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Every market needs a different message.

Every Market Needs a Different Message

How Saatchi & Saatchi and Blue Diamond Growers market worldwide

Does a savvy marketer take a "winner" of a marketing communication campaign in the US and attempt to apply it abroad?

"Not if you want to be successful," says Roger Baccigalupi, president and CEO of Blue Diamond Growers, a Sacramento, Calif.-based cooperative that sells two-thirds of its growers' almonds in 94 countries worldwide.

"To sell abroad takes innovative marketing and the recognition that every country in the world is a different market. And that which works in the US probably won't be appropriate overseas," he says.

A Can a Week, That's All We Ask

The veteran marketer practices what he preaches. For the past three years, Blue Diamond has aired in the United States a series of award-winning, home-spun television commercials featuring real farmers waist deep in almonds, politely asking viewers to buy "A can a week, that's all we ask."

The message was meant to change US consumers' perception of almonds as a special occasion treat to an everyday snack food. And it worked.

Devised by the global advertising firm Saatchi & Saatchi, the commercials have been the heart of one of the most successful US advertising campaigns in recent years, and, as a bonus, have won millions of dollars worth of free publicity for Blue Diamond in national and regional news media, including the "Today Show," "Dan Rather's Evening News" and Business Week.

But did Baccigalupi let heady success at home cloud his judgment overseas? Not for a minute. You won't find California almond growers grinning out at TV viewers anywhere else in the world.

Messages Tailored to Market

In fact, Blue Diamond tailors its message to each market it selects for a campaign. The only similarity between commercials airing in markets in New York, Tokyo, Moscow, Toronto or Stockholm is the Blue Diamond logo. But even that sacrosanct corporate asset bends to local tastes when necessary. In Korea, for example, where the English alphabet is seldom used, a Blue Diamond logo using the Korean characters was created. And product labels are printed in the local language in at least 25 markets, and are bilingual in Canada and Finland.

Why is this necessary? Why won't a winning message in the US sell almonds abroad? Blue Diamond asked its neighbors to the north about that.

The cooperative pretested the grower commercials in Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver and were told by the Canadians that growers standing in almonds were just too silly. Besides, they said, they prefer to buy products from Canadian farmers, not American farmers. So Blue Diamond hired a local ad agency to create a spot that had positive images and feelings for Canadians. The hands-down choice was a Monty Python style for a series of commercials in French and English which enlisted the talents of William Shakespeare, Michelangelo's David and Napoleon to promote "Blue Diamond Almonds. The Classic Snack."

And so it goes around the world. Blue Diamond assumes that no two markets will react the same, that each has its own set of differences, be they cultural, religious, ethnic, dietary or otherwise. And that each will require a different marketing approach, a different strategy. All of which calls for research.

Before entering a new market, Blue Diamond marketers scour every source from library to embassy personnel to international bankers to learn everything they can about local tastes, customs, taboos and market potential. They follow up on those samplings by contacting brokers, agents and potential customers in the area to learn what they must do with their product or their messages to win the order.

Research Pays Off

Such respect for local sensibilities pays off, handsomely. To crack the Soviet Union market, which Baccigalupi notes "does not lend itself to promotion," the CEO seized upon a line in the USSR's 1980 five-year plan which called for improving the Soviet diet. He promptly commissioned a study of the nutritive qualities of almonds from the University of California at Davis. Their findings: Almonds contain no cholesterol but as much protein per pound as cooked lean beef.

Impressed, Moscow began importing boatloads of the tasty nuts and made them an officially endorsed snack food in the USSR's anti-alcoholism campaign. Today, the Soviet Union is Blue Diamond's third largest overseas customer.

Such attention to detail also has won converts in Japan where almonds were an unknown commodity until Blue Diamond opened an office in Tokyo and staffed it with Japanese from the general manager on down. To win the hearts and mouths of their countrymen, Blue Diamond's Japanese staff snooped out marketing niches and developed exotic new almond-based products that catered to local tastes and needs. Among these products are almond tofu, almond miso soup and Calmond -- a nutritional snack concocted from a mixture of dried small sardines and slivered almonds.

Calmond is a big hit with school-age children who need calcium in their diet but don't have ready access to milk products. In all, more than 100 new almond products have been introduced into the Japanese market, most created for that market alone.

