Marketing Baby Carrots Like Junk Food Can marketing encourages people to snack on baby carrots as if they were junk food? That’s what California-based Bolthouse Farms has set out to do, with the help of Colorado advertising agency Crispin Porter + Bogusky. Bolthouse CEO Jeff Dunn, a former Coca-Cola marketing executive, remembers thinking that his firm’s baby carrots are “a perfect snack”—low-calorie, inexpensive, good tasting, and nutritious. “But people aren’t eating as much of them as we’d like. So what do we do?” Crispin’s advertising experts told Dunn that baby carrots have a lot in common with junk food. “They’re neon orange, they’re crunchy, they’re dippable, they’re kind of addictive,” said Omid Farhang, the agency’s creative director. Baby carrots may be healthy, but Dunn wanted to avoid messages that discuss nutrition, which he calls “the rational approach.” Instead, the agency aimed to reposition baby carrots by emphasizing their eat-anywhere, bite-size stackability, and associating them with skateboarding and other popular, contemporary activities. “It’s about getting baby carrots into a different category,” says Crispin’s CEO. What baby carrots needed was the right positioning, messages, packaging, and distribution. A new campaign was born. Crispin created a catchy slogan: “Baby carrots: Eat ’em like junk food.” Next, they designed a flashy new bag, much like the packaging that chips come in, with a window so buyers can see that they’re buying fresh vegetables. It set up a Twitter account and YouTube channel to reach out to social-media-savvy consumers, tested three TV commercials, and printed store displays promoting baby carrots as “the original orange doodle.” Also, the agency developed colorful baby carrot vending machines that resemble the machines used to sell chips and other snacks. Finally, it posted engaging online content, marketing baby carrots with fun games and apps. During test-marketing, Bolthouse found that its sales in the test cities were as much as 12 percent higher than its sales in non–test-markets. The vending machines sold as many as 90 snack packs each week, and a number of schools called about putting the machines in cafeteria areas. In short, baby carrot snacks were beginning to catch on. To keep the campaign fresh, Crispin added new online content and designed additional packaging alternatives to catch the eye of shoppers. Meanwhile, Bolthouse experiments with new flavored baby carrots, following the lead of snack marketers that add flavors to their basic chips or pretzels. This variety gives novelty-seekers more options and may even win over snackers who prefer flavored carrots to plain ones. Other vegetables and fruit marketers are paying close attention because the marketing that makes baby carrots appealing as junk food could very well work for apples and other foods. Baby carrots aren’t going to replace every other snack food on the shelf, but sales are growing little by little as more consumers get the message. For example, U.S. consumers buy millions of bags of chips, order millions of pizza slices, and stock up on fizzy soft drinks for Super Bowl Sunday. Lately, however, baby carrots are starting to score: Bolthouse Farms now ships 28 percent more baby carrots during the week leading up to the Super Bowl than in an ordinary week. CASE QUESTIONS 1. Which is likely to be more effective—marketing baby carrots to young consumers or to parents of young consumers? Why? 2. Does the marketing of baby carrots raise any social or temporal dilemmas? 3. Is there a potential “dark side” to marketing baby carrots as junk food? 4. Do you agree with this strategy of marketing baby carrots as junk food instead of as a healthy snack? Explain your answer.
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