Breakaway Brands: Ocean Spray Tells It Straight From The Bog

Ocean Spray Cranberries credits a "360 degree" marketing campaign built on a core truth unique to its $1 billion brand for lifting its sales by 10 percent in the steadily declining fruit juice category.

Kenneth Romanzi, svp and COO/Domestic for Ocean Spray Cranberries, and Francis Kelly, president and CEO, U.S. operations for its agency Arnold Worldwide and author of the book Breakaway Brands, laid out the story at the ANA's Masters of Marketing conference in Orlando yesterday.

The concept, "Straight From the Bog," stemmed from Romanzi's arrival at the cranberry growers' cooperative in 2004 and his first visit to a fall cranberry harvest where he was dazzled by the beauty of the crimson sea of berries. He knew right then that he wanted to use that imagery somehow in new advertising. The Ocean Spray cooperative of cranberry growers is unique to the brand. While Ocean Spray routinely educated consumers in international markets about the seasonal, regional cranberry harvests, it failed to do so in the U.S.



"With Ocean Spray, we stared at the bog for a long time and didn't see the solution," said Kelly. "Ken brought a fresh perspective."

When Romanzi joined the company, cranberry juice was known in women's circles as an effective way to keep the urinary tract healthy, a positive but not terribly useful quality for appealing to a broader audience, he said.

The big idea was to celebrate the Native American cranberry and tell the authentic story about where it is born--in the bogs.

"We want to make the cranberry harvest as popular as the pumpkin harvest," Romanzi said.

The effort began with a PR campaign reintroducing the cranberry to America. This featured a takeover of Rockefeller Center, where the pools were turned into cranberry bogs. Al Roker featured the "Big Apple Bog" on the Today Show and the news reached an estimated 23 million people through related media pickup. That effort has since been repeated in a "Bogs Across America" tour--expanding to Los Angeles, Chicago, and across the pond to the Kew Gardens in London.

New advertising shot in an Oregon bog during harvest made cranberry growers the stars, and feature two actors depicting bog growers standing waist deep in a bog. Their deadpan humor is reminiscent of the '80s era duo Bartles & Jaymes, who put wine coolers on the map.

At first the growers (who actually fund the marketing effort) said the company was making them look goofy, but now that results are in, they are totally behind spending their money on the advertising.

The ads, Romanzi said, are the best campaign ever tested for Ocean Spray. Awareness continues to increase, and sales of the premium-priced 64-ounce bottles at $3.69 each, are up more than 10 percent. Other Ocean Spray products, such as Craisins and grapefruit juice, are also up. He added that ROI is up as much as 2.5 times over the industry benchmark, and for every dollar spent in the fall campaign Ocean Spray got back $1.57 in margin. The spring campaign generated a $1.27 margin return.

The effort has had a transformative effect across the company, lifting morale and transcending any other previous communications theme.

This month, the Ocean Spray Web site relaunches with recipes and such features as the "Cranberry Club." Ten ads will run that are specifically geared to the new site, Romanzi said.

A new distribution deal with PepsiCo, which wanted to buy the company two-and-a-half years ago, will get Ocean Spray's fruit-juice based diet soda into the soda aisles for the first time next year.

The company is also readying an event soliciting kids to build the "World's Largest Cranberry Garland," with benefits going to the Second Harvest food program. Since Laura Bush is a supporter of that cause, Romanzi's goal is to get the garland hung on the national Christmas tree this year.

Romanzi says the company puts its media dollars into things where it knows it can dominate. "Say we're spending $30 million in media," he said. "We have to make noise. So when we're on, we're on."

To that end, Ocean Spray will use its medical attributes in the place they matter most--running a campaign on the WebMD site later this year. "We're going to be all over WebMD," he said, noting that the connection between cranberry juice and urinary tract health is the fifth most discussed topic on the influential health site.

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