Last years Apple Month promotion.
Making February as the month to celebrate apples might seem more than a little counterintuitive, but it turns out there is a method to BC Tree Fruit’s madness. The marketing company, whose initiative it is to push apples hard in the winter to Canadian stores, uses February because it cuts down the competition and allows them to showcase their product at its best.
BCTF fruit is stored in a controlled atmosphere (CA), in which temperature, humidity and the concentrations of oxygen, carbon dioxide and nitrogen are all controlled. Chris Pollock is BC BCTF’s marketing manager. He says, “The advantage we have with apple month is with our CA storage. We extend our season to February.”
CA is nothing new – it keeps apples fresh for months. While major competitors like Washington also have CA storage available to them, many smaller packers and producers do not, so they must sell their fruit in the autumn when apples flood the shelves.
Other fruits in the northern hemisphere are out of season, but CA keeps apples in prime shape so it became an opportunity.
Apple Month was created to take advantage of that opportunity through a marketing campaign BCTF aims at consumers. As Pollock notes, “Apple Month is our biggest consumer-targeted campaign.”
This is only the Apple Month promotion’s second year. Last year Pollock says the campaign consisted of television advertising, a social media program, booths at malls and apple tasting stations in Vancouver and Calgary. Pollock estimates they had eight million touch points, which is marketing speak for how many times the public will have interacted with the Apple Month message in its different forms.
Last year the campaign was given a quirky contest that became, literally, the poster child. People were asked to dress up apples and send in photos of the “Artful Apple.”
This year the campaign has been changed to ‘Good to Go’ in which consumers are asked to send in photos of themselves enjoying an apple while on the go, and they’re expanding the overall campaign. The TV ads will remain, but Pollock says they are going to put more effort into the social media because if it goes viral, it can reach more eyes for less money. The booths and tastings will also be expanded to 202 stores in Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton and Saskatoon.
The reasoning is simple says Pollock. “The frequency of seeing the [BCTF’s logo] leaf in the market, in media – the repetition is very important.”
For the 580 growers who contribute the three million cartons of apples that BCTF is selling the important question is: ‘Is it working?’
When we put this question to Pollock he admits it is hard to know exactly. “The challenge any marketer has is defining the success of any campaign.”
That’s because there are many factors in a good year or a bad one; it can be very difficult to pinpoint whether the success or failure was due to a marketing campaign or other factors. Consider that after this year’s Apple Month campaign has run its course, if apple sales in the three western-most provinces go up is that because of the marketing campaign or the collapse of apples from the drought stricken Ontario market? Or if sales went down is that because Washington State’s record 130 million cartons flooded the market with prices so low that the only way to compete would be to sell B.C. apples at a loss or would it be because the campaign was unsuccessful?
Pollock believes reaching the consumer and creating a sense of recognition and loyalty to the Leaf brand is the only way to circumvent, at least partially, commodity pricing. “The consumers are the ones who will create the demand for the product.” ■