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Three Things You All Know About Olive Oil

 

By Caroline J. Beck
04/01/2012

Last month at the California Olive Oil Council’s 20th anniversary member meeting, I conducted a little marketing exercise with the audience attending my seminar on 21st Century Marketing Tools. The “results” couldn’t hold a candle to the true research presented by Dr. Selina Wang of UC Davis earlier in the day about the TASC project but nonetheless, I thought it might shed some light on how we present ourselves to customers.

It’s a classic marketing axiom that people will remember three things, at best, about a product. With all the news surrounding the idea of a federal marketing order that kicked off in January, it seemed worthwhile to take a snapshot of what we think is important to tell others about us. The group was a mix of olive growers, oil producers and brand marketers in the business. So I wondered, what would the audience think were the three most important messages about their olive oil? I held off announcing my own “three things” until I asked everyone for some audience participation.

An interesting mix of ideas that came out of the exercise. It showed how creative we can be when describing our product. It also demonstrated the challenge we’ll face when we start layering on other messages and looking for customer comprehension*.

So let’s look at the responses. The top most memorable messages were:
1. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
2. Location, specifically California

Great answers. The first defines the grade difference (a critical message) and the second defines provenance (especially important in light of all the news about fraudulent oil, most of which is centered on imports). But what about the other wonderful things we’d want someone to know?

In order of response, the next three answers tied for third place (although these garnered only half the response rate as the first two):
3. Fresh
4. Orchard Heritage/Estate-Grown/Family connection
5. Certified Olive Oil

Now, it starts to get dicey. If you could expect a consumer to remember three things, you’ve already given them five things to think about, and you haven’t even mentioned the next group on the list:
6. Versatile
7. Organic
8. Fruity/Great taste

Everything else people thought of (40 different messages) only received one or two votes, including the proposed federal marketing order’s push for harvest date, mill date and polyphenol count (frankly, how many consumers know what polyphenol count means?). But that’s logical. If asked to prioritize, certain messages will naturally fall down the list in level of importance.

Finally, here are the three messages I presented to the group if I had to prioritize. Not surprisingly, they are pretty much a blend of some of the above ideas:

But my own best message is that whatever way you choose to describe and promote your oil, keep in mind the “three message limit”. And if we all stay on message, our story will eventually get through.

*Anecdotally, if you are a fan of reading our monthly profiles of industry leaders, you’ve noticed a common thread to most all the answers about the industry’s biggest challenge. The universal response: “consumer education”.