Branding can be a powerful marketing tool. Just look at the behemoth Coca-Cola brand which is the most universally recognized on the planet. Apple and Microsoft are right behind them. Does that translate to produce? In my opinion, not at all.
Consumers buy with their eyes when it comes to fresh produce; they don’t really want to see the packaging, just the product. And let’s be sure to differentiate a brand from a label. The brand is all encompassing from the logo, to the product ,to the experience when consuming the product. A label merely differentiates one commodity source from another.
Most produce merely has a label on it. The term ‘brand’ has been synonymous with ‘label’ in the produce industry. Remember when model Brooke Shields was the spokesperson for Foxy lettuce in 1988? No matter how hard we try to create a brand, lettuce is still a commodity. There will never be a special feeling that comes from one grower’s lettuce over another’s. Coke is special; RC Cola is just that – cola.
They key here is that we need to remember what the customer wants to buy and not try to sell them more than what they want. They don’t want a head of lettuce with a long story at a high price. They just want to have a salad for dinner. Now we might be able to up-sell them on a pre-cut that salad and package it with all of the ingredients, from dressing to side serving of protein, but it still is a salad, not an experience.
I hope I am not coming across as too negative on promotion and publicity of our products. What I see is clutter in the marketplace. The tomato category is filled with made up names, all kinds of designer colors and sizes from dimes to dollars and beyond. There is an inordinate amount of effort spent on a few percentage points of market share. I would rather see the HUGE mainstream market grow by 1 percent than the minuscule specialty market grow by 20% – it would mean way more jobs and more dollars to all of us.