Don’t look for ordinary promotions from the Vidalia Onion Committee.
Thanks to the addition of Wendy Brannen, the Vidalia, Ga.-based group’s executive director, marketing the sweet onion hasn’t been the same since.
The Statesboro, Ga., native was promoting the state’s signature onion even before she joined the group in 2005.
Like many Vidalia region residents, Brannen brought bags of onions and jars of Vidalia products to friends during out-of-state visits.
An indication of the former TV news reporter’s marketing prowess occurred in the spring when Brannen directed an industry effort that successfully promoted Vidalia onions to children and their parents by partnering with DreamWorks’ “Shrek Forever After,” which featured the likeable animated movie ogre who has a taste for onions.
The promotion garnered widespread national attention from media such as The Wall Street Journal, CNN and ABC World News, and Vidalias were one of only 15 promotional partners that included corporations such as McDonald’s, General Mills and Bank of America.
“It was a career high for me to see the Vidalia onion logo next to the Golden Arches on the Shrek promotional partner page,” Brannen said. “That logo represents our nonprofit organization with its small staff and small budget coming from only a fraction of one state. Knowing that we were effectively promoting toe-to-toe with such recognized corporate giants as McDonald’s, every positive result of the program quite literally gave me goose bumps.”
Brannen, 38, came to the industry at a critical time, a year after a financial scandal sent a previous committee executive director to jail.
Brannen says respect, kindness and charisma are critical for effective leadership.
She says a successful leader must show enthusiasm to motivate her small office staff that handled the promotion’s materials and must possess a strong backbone in dealing with the promotion’s partners.
Delbert Bland, president of Bland Farms Inc., Glennville, Ga., lauds Brannen’s ability to understand where to promote Vidalias.
“Wendy gets it,” he said. “We have no foodservice, so she understands retail and what it takes to move product. Very few people know how to do that. A group may know what it wants to accomplish but doesn’t know how to get there. She got it from the beginning and is a good vehicle to bring new and exciting ideas to us to consider.”
Heidi McIntyre, owner of Orlando, Fla.-based McIntyre Marketing Inc., said Brannen gave the Vidalia industry a kind of retail program it didn’t earlier possess.
“She has a very powerful marketing mind and is really good at identifying key opportunities,” McIntyre said. “What’s inspiring about her is she is so passionate about what she does. She has really reinvented the Vidalia brand image and helped increase sales. As a marketing person, it has been an inspiration to see someone like her do some new creative and innovative projects.”