Q&A: Ocean Spray Sticks To What Works


Ah, fall. There’s a nip in the air, leaves are swirling, and CMOs are introducing new campaigns all over the place. But what’s a marketer to do when the old campaign just keeps on ticking? We asked Larry Martin, Ocean Spray’s VP-marketing, to haul himself out of the cranberry bog and explain how he resists the urge to reinvent. 

Q: By now, Americans are quite familiar with your ad campaign, starring two growers talking about cranberries while standing in the bog. Any change coming?

A: No. I know it may seem boring. But viewers really love the campaign, and it keeps working. Often brands and companies want to move on to the next idea, just for change’s sake. You see it all the time. Maybe they want to change the packaging, or fire the ad agency and get a new one. But this story doesn’t seem to get old. 



Q: How can you be sure?

A: We test every ad, and know they work. But it’s more than that. Recently, I was in hip waders in the bog in Orlando, Florida (it’s part of our ongoing Bogs Across America tour, which we’ve been doing for seven years now) and people were coming up to me, actually acting out the commercial. So the idea seems everlasting. It’s just up to us to keep it current, and bring in new elements. But we’ve stayed fairly true to the essentials: Taste, health and heritage.

Q: What makes the idea of a cranberry bog so appealing?

A: Cranberries are a magnetic little fruit. And they are only grown in a few parts of the country, so people are really interested in the bogs, and the way the berries are harvested. 

Q: So what aspect of marketing is changing?

A: Well, certainly how we reach consumers is different. We are using much more social media. And products too. This year, we will introduce a new beverage, Cranberry Lemonade. 

Q: Obviously, fall is harvest season, and when most berries get eaten. But how seasonal is your overall business?

A: Our spending is fairly level all year round, but we do try and celebrate the harvest. Certainly, most fresh cranberries and cranberry sauce are consumed in the fall. And sales of Craisins -- which we like to call a 20-year overnight success story -- peak in fall, because people are doing so much more baking. And we probably encourage more seasonality in beverage sales than would naturally be there, in order to keep that focus on the harvest. 

Q: Cranberries have gotten plenty of good press in recent years because of the high level of antioxidants they contain, and there’s been considerable research supporting the use of cranberries to prevent urinary tract infections. Are UTIs the gift that keeps giving, in terms of beverage sales growth?

A: I don’t think many people would call a UTI a gift. But cranberries do have a lot of health properties, and there is lots of continuing research out there. So any good news there is obviously great for business.

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