I have a friend who started working in marketing about the same time I did. She is a Salinas native whose love of agriculture was the foundation for a now 30-year career that has included posts in vegetable seed development, vegetable production and, most recently, the fruit and veggie side of the produce industry. Along the way she became actively involved in state and national agriculture issues, she served as president for California Women in Agriculture and she has travelled the world both learning about and teaching on the subjects of agriculture and produce.
Her name is Sharan Lanini and she is impressive in every way. Today she is a “global raw product food safety and quality manager” for Chiquita Brands International. She has a demanding job chasing fruits and vegetables around the world and is very knowledgeable about produce and produce marketing. So it made perfect sense to call Sharan some months ago when I saw a Chiquita banana whose little sticker promoted the animated movie “Rio.” I know something about cross promotion, but that one left me scratching my head.
What I found out was about a big wide world of new marketing ideas that show just how much things have changed…and the fun that can be had. Take the banana sticker, for instance. The sticker promoted “Rio,” an animated 3D movie about the adventures of Rio, a South American Macaw. Twentieth Century Fox produced the film and was eager to have children go see it. Chiquita produces bananas and is eager to have kids eat them – and develop brand loyalty to the Chiquita name.
Chiquita created a red carpet promotion in grocery stores, with colorful displays calling attention to Rio-stickered bananas. The stickers encouraged kids (or anyone) to visit to the Chiquita website, collect virtual stickers and badges and, by doing so multiple times, increase opportunities to win prizes including a grand prize trip to Rio de Janeiro. Site visitors not only enjoyed onscreen games, but were also offered recipes and nutritional information and other useful tidbits that helped position Chiquita as the top choice of banana brands.
The promotion was a huge hit. Chiquita bananas flew off shelves, the website enjoyed robust traffic and the movie did a great box office. There are several aspects of the promotion that are interesting to me as a marketer. First of all, just think about the mere idea of marketing a banana by brand name. A banana is a banana is a banana, right? Chiquita thinks otherwise and has been promoting the Chiquita name since I was a kid. And they’re on to something. Think about it: if you were on a game show and the challenge was to name a brand of banana, the first one you’d probably shout is “Chiquita.” That’s the power of brand promotion. (And yes, there are other brands of bananas.)
I’m also struck by how interesting it is to see fruit promoted to young consumers. Cereal and cookie and potato chip kid-targeted promotions are painfully familiar, but bananas, well, that’s a nice change. And the ultimate smarts in cross promotion – I asked Sharan why a movie company would promote bananas. The theater-specific aspect of it seemed a bit of a stretch. It all made sense, though, when I learned about another new development in product and placement: many theaters across the country now include Chiquita’s “fruit chips” (including bananas, pineapple and other tropical chip flavors) snacks in their concession offerings. That makes real sense.
I don’t work for Chiquita or Sharan Lanini, but I know great ideas when I see them, and I love to promote a dedicated agriculturalist who is at the helm of some of the best. Eat more bananas. Chiquita, please.
Maggie Cox is President/CEO of Barnett Cox & Associates and enjoys bananas on the edge of green – once they’re ripe, no thanks. To learn more about cross promotion opportunities for your business, contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.barnettcox.com.
Originally printed in Journal Plus.