The year 2017 was a monumental one for the American pecan industry. Uniting to support the passage of a Federal Marketing Order, we commenced our first large-scale domestic marketing effort. Our collective endeavor to increase domestic demand has produced impressive results; in fact, our integrated marketing efforts, begun with Weber Shandwick less than five years ago, have resulted in more than three billion American Consumer Views & Touchpoints (impressions) to date.
The American Pecan Council has also engaged U.S. consumers and influential stakeholders through additional partners and domestic marketing and advertising efforts. Most recently, the Federal Marketing Order (FMO) has blossomed into an international marketing engine working with Weber Shandwick teams in both China and Germany to launch and build regional, integrated, consumer-focused marketing programs.
Where It All Began
As we embark on our next five years of the FMO, we are looking back at our journey and the successes to date in the U.S. From the start, our marketing efforts have been informed by research, and our 2017 consumer analysis confirmed what many of us knew to be true: most U.S. consumers had little familiarity with our beloved nut.
In fact, most did not see the pecan as a nut; few consumers thought of pecans as a snacking or nut option, and instead pecans were most often associated with a baking ingredient. Fighting this perception and expanding consumer minds about the uses and benefits of pecans, became the North Star of our domestic marketing charge.
These last five years have not been without their challenges for our industry and our nation more broadly. From severe weather impacts and tariffs to an ever-evolving pandemic response landscape, we’ve remained nimble in our marketing efforts to keep our focus on that North Star, pursuing the greatest possible return on investment of industry’s marketing dollars.
We’re proud the effectiveness of our efforts has been independently confirmed and recognized. A Texas A&M University marketing study mandated by the USDA and released in January 2021 calculated the benefit/cost ratio of our FMO efforts, finding our industry received $9.90 in marketing benefits for every $1 spent.
Marketing in a Digital Age
Like most FMOs in their early years, budgets require a streamlined approach greatly focused on programs with greatest return on investment. Marketing in a digital-first world does not look like FMOs of the past, but it has allowed us to stretch industry’s dollar while maximizing impact.
While we do engage consumers through print media, TV segments, radio advertising and other offline marketing, digital marketing has been crucial in providing the most value and reach for industry spend. Deploying paid social media allows us to reach people most apt to purchase our product and to engage them in spaces they frequent and trust.
Our digital strategy also allows for clear and swift measurement of impact so we can optimize our approach throughout the year. With advanced social media targeting and analytics, we can hypertarget and measure effectiveness well beyond what is possible with traditional advertising.
Share of Voice
Our results are encouraging. In the last two years, pecans were #1 among nuts in social conversation, with a three-point increase (36%) during the last fiscal year. Pecans currently outpace almonds in terms of social media mentions, securing more than one million media mentions over the past two fiscal years, more than 25% higher than almonds.
With this digital-first approach, American Pecans has increased awareness and purchase consideration throughout the year and dominated consumer conversation leading up to and during the holidays. Knowing the importance of the holiday season to push product at high volumes, the American Pecan Council goes big with holiday marketing to capitalize on the season.
We recently completed evaluation of our Q1 FY22 (Holiday 2021) campaign, where pecans held first place among competitors in Share of Voice (SOV) for the third consecutive year, even though our FMO is much newer with budgets that are modest in comparison to more mature tree nut marketing programs. The SOV measure tells us what percentage, or share, of the traditional and social media conversation we are capturing as compared to competing nuts.
Each year, we leverage creative and impactful consumer campaigns, therefore expanding the holiday SOV lead for American Pecans versus competitors and generating momentum at the start of each fiscal year. In fact, pecans led SOV for the months of November and December with 45% SOV for the last two years, a jump of eight percentage points from FY19 and a big win for the most important selling season.
If we zoom out and look at the entire year, pecans still held a strong lead in SOV in FY21 with 34% of earned and social conversations, compared to 31% SOV in FY20. Clearly, our strategy and commitment to ongoing improvements are paying off with a share of the conversation that reflects an outsized impact compared to our share of total marketing dollars spent among tree nut marketing programs.
While not all shoppers are online, we know social media is where billions of purchasing decisions are made, providing a huge opportunity to reach consumers. According to market research consultancy Alter Agents, two-thirds of shoppers targeted on social media use what they’ve seen as part of their shopping strategy.
