Seasons naturally exist. They are logical subdivisions of time based upon ecology and weather, or periods marked by special events, activities or when things are best available. These seasons evoke feelings and attitudes that guide our choices-even choices about what foods we serve our family and friends.
Beginning in August, the United States Potato Board (USPB) domestic marketing program added a seasonal approach to its communications with "Linda," the USPB target audience of moms, 25-54 years old, with children at home. Just as potato category sales vary in nature from season to season, so does how Linda thinks about potatoes, shops for potatoes and serves potatoes to her family. Through the USPB's deep and ever-increasing knowledge about Linda and her family dynamics at dinner, the USPB interpreted her seasons and evolved its messaging to be more reflective of what's going on in Linda's life throughout the year.
"Our research told us Linda is in a rut when it comes to potato preparation," said Kathleen Triou, USPB Vice President, Domestic Marketing. "She needs to be surprised and delighted by new ideas all year long. When we created the new approach, we wanted seasons that were distinctive, tied to Linda's emotions and need states and leveraged potatoes unique qualities (fresh, natural)."
The USPB domestic marketing staff and agencies worked together as a single team to bring their areas of expertise to the development and build-out of the seasons. They focused on the target-audience insights relevant to each season, how potatoes fit within the season and the tactical considerations for each marketing channel (advertising, consumer public relations, retail, foodservice and nutrition). The following is the final product: the "Seasons of Linda" Calendar:
The holidays are over, and Linda is refocusing her energy on her immediate family. That could mean new resolutions and renewed energy; but it could simply mean she doesn't have all the obligations of the holiday season anymore, so she can refocus on herself. Her family is nesting into the winter months and just trying to get through until spring. Potatoes naturally fit as a comfort food, good for the soul and mind. They are nutritious, and can be a part of a weight management plan, making those New Year's resolutions realistic.
Linda and her family are waking up! The energy in the household is filled with excitement and openness to change. She's excited that the produce section is coming alive with vibrant colors, and summer is just around the corner. Fresh potato versatility and the beautiful range of potato colors bring a special feel to every dinnertime experience.
Linda and her family are outside as much as possible. Although the family's schedule is still busy with fun activities, she lets go of the regimented routine and mindset. Linda is cooking outside on the grill and spending quality time with her kids. Potatoes are quick and delicious grilled. As a delicate blank canvas, potatoes can be marinated or dipped, then served as a vegetarian main dish or as a side to hearty grilled meats.
School's in. The days are busier, and Linda is looking for quick and healthy meal solutions and family favorites. Now, not only is she making detailed lists to bring to the supermarket, she's also cutting coupons and looking for as many ways as possible to be frugal with her food dollar. Potatoes are a natural fit-versatile, convenient and everybody loves them. Best of all, potatoes are still about 30 cents per serving.
Cooking to impress-that's the theme as Linda treats her holiday fare for her family and friends as a gift in itself. She is entertaining for many people now, while still managing her family's day-to-day. She's already preparing a lot of traditional potato dishes for the holiday table. The versatility and variety of potatoes create a special new twist on sides and appetizers to serve to guests.
Each season, the USPB will use the insights about Linda's seasons to maximize the effectiveness of our messages aimed at reaching Linda. Our print advertising, running in leading women's and food magazines, will feature different messages and recipes for each of the five seasons. In addition, consumer PR activities during each period will be specifically selected to align with Linda's seasonal interests and behaviors. And finally, we'll arm retailers and their suppliers with the most relevant shopper insights, merchandising tools and marketing support to grab shopper attention and drive increased category sales in every season.
"This is the first year we've implemented this seasonal approach," Triou explained. "If the seasonal approach works, we'll continue to create inspired messaging for Linda, which is aligned across all marketing channels to maximize our marketing efficiency and amplify our voice to the consumer. We use our core messages with a seasonal twist to constantly remind her about potatoes: they're good for you and your family; they're fresh and natural; they taste great; and the whole family loves them!"
The USPB is the nation's potato marketing organization. It is positioned as the "catalyst for positive change" and the central organizing force in implementing programs that will increase demand for potatoes.
"Plus Up Potatoes": Linda Celebrates The Season, Seeks Creative Ways to Entertain
The "Plus Up Potatoes" season just began. It is a big opportunity for potatoes to play a larger part in Linda's holiday entertaining when she is actively seeking out new serving ideas to impress. Here are some of the details of the USPB domestic marketing campaign to engage Linda during this year's "Plus Up Potatoes" season:
Advertising: To reach Linda in select print and online vehicles when she is looking for holiday entertaining inspiration, the USPB will leverage editorial tie-ins with food and lifestyle magazines and websites focusing on entertaining tips and recipes.
Three print ads are appearing this holiday season in Cooking Light, Working Mother, and Better Homes & Gardens;
Online advertisements at AllRecipes.com are featuring potatoes with holiday entertaining and inspirational ideas;
Potatoes are also featured prominently in Cooking Light's Holiday Hostess Must-Haves and in a Family Circle Recipe Exchange.
Consumer PR: Linda needs new ways to think of and showcase potatoes during the holiday season. Holiday entertaining is a popular theme for food media, an opportunity for nutrition messaging that can generate millions of consumer impressions. Facebook is still the No. 1 online destination for Linda.
A new series of recipes focused on appetizers/mini-potato classics has been created, including Mini-Scalloped Potato Cups, Parmesan Panko Potato Balls and Potato Bruschetta;
A ready-to-print feature release was distributed to hundreds of online and newspaper editors;
The USPB is also hosting a Facebook recipe contest and online chat.
Retail: The USPB is working to educate retailers and industry members on program efforts to reach Linda through additional channels-in-store and through supplier efforts;
The USPB has incorporated its "Plus Up Potatoes" assets into its State of the Potato Category (SOPC) newsletter, industry training webinars and retail program materials;
Growers and shippers can work with their retail partners to take full advantage of seasonal opportunities and "plus-up" category sales by promoting potatoes regularly, helping them to claim their place on the holiday open house table by declaring them as a "holiday hostess must-have." Retailers should consider showcasing simple and savory entertaining recipes in their circular ads and online, and promote potatoes with in-store signage placed near other entertaining staples like meats and cheeses.
Foodservice: The USPB will meet with foodservice editors who are working on editorial calendars and placements. Foodservice operators are highly interested in consumer trends and menu drivers, and chefs are also focused on heavy holiday traffic.
The USPB participated with leading foodservice editors at the International Foodservice Editorial Council (IFEC) Conference and pitched the "Consumer Mental Calendar" research supporting "The Seasons of Linda" campaign and corresponding recipe features.