July 3, 2008
Seeking to reverse a geriatric image and boost flagging sales, the California Prune Board in 2000 decided to rebrand its product. Advised by Ketchum, California — which produces about 90 percent of the prunes consumed in the U.S. — declared that henceforth its fruit would be known as “dried plums.” Why not? It worked for the Chinese gooseberry, which underwent its own rebranding about 40 years ago and emerged as the kiwi fruit.
It’s hard to say whether the change has resonated with consumers. Production of California prunes — excuse me, dried plums — has varied wildly from year to year, based on agricultural conditions more than marketing efforts. There have been some good years and some bad ones.
What I find odd is that, eight years later, the branding of the fruit seems to vary as much as the production. If you go to the Web site of the California Dried Plum Board, you’ll find a press release announcing the 2008 prune crop. The media contact is Richard Peterson, executive director of the California Prune Board. There are references to the year’s prune production estimates and reports from the Prune Marketing Committee. Similar inconsistencies can be found throughout the group’s communications.
If the official marketing organization for dried plums is still calling them prunes, then I don’t see why the rest of us shouldn’t do it, too.