, if you expect a food to taste good, it will. At the very least, it will taste better than if you had thought it would only be so-so. Kindle location 1567

Consider two pieces of day-old chocolate cake. If one is named “chocolate cake,” and the other is named “Belgian Black Forest Double Chocolate Cake,” people will buy the second. That’s no surprise. What’s more interesting is that after trying it, people will rate it as tasting better than an identical piece of “plain old cake.” It doesn’t even matter that the Black Forest is not in Belgium. Kindle location 1604

…foods with descriptive names sold 27 percent more. And even though they were priced exactly the same, the customers who ate them consistently rated them as a better value than did the people who ate the same dishes with the boring old names. Kindle location 1636

And much, much more. If you are interested in learning about food marketing and research as well as learning about realistic ways to control your weight and eat healthy, I highly recommend this book.

How social media changed corporate branding and marketing

Different colors of chalk ends with the logos of the main social media sites (facebook, twitter, etc.) on the ends
“The Art of Social Media” by mkhmarketing, via Flickr Creative Commons is licensed under CC BY 4.0

“If you create good branded content, they will come,” sums up the philosophy that was championed during my masters degree courses on social media marketing. At the time, that was the prominent thought, and still continues to be in most organizations.

The reality, however, is much different. Brands have spent billions to create content and haven’t garnered the massive loyal following they thought it would.

But Douglas Holt will tell you that crowdcultures are better at producing content, and for a lot less money and time, that resonates on social media. He demonstrates by highlighting brands who have spent billions to create amazing content on sites such as YouTube, Instagram, etc. are getting trounced in the rankings, by individuals with limited production ability.

Instead, he’ll tell you not to focus on the crowdculture. In the March 2016 edition of Harvard Business Review (Branding in the age of social media), Crowdcultures, according to Holt, are digital crows that serve “as very effective and prolific innovators of culture.”

As examples, he highlights:

  • Pre-industrial food culture: Those individuals who are concerned about, and challenging, our industrial methods of producing food.
  • Lad culture: A tongue-in-cheek form of sexism stemmed from frustrations of over-sensitivity by feminists
  • Body-positive culture: Those frustrated with the unrealistic ideals in media, especially of women

Conventional marketing would tell you to find your target market along demographic and benefit lines and promote to them, or to highlight your organization’s core values that best along with the largest segment of the market. Following the crowdculture philosophy, instead you’d identify a specific crowdculture that is a good fit for your organization and focus on them.

So back to the crowdculture examples to see how this alignment works:

  • Pre-industrial food revival: Chipotle’s branding around local and non-industrial food sourcing
  • Lad culture: Axe body spray’s over-the-top ads of bikini-clad “ideal” women chasing after men
  • Body-positive culture: Dove’s “Real Beauty” campaign focused on emphasizing that women are beautiful in their natural form (and, for fun, Dove has the same parent company as Axe)

There’s a lot more to identifying, aligning and maintaining this type of marketing strategy and Holt goes into some details in the article along with having a book on the subject, How Brands Become Icons: The Principles of Cultural Branding.

Is this the correct strategy moving forward? That’s yet to be seen. What is clear is, the “If you create good branded content, they will come,” strategy isn’t working.