With an unhealthy diet raising people’s risk worldwide for heart trouble, diabetes and other chronic diseases, the hunt is on for better ways to get us all to eat more vegetables and fruits. Appeals to logic and self-control haven’t worked too well so far. In next month’s issue of Fast Company, Douglas McGray describes how the producer of a very healthy food (carrots) chucked that rational-argument approach and adopted a post-rational strategy: They’ve begun marketing their carrots as if they were junk food.
“If all we do is tell people fruits and vegetables need to be part of their diet or they’re not going to be healthy—the rational approach—we have zero chance,” says Jeff Dunn, the CEO of Bolthouse Farms, a mega-producer of “baby carrots” (which, as the piece explains, are actually cut from full-grown carrots). Carrot consumption is flat, so Dunn, a former Coca-Cola exec, chose a new strategy that doesn’t invoke health, self-interest or good sense. He knew from his Coke days, McGray reports, that there are other ways to sell food: “We were selling sugar water and fairy dust.”
The new strategy aims to migrate baby carrots into marketers’ fairyland. Replacing lunch-bag looking clear plastic are opaque, crinkly bags of polypropylene with zippy graphics—the kind of bag potato chips come in. Bolthouse is experimenting with junk-food-style vending machines for carrots, McGray writes in his terrific piece. And it shot an ad involving a rocket, a machine gun and a hot model. There’ll be a product tie-in next month with the movie Hop.
These are the ad tricks that made Doritos feel cool and fun part of life, Dunn says in the piece. Why wouldn’t they work on carrots? Test markets show a 10 percent or better increase in sales compared to the usual, and the vending-machine carrots are selling well. One more example of how life is changing as more and more organizations ditch the presumption that people are rational.