January 1st, 2009

Dole Uses Blogs and Parties to Promote Fruit Parfaits

By Patricia Odell
PROMO Magazine

For Dole Foods, the standard way to promote its Fruit Parfaits would have been to push out a national FSI and maybe deploy some in-store materials. But the online social world, where women gather in droves and recommend — or not — products and services, has beckoned.

A Web site will go live Jan. 11 and is the centerpiece of a campaign that includes an online contest, blogs and parfait parties.

“The online piece of it would have been nonexistent in the past,” says Stan Stuka, associate business manager for Dole Packaged Foods. “There are a lot of new elements in this campaign relative to what we did with parfaits in the past.”

All of the elements rotate around the Sweet Retreat contest, which plays off the theme of indulgence that Dole has used in the past to market its Fruit Parfaits. The grand prize is a trip to a renowned spa in Scottsdale, AZ, for the winner and one friend, and a $750 Visa gift card.

To enter the contest, people submit photos of themselves enjoying a parfait between Jan. 11 and Feb. 28, along with a short caption that describes their “indulgent moment.” Voting will take place March 15 through April 15, with the winner announced May 1. The contest is handled by ePrize.

Five first-prize winners will receive a Homedic massage lounger valued at $100. Every player is also entered to win a $500 Visa gift card. A viral component offers another entry each time one person tells a friend about the promo.

In general, Dole has significantly increased its online budget for a number of its brands in an effort to further develop its relationship with customers. (Paul Panza, the director of marketing at Dole, talks about the new push, as well as the difficulties of marketing in a challenging economy, in a Q&A on page 30.)

“Online has become much more social,” Stuka says, “People are online, comfortable at home. It’s a way to engage consumers in a space where they are more receptive to messages.”

Bloggers will also play a big role in the parfait promotion. A number of bloggers who focus on moms and health and wellness have been asked to talk about Dole parfaits and the Sweet Retreat contest. Bloggers not familiar with the product were sent samples to try.

“We have a lot of great relationships with mommy bloggers, so we’re going to focus on them, too,” says Brenda Lynch, senior vice president at the Rogers Group, a public relations firm that helped craft the promotion and identify bloggers and groups for the parties.

As for the parfait parties, this is a test program for Dole. Specific groups, like book clubs, women’s church clubs and scrapbooking clubs, were identified in key cities to host the parties. Three parties will be held in 10 cities with about 25 people per party. The “hostesses” will each receive coupons for free parfaits to distribute to the groups. The plan is for the groups to provide feedback to the hostesses, who each receive a gift card for their efforts, and who in turn update Dole.

“This is something we really wanted to test in specific key markets,” Stuka says. “It’s outside of the box of what we’ve done before. This takes sampling a step further.”

Huerta Quorum is the creative agency that worked on the promo, and The Rogers Group, a public relations agency, handled the blog partnerships and identifying the appropriate groups for the parfait parties.

The national FSI, with a coupon and a circulation of about 35 million, drops the same day the Web site goes live. Shelf talkers pitch the promo at retail, as do promotional offers provided by Catalina Marketing at the register. All of the components drive people to http://www.DoleSweetRetreat.com.

“We know from talking to consumers that it’s an indulgent item, viewed as a treat,” Stuka says. “We wanted to reinforce that link.”

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