Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Masters of Disguise: Sunsweet Ones

October is the right time of year for disguises, but did you ever think cleverly packaged prunes would be the next "super fruit?"

Though some produce companies have been able to successfully brand their fruit products, such as Chiquita, it's a difficult task to market a commodity item. It seems like a piece of fruit is a piece of fruit is a piece of fruit (as long as it's fresh).

There seems to be some more room for marketing in the processed fruit category. Smucker's Jams and Jellies are well-branded and Ocean Spray Craisins (sweetened, dried cranberries) have a made a few well known marketing efforts. The newest player in the branded fruit game seems to be "Sunsweet Ones," which are p
runes that are wrapped in a pretty package and cleverly marketed.

I saw the Sunsweet commercial recently and thought it was very interesting that not once did they mention the traditional name for their product. The word "prune" is never uttered. Instead they describe all of the wonderful things "dried plums" have to offer. Notice it says "dried plums" at the top of the package. The word "prune" is at the very bottom, softened by saying they're from California (California gives them cool points right?). Prunes are the same thing to plums as raisins are to grapes, but dried grapes don't have the same marketing issues dried plums do. So what's the solution? Apparently, change the name.

I think prunes do indeed have a bad reputation. Prunes are associated with older people drinking it for it's digestive effects rather than it's delicious taste. I can understand the lack of appeal when that is the connotation. Many people hear the word "prune" and automatically think "Oh, disgusting," or at best "I wouldn't go out of my way to get one." They have a foreclosed opinion about dried plums and shut down immediately.

It is smart for Sunsweet to re-brand prunes as a healthy, sweet and simple snack and also smart for them to leave the word "prune" out of their commercials. I commend them for framing their product well, focusing on the benefits to the consumer, and taking on the challenge of the fearsome prune. I doubt they will find their way into trick-or-treat baskets, but maybe people will give Sunsweet Ones a try, not realizing they are the dreaded prune in disguise.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Friend Request

I don't know if anyone else develops a list of favorite advertisements, but right now I'm a fan of the commercial that's currently out there selling Dentyne chewing gum.

While watching my favorite TV shows, I often find myself noting not only the goings on of the show's characters, but also the commercials in between. I know many marketing gurus have noted the trend that is steering away from mass media advertising towards direct marketing, but I think that when done thoughtfully and for the right reasons, traditional advertising can be effective.

Dentyne's commercial (if you haven't seen it, here's the youtube link ) plays on the popularity of social media as a substitute for human interaction. I like the fact that the concept for the commercial not only prominently features the product, but shows it in a way that prospects can relate to. Anyone who has ever chewed gum has offered a piece to someone else and perhaps started a conversation that way.

Most importantly, the commercial elevates the gum from being just something your mouth experiences to being a networking tool, a conversation starter, and a bridge between you and the people around you. Though I'm a fan of the commercial, I fear that the brand of the gum is not prominently featured enough to stick in the minds of the viewers. The prospect might be encouraged to buy gum, but not necessarily Dentyne.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Definining Creativity

I consider myself a creative person, but I believe that all people have some capacity for creativity, despite what individuals believe or profess about themselves. I think my opinion about "creativity" is centered in how frame where creative thoughts come from, and what creativity truly means.

To me, no thoughts or ideas are truly and strictly original. There is always a wisp of something that came before, some outside influence, inspiration, or impetus. Creativity is more a unique or new combination, use, process applied to old materials, thoughts, or modes of action. Things can be discovered, as in a new plant in the rain forest or imaging the far reaches of the universe, but creativity is not discovery. The materials of life on Earth have been in existence far longer than I have, but I may find some new way to use them.

Artists, who are usually the first "creative" people who come to mind, use media that generations before them have manipulated. The creativity comes from drawing on inspiration and experience to make something unique. Alternately, artists often take materials that have not traditionally been used to create art, such as lego blocks (that's a topic for another post) and make them into sculptures the same way ancient artists worked in stone.

I hope that the paradigm relating to who is creative and who is not can change, but that will only happen if those who claim to lack creativity allow themselves take the old around them and make something new.

Here's a Stanford Professor who agrees with my point of view. He's talking about creativity as it relates to entrepreneurship.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

It's a Soft Drink

Ever heard of the "Unique Sparkling Soft Drink" commonly known as Cheerwine? If you're not from the South East, you may not have had the pleasure of enjoying this distinctive cherry-flavored soda.

Cheerwine, produced by the Carolina Beverage Corporation, has been in existence since 1917 and has many avid fans throughout the South. In fact, some who live out of the area but grew up in the Carolinas drinking Cheerwine stock up on the soft drink while visiting home. The brand is still relatively unknown outside North Carolina, South Carolina, and Virginia, but their loyal fan base in that region makes the company unique.

The reason Cheerwine caught my attention, other than the fact that I enjoy the taste of the drink, is their website and marketing. If you check out their website, they offer information for distributors and branded t-shirts, but also offer a culture. The quirky set up of the site and the series of videos featuring the product help to position the soft drink in the minds of consumers.

Word-of-mouth is something that could really work to the advantage of such a company. In fact, I heard about the product via word-of-mouth. I don't know what the future plans for Cheerwine include, but the company should take advantage of it's loyal fans and expand distribution. Clearly a nearly 100-year old recipe has worked in the Carolinas. Maybe they can apply that to an ever-widening market.