Not only were special products and a creative approach to distribution required -- Blue Diamond almonds also are distributed to retail shops by Coca Cola route drivers who stock the shelves daily with almonds as well as Coke -- but special messages were needed to introduce almonds to the Japanese.

To get the word out, Blue Diamond retains five advertising agencies in Tokyo, each performing a different function in the marketing mix, from advising cooking school staffs to creating TV commercials. One commercial uses animation to draw an almond on the screen as the announcer describes the nutritional value of the nut. Another emphasizes the versatility of almonds as a snack and as an ingredient in cooked dishes. The messages are largely educational for an audience still learning about the product, even though sales have increased 400 percent and Japan is now the second largest importer of the cooperative's almonds.

In Korea, the family is the thing. Most commercials show a family enjoying a product. Blue Diamond's agency in Seoul created magazine ads and TV spots in that style that also played to California's popularity with Koreans. The commercials feature swaying palms, beach scenes and a guitar-playing crooner singing "Blue, Blue Diamond" to the tune of Blue Hawaii.

In Hong Kong, however, where almonds are very popular with the Chinese population, Blue Diamond's "Ode to Almond," commercial has had great success, emphasizing almonds' California origin, flavor, nutrition and popularity.

Down Under, Blue Diamond research suggested selling almonds as "an expensive taste that everyone can afford," but the message was lost in the execution. Follow-up research showed that the handsome Australian actor in plush surroundings left a confusing message: The public didn't know if the commercial was selling cat food, watches or after-shave. A new ad that focuses on the product and less on the actor is in development. But the message will remain the same.

West Germany imports more almonds than any other country, but mostly for cooking and candy. Germans, too, have been slow to accept almonds as an everyday snack. Blue Diamond's agency in Frankfurt developed radio commercials to persuade German consumers to switch to almonds as an everyday snack food. The spots build on German fondness for things Californian.

Meanwhile, life around the local bazaar just isn't like it used to be, report Blue Diamond's market researchers. Middle Eastern consumers are turning away from traditional markets called sqouks and are heading for supermarkets where they can find, among other things, Blue Diamond snack almonds. The co-op's Middle Eastern ad agency is playing to this trend by emphasizing "The luxurious taste of Blue Diamond almonds in seven unique flavors."

In Saudi Arabia, the co-op's TV spots play to Saudi interest in western lifestyles and modern music.

And in India, where almonds are thought to be brain food and an aphrodisiac, Blue Diamond is considering the possibilities.

Locals Control Marketing Strategy

Where Blue Diamond goes, local people direct its marketing and communication campaigns, which Baccigalupi marvels is still the exception to the rule for American companies. "A lot of companies make the mistake of using US agencies for foreign advertising," he says. "They will translate a commercial made for US viewers, air it in another country and call it international advertising. We use people on the local scene, for who knows a country's culture and attitudes better than the people who live there?"

Meanwhile, back on the farm, several hundred California almond growers make the casting call each time the word goes out that a new series of grower commercials is in the making. After three years, the slightly wacky spots are still generating new sales, which is testimony to the Saatchi & Saatchi concept of repositioning the brand to bring it into the mainstream snack category.

But, why growers? To get almonds out of the special category in consumers' minds, Saatchi & Saatchi came up with the line "A can a week, that's all we ask." However, a food manufacturer couldn't say that, but growers could and make it honest, believable and fun. Further, to distance consumers from their special treat feeling about almonds, Saatchi & Saatchi planted the growers waist deep in nuts in their own warehouse. Voila! The gambit clicked and consumers bit. Sales climbed to all-time highs.

The success of the warehouse commercial led to even sillier scenes: farmers waist deep in almonds while paddling a fishing boat upstream, watching a drive-in movie, getting married, playing poker and softball, and relaxing in a hammock.

And as the world almond crop continues to climb, you can be sure that US TV viewers, at least, will be seeing more of these good-natured spots encouraging them to buy "A can a week, that's all we ask."

Gray Allen, ABC, is a communication consultant in Roseville, Calif.
COPYRIGHT 1990 International Association of Business Communicators
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1990, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

Article Details
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Title Annotation:Blue Diamond Growers' international marketing efforts
Author:Allen, Gray
Publication:Communication World
Article Type:company profile
Date:Apr 1, 1990
Previous Article:EXCEL winner talks communication.
Next Article:PR pros find room at the top.

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