In the fruit and vegetable world, we rely on the belief we can change or influence consumer behaviour.

For example, we believe we can get consumers to eat more of Fruit A if we design a clever ad campaign. We believe we can get consumers to increase their purchase frequency of Vegetable B if we get the quality and size right. We believe we can get them to eat more of Produce Brand C if we redesign the logo to incorporate more colours and create a fresher feeling.

What if we are wrong? What if our assumptions are flawed? What if the reality is consumers aren’t going to eat any more fresh fruit or vegetables unless there is some cataclysmic event in their life or some significant new product development advancement. How would this change our marketing thinking? What would we do differently if we believed traditional marketing methods no longer worked?

The best strategic planning session I ever participated in was for one of the industry groups I work with in Australia. They brought in a ‘futurist’ but his role wasn’t to predict the future, it was to question our assumptions about the future. He made us pose questions to each other like, “We believe our product is healthy. What if data came out from a packaged food competitor that proved it wasn’t as healthy as we thought? How would our beliefs…and our accordant strategy change if that core ‘healthy’ assumption changed?” It was a powerful session.

For a moment, I want you to do the same. I want you to question the belief we can influence or increase consumption. We can’t. Now, what would you do? Now how would you spend your dollars?

For me as a marketing strategist, playing with this assumption opens up new opportunity thinking.

For example, given the increasing precedence of disease (diabetes, cancer, stroke), I would do more research to understand the immediate, then short and medium term dietary changes people make when suddenly diagnosed with a serious disease. I would want to know what foods “own” the dietary cure space. For example, when my aunt was diagnosed with cancer, she immediately made dietary changes. She cut out meat, cut out processed foods and overnight started eating more raw fruit, veg and nuts. A week before the diagnosis you could barely get her to look at raw broccoli, after the diagnosis she embraced it. This is what I mean by cataclysmic change. For a range of diseases, who owns the food cure/solution space? This could be easily researched on the web and could lead to new marketing opportunities for fresh fruits and vegetables.

The second area of new opportunity thinking is to look for the inherent untapped phytonutrient goodness locked up in fruit and veg.

Another example. In my blog a while back, I wrote about a well marketed water called function: Urban Detox. To create the product, the development team researched a range of input ingredients looking for ones that had the benefits they were seeking for the drink’s very focused target market. One of the extracts they ended up using was a prickly pear extract.

Now, I’ve marketed some tricky products in my time, so I can’t imagine marketing fresh whole prickly pear is easy (although Frieda’s in the USA does it well), but think of the traction prickly pear marketing could gain leveraging off the extract work done for the function: Urban Detox water. Suddenly someone outside of traditional fruit and veg marketing has found untapped value in a challenging product to market.

So here’s your challenge: I want you to spend a few minutes thinking about what you currently do to drive the sales and consumption of your product. Consider your advertising, your PR, your R&D spend, etc. Got a picture in your head? Okay, now stop. Now, I want you to believe that none of it works, particularly if you are targeting Western markets. No matter how much you spend…or what you do, none of it will drive consumption. Now what would you do? How would you spend those dollars?

As we start to realise the Western stomach is full and people are not going to consume any more total food, working with a “flawed assumption” mindset might be what we need to drive increased consumption.

Your thoughts?

PS: Passionate about packaging? You can now follow me on Twitter (@broccolilady) and together we can learn from some great packaging examples.