Fruits of Thought
Seven Sins Of Marketing
The cover story this month is about the winners of PRODUCE BUSINESS magazine’s 15th Annual Marketing Excellence Awards. This column is about the ones that didn’t win. Don’t call them losers though, as that is exactly the wrong word. In a tough competition, most entrants will not get a trophy, but the very fact that these people are working hard to do creative things to help sell produce makes them winners in my book, even if they didn’t happen to get our coveted Silver Cup.
Perhaps the biggest marketing problem in the produce industry is that so many growers and shippers perceive marketing as someone else’s problem. Perhaps they expect a commodity promotion group to handle the marketing or feel the retailer should know how to move the product. Or they think the national 5 A Day effort will build demand for their products.
However, if the vendor abandons the marketing arena to some other organization, the vendor loses the opportunity to provide an added value. In a world where commodity prices are often brutal, being completely dependent on the swings of the market isn’t a great place to be.
Commodity promotion groups have done some great work but all too often have been compelled by their own growers to focus on short-term promotions rather than building long-term demand. Sometimes it is even worse. Small organizations spend all their money on TV ads they can’t afford to show anywhere, or they pull back from very successful programs because growers don’t like them or they don’t like the implications of the program proposed.
Max Brunk, a departed but still revered professor of ag economics at Cornell and a founding columnist of PRODUCE BUSINESS, used to tell the story of when he was hired by Roses, Inc., a group dedicated to assisting the rose-producing industry, to study how to get vendors to sell more roses. The research result: If those same vendors would carry a larger variety of flowers, they would wind up selling more roses. It seemed that a larger variety attracted more customers and kept the customers coming back.
So disturbing to rose producers was this research that when the producers heard about the study, they sent the good professor his check and put the report on the back shelf never to be looked at again.
In looking carefully at this year’s entrants, a rising level of sophistication is evident and, indeed, with consolidation at retail, only a more sophisticated effort is likely to produce results. Both the organizations doing the promoting and the industry as a whole will be winners if future promotions avoid some typical mistakes by those that didn’t make this year’s cut:
Remember having the idea is the easy part. Making it happen is a lot of work. pb