CAMPAIGNS: PR push helps sell Asian-Americans on golden kiwifruit

PR Team: ZESPRI International (New Zealand) and InterTrend Communications (Long Beach, CA) Campaign: Introducing gold kiwifruit to Chinese-American Californians Time Frame: June-August 2003 Budget: $200,000 (including advertising)

PR Team: ZESPRI International (New Zealand) and InterTrend Communications (Long Beach, CA) Campaign: Introducing gold kiwifruit to Chinese-American Californians Time Frame: June-August 2003 Budget: $200,000 (including advertising)

ZESPRI, the world's largest marketer of kiwifruit, had much success promoting its products in Southeast Asia. And when it came time to introduce Americans to a new breed of gold-colored kiwifruit, it hired California-based InterTrend Communications to execute a very specific campaign, targeting Chinese-Americans in Los Angeles and San Francisco. Though not a staple for many consumers, kiwifruit is considered to be rich in vitamins and more prevalent in Asian cultures. With a fuzzy brown exterior, typical kiwifruit boasts a notorious, sweet, bright-green flesh. Marketers hoped that consumers would respond well to the new color, and therefore set out to develop a campaign in which they could educate shoppers about the new fruit's tropical taste and yellow flesh. Preference and recognition for gold kiwifruit had been established in Japan and Taiwan, but had not carried over to the US market. Strategy InterTrend, whose specialty lies in targeting Asian Americans, decided to implement an integrated method, using PR tactics primarily, and supporting those with a TV commercial adapted from the Chinese campaign. "In the Asian-American market, integration works extremely well," says Julia Huang, CEO of InterTrend. "Because we do not have network TV per se, we had to take advantage of whatever is out there." By adapting the Chinese print and television advertising and using communications techniques that would demonstrate to consumers the fruit's benefits, the PR team hoped that it could boost sales in California. In addition, Huang says that the product is especially interesting to Chinese Americans because of its color. "Gold is considered to be ominous, and the word 'gold' in Mandarin also means 'true,' so we could tie in the fruit's symbolism." Tactics The PR component of the campaign took on two fronts: the Chinese-American media, and Ranch 99, the largest Chinese supermarket chain in Asian-American markets. For five days during kiwifruit season, InterTrend and ZESPRI set up sampling booths with gold kiwifruit at Ranch 99 stores, accompanied by promotional items such as self-inflating balloons, recipe leaflets, and spifes (spoon and knife combination utensils). In the media, the team scheduled a series of desk-side interviews with Karen Brux, business-development manager for ZESPRI in North America, who spent time in Taiwan and speaks fluent Mandarin Chinese. Accompanied by a six-foot-tall kiwifruit mascot, she conducted 11 interviews with local media, where she also gave smoothie demonstrations. In addition, 35 media kits were distributed to print and radio outlets. "The Chinese American media was very open to putting it together," says Huang. "The radio stations were very open, and it was made easier by the fact that our spokesperson could interview in Chinese." The PR team highlighted kiwifruit's high nutritional value with story angles about summer health alternatives, smoothies, and back-to-school initiatives to promote healthy eating. "We had a promotion coinciding with the moon festival holiday, a time to provide gifts," Huang says. Offering free gift-wrapping, the team publicized trays of gold kiwifruit, which contained 22 large pieces. Results "The results were fantastic," says Brux. "Customers loved the gold kiwifruit, and the demand for the fruit far exceeded our expectations." ZESPRI's sales figures exceeded original objectives by 75%, and the Ranch 99 markets sold 45 cases of gold kiwifruit, as compared to the average one case sold by national stores. Other Chinese retail markets also began to order and sell gold kiwifruit because of the increasing demand. ZESPRI's slogan, "It's gold! It's true!" became a catch-phrase in the Chinese-American community. Future ZESPRI and InterTrend are exploring other Asian communities, such as Japanese and Koreans in Canada, for next year, when the fruit is back in season.

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