COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — “Linda,” the embodiment of the U.S. Potato Board’s target audience, was front and center at its annual meeting, especially at a domestic marketing session.
The Denver-based board’s yearlong integrated domestic campaign, launched in September, aims to combat negative public perception of potatoes and declining consumption by appealing to the group that’s most likely to buy potatoes: “Lindas,” or middle-aged women with children and who value cooking.
“Linda provides the largest immediate opportunity to drive demand for potatoes,” president and chief executive officer Tim O’Connor said. “For other women, a frozen pizza is good enough. We target ‘Linda’ because she enjoys cooking for her family.”
This was O’Connor’s last potato board meeting leading the organization. He has announced plans to step down March 31 to become the CEO of the Denver-based Avocados From Mexico marketing group.
Tackling problem head on
The potato board is tackling public perception linking potatoes and obesity head on with a focus on research about the affordability and nutrient density of potatoes, and benefits for weight management, diabetes, and other health conditions, public relations manager Meredith Myers said.
“Anytime bad news emerges, the board has an action plan to tackle it,” Myers said.
That includes using “key influencers,” such as the Leawood, Kan.-based American Academy of Family Physicians, to disseminate nutrition information.
The public relations staff also uses digital programs to engage “Lindas,” including the revamped website potatogoodness.com that went live in December. The site’s weekly recipe e-mail has surpassed 13,000 subscribers, and the board recently completed its first Pinterest contest for healthy potato recipes.
Market research consultant Kate Thompson also zeroed in on Linda, whose use of potatoes has remained stable or grown over the past few years even as the public increasingly views potatoes as fattening.
This contradiction means the board “has opportunities to be more overt with health messaging, especially among Lindas,” so they can make more informed decisions about potatoes, and consequently buy more, she said.
With consumer and retail efforts, the board is translating research into practice, with its Many Sides of Potatoes print and online advertising campaign that seeks to inspire Lindas in the kitchen with an emphasis on side dishes.