Adjusting Our Focus

Pandemic-driven shifts in marketing strategies

Published online: Sep 18, 2020 Articles Frank Muir, IPC President and CEO
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This column appears in the September 2020 issue of Potato Grower.


Over the past few years, I’ve been reading about Americans’ rapidly shrinking attention span. In fact, one study stated that goldfish are better able to focus on tasks or objects than humans. Their attention span is nine seconds; a human’s is 8.25. Unfortunately, I’m not joking.

Given everything that’s happened in 2020 and all the news that’s being generated daily, not only are our attention spans tapped, but I’m sure our ability to retain all the news and information we’re reading and listening to is also shrinking.

As marketers navigating through this unpredictable time, it’s more important than ever that we share news with consumers, customers, industry members and the media in digestible sound bites. In other words, how do we get folks to perk up and pay attention?

At the Idaho Potato Commission (IPC), we’ve implemented several tools to help us communicate important messages in short, succinct and meaningful ways.

  • 15-Second Commercial Spots

This spring, when the country was shut down for two months and folks were glued to their televisions, we aired our 15-second commercial featuring a variety of eye-catching potato dishes on popular cable channels like the Food Network, CNN and FOX. The spot did so well it was recognized by Marketing Dive, a marketing industry trade publication, as one of the top-performing commercials in the U.S.

  • Social Media

During the nationwide shutdown, more people returned to social media for news and information, including millennials, who were at one point tuning out of Facebook. Now 50 percent are using the platform to get information on COVID-19. We make sure our daily posts can be read in about a second and/or have a captivating image to capture folks’ attention as they scroll through their feeds.

  • Video

The IPC is increasingly using video to tell its stories. We’ve recently hosted several Facebook Live events and have posted recipe demo videos. Studies show that people on average will spend about 2.7 minutes watching a video and that most senior executives (59 percent) would rather watch a video than read if given the choice.

  • Infographs

Infographs—visual depictions of news, information, data, etc.—have been a part of our communications arsenal for a few years. The IPC website sports close to two dozen infographs on topics ranging from the Big Idaho Potato Truck to Nutrition Facts. This spring, when shoppers were purchasing large quantities of potatoes, we created an infograph with storage tips. Per Hubspot, an infographic is up to 30 times more likely to be read than an article.

  • Frequency

Most recently, we increased the distribution of the IPC’s industry newsletter, Potato Pulse, and its consumer recipe newsletter, Let’s Eat. It’s much more effective for us to reach out  to our audiences more often (once or twice a week) with a short list of timely items including photos, graphs and images versus sending multi-page documents loaded with information.

There are many other ways that we encourage folks to actively look for the “Grown in Idaho” seal when purchasing potatoes. As we all know, we’re living in unprecedented times and if news consumption habits shift, we’ll adjust our initiatives accordingly. Rest assured that the IPC is doing everything it can to help promote Idaho potatoes.

Stay healthy and safe.