Produce marketers at BrandStorm play human bingo during a session about people skills. ( Ashley Nickle )

SAN FRANCISCO — Produce marketers heard perspective from wine and snack brands, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, cannabis companies and more in the opening days of BrandStorm, a United Fresh Produce Association event.

The conference started Feb. 20 with a tour of the Viansa Sonoma winery and education from growth equity firm Sonoma Brands. Founder and managing partner Jon Sebastiani told the stories of how the company has worked to establish some of its young brands, including Peckish and Zupa Soma.

Audrey Barona, marketing and design manager for Rancho Cordova, Calif.-based Renaissance Food Group, said she enjoyed starting the event with the tour.

“It helps you to start thinking differently about what you’re doing,” Barona said. “That’s one of the biggest takeaways for me from this type of event is to just gain inspiration and so starting with (the tour) was a huge benefit already.”

Kim St. George, director of sales and marketing for private brands at Salinas, Calif.-based Mann Packing Co., mentioned the conversation around targeting specific channels as a takeaway.

“I think it’s how building a brand and differentiation and niche for that brand and trying to figure out who your audience is and how to get to them,” St. George said. “They talked a lot about not your traditional methods of getting these brands out to consumers. It’s not so much retail shelves – it could be the alternative channels, the new channels, and doing a lot of digital, even some ecommerce. That was really interesting and very different from what I’m used to for a larger brand.”

Danelle Huber, marketing specialist for Wenatchee, Wash.-based CMI Orchards, also found the tour educational, noting great conversation at her table about the topics being discussed.

“We are constantly looking elsewhere for ideas and inspirations,” Huber said. “Getting out of the produce department, that’s our favorite thing to do.”

The programming Feb. 21 began with a presentation by Tamsen Webster, a veteran in brand and message strategy and founder of Find the Red Thread. She discussed starting marketing efforts by defining the action you want the consumer to take and then working backwards, considering the differences in perspective of you and your customers, finding out what basic needs or desires they have, and then associating your products with those things the customer already wants.

Attendees at BrandStorm also heard from Ellie Ovsenik, director of content marketing for the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, about how the organization segmented its visitor population into meaningful components – based on behavior rather than traditional demographics – and decided which to focus on, ultimately making changes accordingly.

“It’s hard to get stale when you’re okay with the idea that your customers’ behaviors are going to change and so can what you’re selling and why,” Ovsenik said.

Marketers at the lunch session Feb. 21 also engaging in debating among themselves topics including whether a brand should be polished or transparent to how a company should respond if it gets attacked in a Super Bowl commercial.

There was much more education to come the following day.

“What I’m most looking forward to tomorrow morning is our CMO panel,” said Mary Coppola, vice president of marketing and communications for United Fresh. “We have three chief marketing officers from produce who are finally going to answer some of our burning questions that we talk about as marketers – how do I plan my budget, how do you make a decision, how can I convince you as a leader of marketing to buy into my concept, and they’re really going to drill into that and share some new insights.”