Marketing fresh produce and individual commodities can be a tricky exercise. As Michelle De’Lisle reports, five marketing specialists took to the stage at the 2021 Annual Vegetable Industry Seminar to discuss the challenges and opportunities for growers to build a brand and connect with consumers. The Annual Vegetable Industry Seminar is a strategic levy investment under the Hort Innovation Vegetable Fund.

Developing a strong, authentic brand that resonates with consumers was on the agenda at the Annual Vegetable Industry Seminar.

Joining Hort Innovation Group Marketing Manager, Matthew Dwyer, on-stage for this panel discussion was Evan Roberts from TWBA\Australia, Samantha Parker (Hort Innovation), Cori Hodge – (Fiftyfive5) and Ashleigh Carter (Atomic 212°). Each panelist had extensive marketing and brand experience, both within Australia and internationally.

The panel kicked off the session by outlining trends identified by media consumption surveys. Understanding when and how to deliver messages is key, as well as recognising dual consumption behaviour; that is, consumers who watch television while scrolling through social media. Connecting similar messages – but not repeating the same one – on different communication channels is recommended. For example, a brand’s television advertisement would differ slightly to a social media post.

Samantha spoke about the Hort Innovation Marketing Levy and building strong brands within industries that have access to it such as mushrooms, apples and avocados. With category marketing, it is important to know how to use data insights and understand them. These insights are used to tell the story on those channels and influence what the consumer is searching for.

Establishing a brand

Cori outlined the challenges in category marketing, including attempting to identify where the growth is going to come from – understanding and prioritising who is at the heart of what the business trying to market. The panel discussed ‘long-term brand building’, and how it has worked for brands such as Carlton & United Breweries’ Victoria Bitter (VB) lager. Evan’s advice for long-term brand building included:

  • Establish an insightful message and make it ownable.
  • Be adaptable over the long-term.
  • Deliver consistency, and don’t be chaotic in your messaging.

Another example was the Australian Avocados’ ‘Our Green Gold’ campaign. Evan worked on this campaign, and he gave delegates an insight into how it came about and why it has been successful to date.

Ashleigh discussed reaching consumers and bringing the message to life. She said that businesses had to connect the dots between being creative, having impact and consumer behaviour, and understand how to have effective reach.

The panel agreed that marketing wasn’t all about repetition and long-term campaigns such as VB’s – with the slogan ‘For a hard-earned thirst’ – work well because they stand for something. It plays on the consumer having worked really hard, and this is what they deserve.

Evan told delegates, ‘If an idea has got legs, it can go anywhere.’ Brand investment and awareness building can be done and over time, has a chance to be nuanced.

Grower perspective

There were questions from the audience around tapping into international markets, as well as marketing brands that are produce and managing grower expectations.

The panel explained to campaign internationally, there had to be an understanding of different roles of food – food as an occasion and food that is being eaten, and how international markets perceive Australia.

It was also concluded that grower input was critical for marketing campaigns – collaborating and bringing together the expertise of growers and market research companies helps to understand behaviour change with a view to grow demand.

Find out more

Presentations from the 2021 Annual Vegetable Industry Seminar are available to watch on the Hort Connections website.

Watch the ‘Marketing Panel Session: Building Strong Category Brands’ presentation from Hort Connections 2021 below, featuring:

Matthew Dwyer, Hort Innovation – Moderator
Samantha Parker, Hort Innovation – Panellist
Cori Hodge, Fiftyfive5 – Panellist
Evan Roberts, TWBA\Australia – Panellist
Ashleigh Carter, Atomic 212° – Panellist

This project was funded by Hort Innovation using the vegetable research and development levy and contributions from the Australian Government.

Project Number: VG20000

Cover image: Marketing session panellists address delegates at the Annual Vegetable Industry Seminar. Photography by Andrew Beveridge.