Since our program began, paid social advertising has delivered more than 345 million Consumer Views and Touchpoints, generating more than 209,000 consumer engagements, such as likes, comments and saves. This impact is made greater by delivering these ads to consumers most inclined to purchase pecans, creating a shorter path from consideration to consumption.
When we launched the American Pecans consumer brand in 2018, we targeted Gen X/Y moms as we worked to re-introduce pecans to their grocery list as not only a baking item and dessert favorite, but as a year-round nutritious option for their families. In recent years, we have expanded our marketing to include a broader audience of future pecan lovers, most recently to healthy snackers, and continue to use influential recipe developers to generate usage interest.
To date, we have developed and shared more than 225 pecan-inspired recipes through AmericanPecan.com. These custom recipes have been promoted to consumers via social media, search engine advertising and influencer partnerships as well as nationwide TV segments, thousands of online features and print stories from Real Simple to Southern Living. With recipes that span seasons, courses, occasions and cultures, we are working to promote the versatility of pecans and a move from occasional or seasonal purchase to a grocery-trip staple.
These recipes have been viewed more than 2.8 million times, with monthly recipe views up 40% in three years despite decreased spend. Given we represent the full industry and cannot measure sales directly like an individual brand, recipe views are a key performance indicator for purchase intent.
Since our program’s inception, our Google ads have garnered more than 21.6 MM Consumer Views and Touch points. This strategy has brought in more than 780,000 new visitors to AmericanPecan.com, where they find recipe ideas and learn about the many benefits of pecans including nutrition.
Thanks to our broader integrated campaign, which aims to generate consumer interest in pecans, we have also seen an increase in those searching for our favorite nut. During our Super Safe Pecan Debate holiday marketing campaign, we hit a seven-year high for online searches of “pecans”.
As part of our integrated marketing approach, traditional media engagement continues to play a vital role in how we reach consumers. Through development of media relationships and news-worthy consumer activations, sweepstakes, surveys and more, we have secured thousands of print, broadcast and online media stories, including Good Morning America, Reuters, Travel + Leisure, Food & Wine, PARADE, dozens of major daily newspapers and more. One of our media campaigns even sparked pecan pronunciation debate by former president Obama on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon.
In addition to leading social media SOV, American Pecans maintains a strong share of news media coverage among competitors throughout the year. Early in our FMO, we overtook the top spot for media mentions during the holidays and we have consistently led competitors in media conversation during that priority season.
Most recently, we secured almost one-third of all U.S. media mentions of nuts at the holidays. Our #1 media position reflected 50% more media mentions than #2 almonds over the same period.
Putting the FMO to Work
In addition to generating interest in pecan purchase through national marketing efforts, we have made available hundreds of marketing items for use by individual industry members in their own business’ marketing efforts. Industry is encouraged to download resources in the Industry Marketing Toolkit at AmericanPecan.com. From recipe cards and nutrition brochures to social media images and delicious recipes and photos, every piece of content was created with you in mind.
The ‘Industry’ section of the website is where growers can stay informed about resources available to you as well as how your dollars are being put to work. Subscribing to our mailing list at AmericanPecan.com is also a great way to get the timeliest updates.
Once signed up, you will receive our newsletter, In A Nutshell, that regularly details our marketing efforts, in addition to our Monthly Marketing Highlights report. These communications are also housed in the Industry section of AmericanPecan.com.
If you’d like to learn more about our marketing efforts, request mailed resources or receive support in navigating our online Industry Toolkit, please feel free to reach out to our office. We value your opinion on what resources and information are most helpful to you, and your input is encouraged. The American Pecans team can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (817) 916-0020.
It’s remarkable that an industry that spans the entire country, representing 15 states, could come together to build a collective consumer brand and then achieve more than three billion consumer views in its first five years. While we are thrilled by this achievement as well as the many milestones and measurable successes to date, we are even more excited to build on this momentum.
Thank you for your support and your partnership in all we’ve built together. Your investment in this program has provided a foundation for increasing pecan consumption worldwide. We look forward to continued success with consumers and in serving the American pecan industry throughout 2022 and beyond.