When Ocean Mist Farms’ marketing efforts leading up to branding its artichokes became a case study for the Harvard Business School’s agribusiness seminar, it was another sign that Kori Tuggle’s commitment to digital and social media was paying off.
Tuggle, director of marketing and business development, and other Ocean Mist Farms representatives went to Harvard in January to tell their story.
The grower-shipper was the smallest of 12 agribusinesses
“It’s a real coup when your company is of interest to Harvard,” said Roberta Cook, cooperative extension marketing economist at the University of California-Davis, and an Ocean Mist board member.
When Tuggle, now 40, joined Ocean Mist in 2005, the company did not have a consumer marketing program. Its contacts seldom went beyond retail.
“Online digital marketing wasn’t even on the radar,” Tuggle said. “Since then, it has become an everyday tool, a permanent piece of our marketing plan. We now have a team of people working on it together.”
The centerpiece of the digital effort has been the Artichoke Aficionados Club, started in 2008. It aims to answer any conceivable question — from how to select, prepare and serve the vegetable to which retailers are promoting them — and keep content fresh over time. That’s put Ocean Mist in direct contact with 38,000 or so end users.
“Kori had the foresight to see this emerging a number of years ago and really got us on the bandwagon probably before a lot of companies realized what was going on,” said Joe Pezzini, Ocean Mist chief operating officer.
During the past two years, Ocean Mist worked to brand itself for consumers by labeling artichokes at field level, an effort in progress. Given the crop’s shape, that’s tough compared to some produce items.
She spent five years at Safeway, initially as a produce buyer in Watsonville. Later she had an export sales and marketing role.
“Kori has a wealth of knowledge of the industry, which is somewhat unique, especially having worked for Safeway as a buyer,” Pezzini said.
Tuggle spent four years at Church Bros. LLC, finishing as director of marketing and business development before joining Ocean Mist.
“Tom and Steve Church gave me my first chance and coached me along the way,” she said.