PMA's Lauren Scott moderates a panel with (clockwise from top left) Charles Hall, Dan'l Mackey Almy, William Li and Jiunn Shih. ( The Packer )

Successfully marketing the health and wellness benefits of vegetables, fruits and flowers begins with understanding the specific consumer pain points those products can ease.

Recognizing the customer perspective first, rather than starting messages with product or company information, is a key shift from how many produce companies have traditionally communicated about their products, Dan’l Mackey Almy, president and CEO of DMA Solutions, said on a panel Oct. 14 at the Produce Marketing Association’s Fresh Summit.

“We just haven’t had this historical run of speaking to the consumer, and so we have a lot of language and we have a lot of habits, if you will, of how we speak about our products,” Almy said. “We tend to talk about our products like we’re talking to a retail buyer or a foodservice buyer, and we talk about it in that same way.”

To be effective in marketing, brands have to make the consumer the hero of the story, Almy said. She suggested speaking to a challenge a certain consumer group is facing and then offering a relevant product as a solution for that problem.

“The good storytelling comes from a place of understanding what your audience needs and desires ... where their emotions are and meeting them where they are, and we have more opportunity to do that today than we ever have,” Almy said.

William Li, a physician best known for leading the Angiogenesis Foundation, and who wrote the bestselling book Eat to Beat Disease, suggested that it is important for people to think about their health not just when they exercise or when they fall ill but every day. With the current heightened awareness of health, there is an opportunity to communicate to shoppers that specific fruits and vegetables can work for them toward specific purposes, from gut health to immune health and beyond.

Charles Hall, a professor of horticultural sciences at Texas A&M University, recounted in the panel discussion the many benefits of flowers, few of which are often touted in marketing. He cited research showing that older people dealing with dementia are more likely to remember names and past events when flowers are around, and that patients who have flowers in their hospital room require less pain medication.

Hall also said that both people who give flowers and receive flowers experience psychological and physiological benefits. He described flowers as a relevant contribution toward many physical and emotional needs consumers have, especially in this unusual year.

Jiunn Shih, chief growth officer for Zespri, said the company conducted in-depth research and focus groups to better understand the emotions people feel toward food.

“People are struggling to find that balance between living healthy or something that is hard or difficult and sometimes boring, so our positioning is, we help you make your health irresistible,” Shih said. The idea is to break the stereotype that healthy eating is inevitably challenging or uninspiring.

 
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