Dole Blitzes Key Cities to Pump Up Banana Sales
While bananas are U.S. grocery stores' top-selling item -- an astounding 96% of households buy them every month -- banana consumption declines a bit in the summer, as people take advantage of the availability of other seasonal fruits.
Dole Fresh Fruit, a subsidiary of Dole Food Company, Inc., isn't taking this lying down. In fact, for the second summer in a row, the company and its agency, DGWB Advertising & Communications (Santa Ana, Calif.) have set out actually to change consumer banana-eating habits in key markets, via the company's "Go Bananas After Dark Tour." What's more, they're reporting significant success.
Dole Fresh Fruit, the nation's largest supplier of fresh bananas, targets cities with particularly high banana-consumption/brand penetration, and activates a barrage of integrated media efforts for a few weeks within each. The mission: Promote new ways to enjoy the fruit outside of the breakfast/lunch meals, when most bananas are consumed; that is, change perceptions and habits regarding the fruit. Key promotional tool: an arsenal of banana-inclusive dinner and dessert recipes -- many featuring grilled or fried bananas (such as grilled Bananas Foster or teriyaki pork chops with bananas) -- as well as banana-based cocktails (both alcoholic and non-alcoholic).
"People don't think to grill bananas, but they're incredibly easy and delicious; the sugar in the fruit caramelizes," notes Dole Fresh Fruit communications manager William Goldfield. For example, grilled bananas are a sweet yet healthy dessert alone or with other fresh fruit, nuts and frozen yogurt (or a more decadent option when paired with ice cream, chocolate chips, marshmallows or caramel).
Key elements of the tour -- heavily weighted to PR and digital engagement, although including some local advertising buys -- are promotional partnerships with leading local retailers, restaurants/ chefs noted for featuring bananas in their cuisines, and food bloggers and nutritionists. These local influencers and Dole chefs are featured in appearances/demos on local TV and radio, and the retailers run price promotions, offer recipes and run cooking demos at their stores during the promotional period.
Dole Fresh Fruit sends out press releases announcing each market as having been designated a "Top Banana Market," along with the bananas-after-dark and nutritional messaging, plus lists of each city's "Top Banana Businesses" (restaurants and bars with banana-based menu offerings).
The brand heavily employs social media, and this year is throwing events in local bloggers' homes, during which they can try their hands at preparing unusual banana recipes,
On a national level, the company this year held two events in which top food bloggers were invited to its Westlake Village, Calif. headquarters to learn about bananas' nutritional benefits and cooking versatility. Also, on June 30 (just before the key July 4 grilling weekend) it will conduct a satellite media tour showcasing recipes/ cooking demos likely to be picked up by local radio and TV stations around the country, in part because of the novelty of the banana creations, notes Goldfield.
This year's tour also includes a partnership with Six Flags, in which the amusement parks will feature grilled Dole Bananas on their menus.
The Dole.com/bananas site features an extensive library of banana recipes, now highlighting the summer ones, along with grilling tips, "going bananas" videos, nutritional information, and a Facebook-hosted "Monday Funday" contest in which fans answer banana trivia questions (and learn about recipes, nutrition etc.) for chances to win coupons for six months' worth of free bananas.
Dole Bananas' Facebook page has nearly 450,000 fans, and hits on that page and the microsite "start flying" as the promotional action kicks in within each market, says DGWB president/co-founder Mike Weisman. "We're finding that this approach of key-market saturation within a relatively short promotional window, with a broad mix of integrated media, is definitely more effective for Dole Bananas' goal of changing behavior and perceptions -- and driving sales -- than a more diluted, broader approach."
How effective? Last year's tour stopped in New Orleans, Kansas City, Mo., and Des Moines, Iowa. According to Goldfield, these and other key markets would typically see about a 2% decline in banana sales during the summer season. Instead, sales in New Orleans (where some promotions featured the chef of famed restaurant Brennan's, where Bananas Foster was invented) were nearly 9% higher than in a typical summer, he reports. Sales in the other toured markets showed 2% or better performance gains over typical patterns.
This year, the tour is stopping in Minneapolis-St. Paul (just wrapping up), Salt Lake City, Jacksonville, Fla., Montreal and other cities.