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IN CREATIVE CHARACTERS WE TRUST
IMPLAUSIBLE MARKETERS INFLUENCE FOOD PURCHASES
What do an extraordinarily tall green man, a seven-inch talking blob of dough, a tiger and a cow have in common? Answer: They all sell agricultural products.

Unless you've been hibernating in a cave for many years, you surely recognize, are probably influenced by and perhaps even love these world-renowned landmarks of popular culture: the Jolly Green Giant, the Pillsbury Doughboy, Tony the Tiger and Elsie the Cow.

At the farm level, icons are not that important, says Gordon Davidson, editor of Milling and Baking News, a Kansas City, Mo.-based publication for senior management companies in grain-based foods. "The Pillsbury Doughboy influences consumer purchases of wheat-based products, but most farmers don't care if the people they sell grain to have an icon or not," Davidson says. "Farmers are more concerned with getting a fair price for their commodities and continuing a solid business relationship. However, Farmland Industries uses a logo on its products that says 'Proud to be farmer owned,' and that type of icon helps farmers identify with the consumer product."

Stewart Reeve, director of communications for the National Corn Growers Association, believes icons impact only market share of their respective companies, rather than the total volume of raw commodities produced and the processed commodities consumed in this country.

"The U.S. public consumes about 140 million bushels of corn each year in cereals and other foods," Reeve points out. "Compared to the 1.9 billion bushels consumed by food, seed and industrial uses, that's about two rows of every ten. An icon such as Tony will help Kellogg maintain or increase its share of consumers' food dollars, not increase the total dollars consumers spend on corn cereals," he explains.

There are two reasons icons are important to marketers, says Kathryn Newton, senior counselor for Morgan&Myers' Minneapolis office. "If consumers already are aware of or have a relationship with a company's icon, it will help introduce new products," says Newton, who works on the Pillsbury account. "That's because people pay attention to hings they are familiar with and trust. Secondly, companies use icons because they continue to build relationships with consumers, thereby adding more value to the icon and the company."

Ads alone are not enough to sell more milk, says David Pelzer, senior director of industry relations for Dairy Management, Inc. (DMI), Rosemont, Ill. DMI is a planning and management organization that conducts programs for the American Dairy Association, National Dairy Council and the U.S. Dairy Export Council.

"Even if you have a highly recognizable icon such as 'got milk?', it takes other marketing communications strategies working in tandem with advertising to make the sale," Pelzer insists. These strategies include retail promotions, food service promotions, product research and public relations.


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