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.

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