Monday, September 15, 2008

Love your veggies (and get $15K for doing so)

Marketing to kids can sometimes be controversial, especially when it involves stuff that Americans tend to consume a lot of: junk food, violent video games or toys from China. This is why I was so pleased to come across the Love Your Veggies™ campaign. This is no grass-roots, mom-in-the kitchen kind of promotion (can't you tell already by the trademarked slogan?) If you go to the Love Your Veggies™ grant site you will learn:

"The Love Your Veggies™ grant program is sponsored by the makers of Hidden Valley® Salad Dressings in partnership with the School Nutrition Foundation and supported by Produce for Better Health Foundation. The campaign aims to increase access to – and consumption of – fresh fruits and vegetables in elementary schools across the country at a time when schools are required by federal mandate to strengthen nutrition and exercise programs as part of local wellness policies. "

Ah, it makes me salivate for carrot sticks just reading about how great this program is for our kids and our schools. Between now and November 7, 2008, elementary schools can apply for a $15,000 grant to be used towards fresh produce, kitchen equipment, program staffing, nutrition education supplies or food safety training. Details on how to apply are listed here.

But here's the bigger question: How will this translate into sales for Hidden Valley salad dressings? I've yet to witness a child in a supermarket whining for any type of condiment or salad dressing, let alone a specific brand of salad dressing, but maybe I just haven't been paying close enough attention.

This is a case of what we marketers call "long-term investment" marketing. The entire campaign came about after a 2006 study by the University of California Expanded Food and Nutrition Program found that children consumed 23 percent more vegetables when paired with "a moderate amount of ranch dressing." I'd have to see what "moderate" means but my guess is that the benefits of eating 23 percent more vegetables outweighs the extra fat and calories of the dressing. Just a guess though.

The folks at Hidden Valley Ranch are smart marketers. They recognized an urgent need in the marketplace (healthier food in schools), took a product not currently marketed to children (ranch dressing), backed it up with a clever study, obtained some credible partners (School Nutrition Foundation and Produce for Better Health Foundation) and voila-- they've got a promotion that they'll be reaping benefits from for years to come. Everyone already knows (especially the soft drink and junk food companies) that if you can market to kids in schools, you're likely to have them hooked for life.

It's also worth noting that this promotion likely didn't make much of a dent in Hidden Valley Ranch's marketing budget (or for Clorox-- the parent company for Hidden Valley salad dressings, Glad sandwich bags, Kingsford charcoal and Fresh Scoop cat litter). They're only offering ten $15,000 grants.

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