Freya Hill

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Hip Vegetables: From New York PR Agency to New Zealand Garden

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I wasn’t sure if kale, that wild fronded brassica vegetable, would go in the indian curry I was making, but I put it in anyway. I had the kale in my fridge because Mum had given me some from her garden. She was growing it in her garden thanks to a New York PR mogul by the name of Oberon Sinclair.

Apparently, a couple of years ago the America Kale Association (bless!) decided they weren’t selling enough kale, so they did a savvy thing. They called in a professional in food PR and she got the kale revolution underway.

Much of Kale’s success is down to Oberon Sinclair, who runs the New York creative PR agency My Young Auntie. Two years ago, Sinclair was hired by the American Kale Association. Exceptionally well-connected, with a background in fashion and music, she targeted New York’s coolest eateries, begging chefs to serve the little-known vegetable. Before long, it was appearing on menus at Balthazar, the Fat Radish, Babbo and Bar Pitti. Curated from www.nzherald.co.nz

Next thing you know, key supermarket buyers started picking up on this trend and no doubt some studies were commissioned about the healthy benefits of kale. Suddenly Michelle Obama is making kale chips (kale grilled with salt and vinegar added) and I go to my local supermarket and find a soup variety called ‘Cambridge Spinach and Kale’.

It’s a beautiful example of the power of PR, marketing and subtle advertising. The other medium which Sinclair not doubt explored was the army of ‘healthy food’ bloggers, some of whom now have millions of daily readers and incredibly market sway. I first heard about kale by reading about kale chips and kale in breakfast smoothies (you’ll need a grunty blender for that!) on the North American healthy food and exercise blog ‘Oh She Glows‘.  As early as 2010 I was reading blogger Angela Lindon discuss the power of kale, and I presume that PR mogul Sinclair was behind my consumption of this information as well.

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 After leaving Mum’s house last weekend, with the kale she’d grown, I listened to a radio interview of Deborah Pead. Pead’s PR agency, Pead PR,  was behind the successful launch of My Food Bag, the  weekly food delivery services that brings gourmet ingredients and recipes to busy foodies.  My Food Bag was launched in a very tactical way last spring, which played on our desire to be ‘in the know’; the same desire which social media is built on.

Pead PR sent free products (the food bags) to select influencers in the media and asked them to tweet photos of their food with the MyFoodBag hashtag.

Celebrities, media folk and the sociarati took to the microblogging service to share photos of their meal creations. These were then shared by My Food Bag on Twitter. The sheer number of MyFoodBag-related tweets in a relatively short time period raised the eyes of many, with some asking if they were paid promotions. Curated from www.stoppress.co.nz

Over one night, New Zealand’s twitter scene was flooded with images of a product that no one had heard of, and those influencers that had been (deliberately?) left out and the army of followers of those who had been included, suddenly wanted to know more.

And voila, a brand and its army of loyal followers is born.   A little demand creation is a beautiful thing.

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Looking for some ingredients to go with my kale, I went into my local vege shop. It’s a pretty basic kind of a shop, with fluorescent lighting and the produce displayed in the packing boxes it was delivered in. I was struck by the amount of point of sale marketing material there was for a single product – beetroot being produced by LoveBeets. There was posters, there was a display at the check-out, there was a printed display attached to the shelving where the beetroots were for sale.  The shop had no other advertising  except this beetroot marketing from a particular beetroot company.

I asked the cashier about it. She said “people say that beetroot is good for you now. It’s good because we sell more beetroot.”

And there we go, just like someone started saying that kale was the next best thing a few years ago, somewhere someone has hired a PR agency to start the whispers about beetroot .

 

brandingcanvas magazinefood & beverage industryfood & wine

freya • September 14, 2014


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