Achieving authenticity: What can your marketing learn from a misfit vegetable?

This week I’m looking at authenticity. Initially I’m going to introduce you to a cool campaign out of France utilizing authenticity in food marketing, but we’ll end by contemplating a grander application of authenticity and what you really stand for, in your branding and positioning.

Really, should your strawberries have cosmetic enhancement and look like they are fresh out of botox treatment, artificially enhanced for show? Or should your chicken look like it’s been on steroids at the gym prior to hitting your plate? North Americans have been culturally programmed to believe that bigger is better. Pumped up and genetically enhanced, “supersize me” has taken on a whole new meaning in the produce and poultry isle. While the organic movement has shifted some behaviour, it is a segment of the market only. In much of France to call something organic or free range is actually redundant, at least at small shops and the markets. A lot of food in France has been indigenously organic for years. Slightly imperfect or blemished is more apt to be considered authentic than subservient, if we could apply a class structure to produce. But in North America we largely relegate the undersized or imperfect to waste. And apparently this wastage was becoming a creeping issue in France as well, at least at the supermarket and food chain level.

Enter the inglorious fruits and vegetables campaign.

Intermarché, a supermarket in France was inspired to take action after a global study estimated that 1/3 of all food produced, or 1.3 billion tons, gets wasted each year. While it can be assumed that there is also waste contribution from restaurants, there is a lot of produce grown that never makes it to the shelf, simply because it is not pretty enough. Shallow but true.

The inglorious fruits and vegetables campaign was an appeal to the head, utilizing rational thought and the desire to not waste food, rather than the heart, tapping emotion, and perhaps empathy for unwanted misfit veggies, admittedly an angle North Americans likely would have responded to.

Normally double pronged carrots, incompletely formed lemons and not exactly elegantly morphed eggplants don’t make it to the shelf. But why shouldn’t they? They’re good food.

17912This Youtube video, currently at over 2 million views, demonstrates how the campaign used logic, rather than emotion, and authenticity to move produce.

Consumers were urged to eat 5 different varieties of previously rejected fruit and vegetables and receive a 30% discount on their purchase for doing so. They were assured the taste was good as the usual variety, a claim reinforced with the production of inglorious soups and fruit juices made from the produce. Intermarché bought from growers the products they usually throw away. They gave them their own labeling and their own isle.

The results?

– 1.2 tons average sale per store during the first two days.

– An increase of 24% overall in store traffic.

– Increased awareness about food waste.

– A lot of conversation in social networks – over 13 million people reached after one month.

– A media frenzy of publicity and free coverage.

At its core, this was a campaign based on logic: stop food waste. But ultimately it demonstrates how their marketing process was authentic. They told and sold the way it is. They showed the way fruit and veggies actually look when not edited.

While I love the cleverness of the campaign, it’s the invitation to consider how powerful being authentic can be in your marketing efforts that excites me. When you are clear on what it is you do, what you stand for, how you are different without apology, and you tell and sell that message truthfully, you’re left with something pretty authentic. I think it would be refreshing to see businesses dump some of the botox or steroid enhanced boastful marketing, and just show up the way they really are, being personable and knowledgeable. That’s the approach I strive for in my e-newsletter and blog, and I thank you for your continued readership.

Mary Charleson

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