Back in March, Pearson Farm had to accept a grim reality. Winter weather extremes -- too warm when the trees needed to chill, then too cold when the tiny fruit needed grow -- had killed off about 93% of its crop.
So Pearson, a family business selling its Georgia peaches since 1885, made a radical choice, giving up wholesale clients and moving to a direct-to-consumer effort.
“Peaches are finicky,” says Lanier Pearson of the fifth-generation, family-owned farm. “We always lose part of our crop. That is just the nature of peach farming. But we realized we were facing something that we had never seen in our lifetime.”
It decided to focus solely on the affluent farmers-market crowd of Atlanta, less than two hours to the north, using a single billboard. “We already have a huge presence in Atlanta, and we felt like that was something we wanted to maintain,” she tells Marketing Daily.
FerebeeLane, its Greenville, South Carolina-based agency, created a novel out-of-home push called “The Pearson Peach Shortage Countdown Clock Billboard.”
The digital billboard is located on (where else?) Peachtree Road, at a busy intersection in an affluent area.
As the countdown clock depicts the rapidly-dwindling cascade of peaches, it ends at a single fruit: “There’s only one Pearson Peach.”
The campaign hinges on the idea that scarcity will translate to loyalty. And FerebeeLane saw it as a moment to turn a commodity product to a valued brand, a path typically costly for farmers. In addition to the billboard, the farm is also supporting the campaign on social media.
Pearson says it wanted to seize an opportunity of historic devastation to build awareness and loyalty. Peach farmers haven’t faced such losses since 1955.
Pearson says the farm anticipates returning to its wholesale business model next season.
“It’s not just about this one campaign,” she says. “We know we’ll sell all of this year’s peaches,” she says.
“We do marketing to tell a story. And while this certainly isn’t the story we thought we’d be telling this year, it’s still a story to tell. Most people don’t know much about what goes into a crop each year, and we’re hoping they’ll remember and, next year, say, 'Thank Goodness. They have peaches.’”