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Three steps to an unbranded pomegranate experience

Punica granatum (pomegranate) fruit

Image via Wikipedia

Shopping for a generic fruit — pomegranates — helped me appreciate the role of branding. Looking plainly at the product/category also reinforced the omnipresence of experiential marketing.

The local fruit and vegetable market features fresh poms of all sizes. At the traditional supermarket next door, a single aisle presented clear choices. Fresh poms on the left (produce) competing with their bottled, branded cousins on the refrigerated shelves to the right.

This week, pomegranates had me at a 4Ps crossroads: product, price, place (distribution), and promotion.

Step One: Pomegranate PR had done the awareness job.

Public relations and word-of-mouth had created a buzz that would not quit: Pomegranates (seeds and juice) offer significant health benefits. So many, in fact, that it was time to buy and try. I was all set to buy generic/local last season, but got stuck on the product features: I didn’t know how to open a pom, no less get to the seeds.

Step Two: Generic or branded, the price points were a killer.

For a single large pomegranate, I could get several medium oranges, etc. The branded, bottled juice cashed in at nearly twice the amount for a single fruit in-the-hand. Why the crisis/inertia? The core product, I discerned, confused me.

Ah-ha! I understood the value proposition of a pomegranate brand: FEAR!

The brand path solved the problem of not knowing how to open the generic product. Net: a transparent experience (convenience, no mess) that yielded many health benefits. Simply opening the bottle provided a refreshing experience. Each sip could improve health and diminish stress (i.e., fear).

Step Three: Experience the product; understand the no-brand brand.

Here’s my unbranded pomegranate with a simple tag stating California (point of origin) and a number (size/weight category). (It’s own form of sub-branding, actually.)

How would I overcome my fear of opening my pomegranate incorrectly?

I’d go online! One Google of “How to open a pomegranate video” returned over half a million links! The variety of how-to’s was an experience in itself. Some were utilitarian, some media-savvy provided by food and lifestyle publications.

Duh—even POM Wonderful was there, offering their own video. Smart marketing by the way: If they couldn’t get me to buy the product from the right side of the aisle (above), POM would engage me to experience the product on the left side of the aisle. Empowered, my fear would be gone. Tasting the benefits, I’d now be fully engaged to seek the convenience offered by the branded, bottled juice.

What a valuable lesson in customer ecology:

  • PR and buzz engaged my interests and concerns in general;
  • Links to information enhanced my interest, converting it to action;
  • Sponsored videos empowered me with information. So rewarded, I now associate the experience with the brand and/or publication.

What’s your experience? Has an ordinary consumer day ever provided a teaching moment of a core marketing concept?

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See you in the produce aisle!


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