The date-plum sector, another example to follow

Another success of the union and the view of the directives is the date-plum D.O. in the Ribera del Xuquer. In 1998 the Date-plum Denomination of Origin of the Ribera del Xúquer wine region decided along with the Valencia Community Ministry of Aquaculture Fisheries and Food to start to make massive advertising campaigns to increase date-plum consumption.

In all cases, but especially when the product aims to start out in the marketing and communication world, the first thing we do is to find out everything we can about the product (who produces it, how, where, its qualities, prices, distribution, market, etc.), and about the competitors in the same terms. Above all we are interested in knowing what is happening with their present and potential consumers and purchasers (their degree of knowledge of the product and the –initial- image they have of it, their tastes, desires, beliefs, values and consumption habits).

Depending on the consumer and with regard to the competition, we use all of this information to see what strengths and weaknesses we have with respect to those chosen or not chosen by this consumer, and what threats and opportunities we are given by the environment.

The next point is to choose a single strength, if possible, which will be the one the consumer most appreciates and where we beat the competition. This will serve as a base for building the communication strategy.

I personally prefer to choose, if not what we do best, what makes my product unique or a leader, for this is more distinctive and gives greater motivation when choosing.

Almost all of this is standard marketing and communication (and common sense), but in practice, to build an effective and brilliant campaign “something more” is needed, something that comes from another “world”: the world of creativity and experience,

We know that the product does not always allow us to make campaigns like that, although in the case of date-plum we did (and won the EFI Gold award for the most effective campaign with the lowest budget in Spain in 1999).

After making the above analyses of the product, market, consumer and competition, and reporting it briefly, we saw that date-plum had three weaknesses: it was very soft, which made it difficult to handle, preserve and transport; it was very sweet, which gave the impression that it was “fattening”; and it was not very well known outside of its production area.

As I believe the key to effective communication lies in beating the competition, we gave special importance to analysing this section, starting by asking who was actually the main competition. In the case of date-plum, as with other fruit, for nearly 10 years I have maintained that its competition lies in the artificial desserts. However, due to its special characteristics, we thought that we had to refine this idea more and concluded that the competitors were the sweetest artificial desserts. And we were very surprised to see that while the sweetness of date-plum was its weakness, sweet artificial desserts (pastries, crème caramel, etc.) in particular had increased their consumption up to 30% in the last decade in some cases, all according to the MAGRAMA food panel.

Up to the present time, one of the forms that artificial dessert industries (crème caramel, yoghurts, ice creams, etc.) have considered for increasing their sales is the use of growth strategies by penetration in the natural dessert segment, in other words taking away the fruit market and replacing the fruit. The importance of this segment, the disjointedness of the horticultural fruit sector and its incapacity to counter-attack with advertising undoubtedly help the industry to achieve its objective. The worst thing of all is that the form in which some try to eat away the fruit market is precisely by saying that it has fruit “pieces”. A veritable coup de grace to the sector.

Therefore, the strengths of comfort and uniformity are complemented by the strengths of the fruit: the fact of being natural, healthy, fresh, etc. They achieve this at least on the level of perception as there are many differences with regard to the quality and quantity of the fruit used by these industries.

Now going back to the date-plum and bearing in mind all of this, we are thinking of turning the situation round and taking advantage of the sweet desserts. How? By presenting ourselves as another sweet dessert, but a natural one. We would do this as follows: both in the commercial and in the graphic image we say, “Is it an ice cream? (showing a cone with a date-plum in the place of the ice cream). No, it is a date-plum. A date-plum!! Is that a sweet? No, it is a date-plum… Date-plum, the healthiest way to enjoy a sweet.” The date-plum has everything. They couldn’t beat us because what is life, healthy and natural is only “made” by nature.

In time, the Denomination of Origin has done better still; it has developed a hard date-plum which they call the Persimmon, thus overcoming the other weakness and starting out on a new stage I would love to write about at another time.