As they continue to reach out to thousands of consumers nationwide, Produce Business UK examines the successful strategies behind this season’s English apple promotions to discover what other fruit and veg categories could learn
Treating produce like a brand
Given that UK consumers are eating around 150 grams less than the recommended daily fruit and vegetable intake of 400 grams, encouraging the British public to eat more fresh produce is arguably one of the sector’s continuing conundrums.
In fact, the National Farmers Union’s (NFU) Fit for the Future report aims to tackle this very problem. Amongst the many suggestions in the study – aimed at retailers, foodservice operators, government and producers – is the need to develop cross-sector marketing and promotional campaigns that start to treat fruit and veg like a brand and get consumers to better engage with fresh produce.
Fit for the Future also advises the industry to build engagement with influential communicators, such as popular food bloggers, and to continue to reinforce positive messages to consumers around the role that fruit and veg plays in a healthy diet.
Happily, the fresh produce sector can already draw inspiration from this year’s English Apples and Pears (EAP) promotions since its latest dessert apple and Bramley apple campaigns are already doing precisely what the NFU suggests.
Creating an emotional connection
To successfully strengthen the English dessert apple brand, EAP’s £400,000 English dessert apple campaign has used something extremely small and unassuming this season.
Laura Thomas of Marketing Matters, the agency and creative force behind the Love English Apples campaign, explains: “We wanted to raise awareness of English apples during the peak season. But who were we talking to? To many, an apple is an apple – but English apples are crispier and juicier. So when mum is doing her weekly shop we need her outstretched arm to divert from non-English apples to those displaying the Union Jack sticker. This drove our strategy.”
Thomas explains that since the campaign got underway in October (2015) these stickers have helped to promote the English apple brand through the use of the tagline: ‘We’ve all grown up with English apples – please share your sticker stories’.
“We invited people to share their memories of what they used to do with their apple stickers – be it put them on their lunch boxes or on the back of their chairs,” notes Thomas. “We’ve shared those memories and it’s driving the campaign forward. It’s very emotive.”
The dessert apple promotion was rolled out through social media and, in traditional PR style, across a number of women’s magazines, including Bella, That’s Life, Take a Break, Reveal and Best. The second phase of the campaign, which started this year, continued the sticker theme.
Marketing Matters’ Alice Gardner says: “From October until December it was all about tapping into people’s emotions; to share their childhood stories. So for phase two we wanted to thank everyone because we got so much interaction. There were so many lovely entries – it was really hard to cherry pick them.”
The team continued, as Gardner describes it, to “hit it hard” on social media – including Twitter (#stickwithenglish), Facebook and Instagram. It also released an advert on the radio station Heart FM and advertised via digital banners on popular websites such as Mail Online. Moreover, a short film featuring a little girl cheekily fixing an English apple sticker to her baby sister’s forehead went live on the Love English Apples website on April 15, which has already enjoyed more than 9,000 views.
Gardner says: “It’s been so much fun to work on. People have said it reminds them of the classic Fairy Liquid adverts.”
Maintaining the momentum by keeping it fresh
So far, the English dessert apples campaign has reached an estimated 53.5m people through the Love English Apples website, advertising banners on digital platforms, such as Mumsnet and Google, as well as magazines, video production and social media.
More than 20,000 people have liked the campaign’s Facebook page, which has had more than 5 million impressions (the number of times a Facebook page post is displayed). Thomas says: “From their Facebook posts we learned that people are really passionate about the English apple varieties they like – and what they don't like. It’s really insightful information.”
Thomas adds that the Marketing Matters team will be maintaining this momentum during the summer – something which Nexus Communications, the PR company leading the £100,000 Bramley Apple Campaign, also intends to do with its own activities.
Nexus’ Lucy Egerton says: “Last year we focused more on the key times of the year with a peak [in activity] around Bramley Apple Week [in February]. But this year we have moved to a slightly different structure. We’ve created monthly themes to encourage people to look beyond apple crumble and apple pie – to see Bramley apples as something they can cook with all year round, and thereby avoid a drop [in sales] during spring and summer.”
This month (May), for example, the campaign will focus on Bramley-themed cakes and bakes, while in April the emphasis was on Bramley-themed roast dinners.
Moving with the new media landscape
Last autumn the Bramley Apple Campaign team worked with home economists to develop a range of recipes that were delivered to a “carefully-selected” list of consumer media journalists at magazines such as Olive, Delicious and Good Housekeeping.
Lexus’ Lydia Dawkins also points out that given the current popularity of food and lifestyle bloggers this year’s campaign has purposely been more “interactive and participative”. As such, it has encouraged more interaction with consumers, and gained coverage through social media and bloggers’ websites.
“Blogger ambassadors are key influencers,” Dawkins notes. “Little Miss Katy, for example, has 17,000 monthly visitors, while Emily Leary’s blog ‘A Mummy Too’ has 80,000 monthly visitors, and Lavender and Lovage has 126,000 monthly visitors.”
Egerton at Nexus adds: “You have to move with the way the media landscape has changed. So the approach is to spread [our messages] in more areas. Previously, we had to reach a much smaller group of national people [journalists] because more people read newspapers and magazines. But now, it's a case of spreading messages more widely – being able to control exactly how we interest people on a direct level.”
Following on from the success of this season’s English dessert apple campaign, EAP’s Bramley apple drive has also reached a wide UK audience. So far, a total of 581 articles have been published through television features, national and regional newspaper articles, magazines articles [consumer and trade], online articles and through social media posts by influencers such as bloggers. Additionally, there have been an estimated 478,086,768 opportunities for UK consumers to see the Bramley apple campaign to date.
Given these impressive statistics, the fresh produce sector would certainly benefit from taking note of these successful EAP-led strategies as they strive to increase consumption across other fruit and vegetable categories.