For 24 years, AGR Food Marketing has accompanied the Canary Banana trade, not only protecting it against large-scale multinational competition, but also managing to ensure the sale of almost the entire production of the islands. If that had not been achieved, no external aid would have been forthcoming. And above all, it was achieved with a sales price that is 30 cents lower than competing bananas from other sources.
This achievement could not have been made without keeping a constant watch on the competitive environment. Marketing intelligence enables us to detect opportunities and threats in good time, and offer the trade our best resources – the capacity to suggest ideas for generating value so as to benefit from opportunities and defend ourselves against threat. Here are some of the ideas we proposed, on many levels.
FIRST STAGE: Detection of strengths and weaknesses: Ideas for greater value to solve these.
Threats: Subsistence in the trade.
The mere fact that subsidies are received from the CE is a threat, as this is not in the hands of the producers or traders, but is a third-party decision.
Value-generation idea: We proposed a strategic sectoral plan – undertaken by an external consultant – with the aim of marking out strategic lines that would ensure subsistence for the majority of the sector in the event that European subsidies were withdrawn. These included a bid for the highest possible quality, advertising communication to place value on differentiation, diversification, internationalisation and internal professionalism.
Weak point: Sectoral confrontations and withdrawals.
Different ways of understanding the banana business gave rise to and still give rise to internal conflicts and threats to “break away”.
Value-generation idea: Create the “Asprocan 2020 project” on the basis of all those aims and strategies on which producers DO AGREE, with concrete action plans to achieve them. In this way, the greatest possible union of forces will serve as the approach to the other points – one after another – on which there may still be disagreement.
Threat: Periodically low prices.
Every year with the arrival of spring and summer fruit, Canary Island banana consumption drops, along with other imported bananas, forcing banana prices lower. Faced with this, the trade starts doing fruit “picking”, creating lots of internal tension, with donations being made to food banks to decrease supplies.
Value-generation idea: Another way to decrease supplies on traditional markets is to export, which is why we created a company to deal with this together with Asprocan, drawing up the first international marketing plan. But we also proposed that the trade should increase demand in these product categories in these same months by innovating in product concepts, with new ideas for use and consumption.
Weak point: No product labelling..
In 1992 when the Spanish peninsular market opened up to bananas from other countries, the first thing we did was to drop the positioning of the Canary Island banana as just another fruit, and we started searching for a new positioning with which to compete with brands such as Chiquita, Dole, Del Monte, etc. And we found it. “Canary Island Bananas” would become the representative brand of our values and the taste of “our own bananas” – two non-visual characteristics as opposed to the visual appearance of bigger and highly attractive bananas from abroad. This was the argument of the imported bananas, so we had to transmit our added value visually by using labelling for each and every banana from the Canaries, and then run ongoing large-scale campaigns to communicate our differentiating factors to the consumer. But what happened? Our producers didn’t want labels! “Too costly. We’ve never done that before!” they said.
Value-generation idea: Use the Canary Island banana “spots” to reposition vis-à-vis the competition.
Taking advantage of the fact that bananas from ALL OUR COMPETITORS were perfect, and that almost all Canary Island bananas were smaller and “uglier” – with their typical skin spots – we used these very spots as a guarantee of origin and quality, something the consumer had to look for if they wanted all the flavour of our Canary Island bananas! We converted a “weak spot” into a strong point!
Again, we ran several advertising campaigns in which we called imported bananas “just bananas”*, even though they were basically the same kind of banana, to see if commercial dealers would follow through, and yes, we achieved it.
*(in Spanish “banana” refers to the South American “plantain” and American bananas, whereas the “plátano” is smaller). So we kept the word “plátano” for ourselves.
Threat: No knowledge of POS behaviour.
Our clients were the producers (ASPROCAN), and their clients were the banana ripeners – the wholesalers. In consequence, above all in the traditional retail trade – the actual fruit shops – the production trade had practically no contact with retailers, preventing information from getting through on relevant aspects, and foreclosing joint actions like promotions from being taken.
Value-generation idea: Create a gigantic database of all retailers.
Little by little, year after year, we visited local fruit shops, got authorisation and retrieved data for participating in all kinds of actions. Today Asprocan has one of the biggest databases in the entire fruit and vegetable trade.
Threat: Unauthorised brand use.
We detected that the phrase “made using Canary Island bananas” was being used in certain types of products.
Value-generation idea: Since the EC was promoting DOs and Protected Geographical Indications in any case, we proposed that Asprocan should initiate the process of converting the “Canary Island Banana” brand into the “IGP Plátanos de Canarias”, ensuring total protection, while opting for other benefits such as complying with minimum quality standards. We achieved it.
SECOND STAGE: Detection of opportunities: ideas for greater value and how to benefit from them.
Opportunity: Free ride on a big bandwagon.
One of the major advertisers in the world, Walt Disney, with a target audience that Asprocan is obviously interested in – children – started receiving criticism due to its collaboration in co-marketing activities with McDonald’s, among others.
We saw this as an opportunity, and approached them to offer Disney Canary Island Bananas, because they are so natural and healthy and would be ideal for kids. In exchange we asked them if we could use some of their famous characters – gratis! They accepted, for several years.
Opportunity: Getting more financing.
Due to our relations and regular contacts with the EC, we saw that France was enjoying a special financing line for promoting products from its outermost regions (OMR), so we investigated and discovered the OMR programmes. We geared up and found €14 million in financing for the trade.
Opportunity: Relate to more clients.
The sheer distance between the Canary Islands and the peninsula made it difficult for the ASPROCAN institution to relate to the distribution trade, serving as an excuse or opportunity to celebrate a yearly meeting of producers and distributors with the participation of the authorities and the media, which became Canary Island Banana Day.
Opportunity: The “single-box” principle.
Brand uniformity was being promoted at the point of sale thanks to the “Plátano de Canarias” label, but this was not reflected at the B2B level, with each organisation using its own brand name and box design. So we proposed a “unification” of the boxes so that consumer could clearly see who the producer was, but also that that producer made “Canary Island Bananas”.