MONTEREY, Calif. — Fresh produce conventions don’t exactly have a reputation for providing the kind of laughs you might expect from the likes of the “Blue Collar Comedy Tour.”
But those attending the Produce Marketing Association's Foodservice Conference and Expo who appreciate the funny side of marketing got a belly full of chuckles — along with valuable information that could translate into greater fresh produce profits — during Josh Linkner’s speech the morning of July 27.
Linkner, the chief executive officer and managing partner of Detroit Venture Partners, cleverly wove together the threads of humor and marketing strategy tips that have made companies like his profitable even in a down economy.
Among highlights from Linkner’s speech: an illustration of his point via a YouTube video commercial by start-up company dollarshaveclub.com. The low-budget, high-yielding spoof (Warning: strong language) is closing in on 11 million views on YouTube and very well could make “Blue Collar” comedian Ron White laugh hard enough to spill his drink.
While Linkner didn’t condone the use of curse words in fresh produce advertising campaigns like the online shave company did, he did say produce companies needed to consider off-the-wall ideas to succeed.
Linkner also encouraged ways to build creativity, including thinking like a child and asking the question “Why?” down five different layers to get to the root of what’s important to growing business.
Then, of course, he illustrated digging down as a child would do it through the “five whys” using a video featuring stand-up comedian Louis CK (Warning: strong language).
PMA Foodservice attendees also couldn’t possibly forget chef Chris Hanmer’s challenge to bacon — something on the order of “Bring it on, bacon!” — during the July 27 “Innovating Your Customer Experience: Satisfying Your Customer’s Hunger for Fresh Ideas” lunch.
Hanmer, chef/owner of CH Patisserie, Sioux Falls, S.D., had waited and listened patiently while one of the competitors in the friendly chefs competition, Tony Baker, bragged how his Classic Italian Stuffed Artichokes couldn’t be beaten in the contest, partly because of the invincible weapon of bacon.
Hanmer more than backed up his “them’s fighting words”-type comeback by wowing the crowd with his “Woot Froot” Peaches & Creme with Churros dessert featuring orange-poached peaches.
The creation swept all the contest votes for best dish from those sitting at my table.
Arguably the best introductory one-liner from a session: “Hopefully I can leave you with bad jokes and good content.”
That’s funny, right there — I don’t care who you are, as Larry the Cable Guy would say.
It came from Carisa Miklusak, CEO of tMedia Strategies, who spoke July 28 on “Managing Your Digital Brand: The Secrets to Telling Your Story Online.”
Miklusak loaded her presentation with audience participation and off-the-cuff quick quips to keep people entertained.
I asked about a dozen people on the expo floor for their feedback on business leads from the show, and everyone agreed the show was well worthwhile.
Brian Douglas, general manager of Crystal Valley Specialty Produce, said his company plans to offer its new baby heirloom tomato clamshell in five varieties, including the rare Candy Stripe variety, by early October and regular heirlooms by mid-September.
“By the middle of October, we’ll be in complete full swing, and we’ll have availability 52 weeks a year,” Douglas said. “We’ve been getting phenomenal response from foodservice people at this show.”
Dayna Brown, sales and marketing assistant with West Pak Avocado Inc., said she enjoyed her first time at the show, where she was displaying the company’s new small split pack. Brown said she also enjoyed participating in a mini food show Sysco put on at the nearby Hyatt hotel.
“It’s been really great to have some one-on-one time with our customers and see them in person. There have been a lot of buyers walking around.”
So, the show was fuller than a tick on a dog’s ear — of great people, great leads, great laughs and great advice.
My only advice to add is perhaps the only fresh produce-related utterance from Jeff Foxworthy: “If you consider orange peels left on the coffee table as potpourri ... youuuuuuu might be a redneck.”
I know, I know, that wasn’t right. I apologize. Lord, please forgive me and may God bless the Pygmies in New Guinea.
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